After a mix of snow, sleet, and hail last weekend, Springtime is finally arriving. The surest sign is that lilacs are starting to bloom. I love lilacs. Every year I tell myself I'll spend more time looking at them than last year. Or that I'll place lavish bowlfuls of them on my tabletops, fresh every day, as long as they last. Every year, however, they fade more quickly than I can fulfill my resolution to the extent that I had hoped.
A number of years ago, I read a column by Ellen Goodman titled, "Fading Lilacs and Frantic Lives" (Boston Globe, June 16, 1996). She regrets the attention she didn't pay to their blooms, "The flowers had made their annual appearance on the bushes that stand beside my back door. For two weeks, they had permeated the air with a seductive promise the way a perfume wafts into the atmosphere of a department store I planned to take up their offer, to spend time in their company. But now the last of the blooms has turned a crusty deadhead shade of beige. And I had paid only the most transient of visits, enjoyed only a contact high, a small whiff of their possibilities."
She wonders about the seasonal consciousness of time offered by the short lifespan of flowers, " Is it seasonal, this consciousness of the racing pulse of daily life? Is the awareness of flowers "going by" more than a banal metaphor for transience? Is it, rather, some alarm coded into our DNA as if it were a clock?"
The portion of the column that I think about every year when the lilacs bloom, however, is when she wrote about a friend who had "figured out on her actuarial table that she has probably 30 more chances to see the pink ladyslippers in the woods. Thirty is a lot said the woman who is approaching 50 herself. But it is also, suddenly, finite."
The number of seasons of lilac blooms that I'll see is finite also. Finite, based on my lifespan. Finite, based on the years I will live in this house and have the blooming bushes in my backyard. Finite, whichever way I look at it.
Time to stop typing and go gather a bowlful of blossoms.