• Fred R. Kline

Spring lilacs are a celebration of life

By Fred R. Kline, Apr 24, 2021 he Santa Fe New Mexican

A sight to behold: Spring lilacs.

The lilac bushes were coming on, and I was still wearing a warm hat. I was watching closely because I needed some lilac-aroma therapy, a deep and mysterious comforting of the mind that comes from feeding it a lilac blossom. It was sunny and getting warmer, which always makes everything better. Just a few days ago, it was early April. Nothing to smell yet. I tried but only succeeded in getting pointy lilac stems up my nose.

I was imagining the perfume of lilacs. There is something ancient about the aroma of the lilac. It pushes you back in time just thinking about it, the smell of spring going back to Greek mythology. I think the very word “lilac” is an aphrodisiac. And I’m not alone in that idea. The story of lilac, according to Greek mythology, begins with the fantasy of a beautiful nymph named Syringa (lilac’s botanical name). I would bet lilac grew in the Garden of Eden.

Captivated by Syringa’s beauty, Pan, the god of the forests and fields and sensual pandemonium, chased Syringa through the forest. Frightened by Pan’s affections and intentions, Syringa escaped him by turning herself into an aromatic bush — which grew the very flower we now refer to as lilac. And there she stayed. Imagine, turning yourself into an aromatic bush. People would always say nice things about you. Thanks to lilac, satyrs and nymphs frolic in the woods, even yet. The weather was changing, getting cold and gray, and I started to worry about the lilacs getting nipped in the bud, or the nipple, whatever. A few buds had already popped, and that could be the end of it. Springtime in the Rockies, especially in Santa Fe and in my neighboring countryside, means the weather is up for grabs, as unreliable as the shape of clouds and the next direction of the wind. Then, of course, it snowed steadily all day and all night. I went out to check the lilacs. The bushes were cocooned in snow, the flower stalks like popsicles. I grew philosophical. The end was near. After two days, the snow melted and it was warm again, and I went to see the lilacs with little expectation. But they had survived! An explosion of lilac blossoms confronted me like a sudden symphony. My lilac-aroma therapy had begun and, truth be told, I will admit inhaling myself into a Rocky Mountain high. If you ask me, lilac is the marijuana of flowers. Freshly painted butterflies were suddenly emerging, fluttering flower to flower, no doubt on the command of Zeus. Tiny honeybees materialized, painted in yellow and black stripes, racing their tiny engines through the lilac forest. I’m not kidding, this was happening all at once.

It was lilac bush pandemonium, a celebration of life in Syringa’s flower forest, the first rite of spring, and Pan was really into it, getting a heavy dose of lilac-aroma therapy, and so were his dogs. Then Pan and the pups went for one of those miraculous walks, high on springtime, troubadours singing and barking the doodley-doo, claiming their part in nature, too. Lilac time had come again.

Fred R. Kline lives in Las Vegas, N.M. He is a gallery owner.