T.S. Eliot called April the “cruelest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain.
In Pennsylvania, rain and freezing temperatures dulled white tree blossoms and yellow forsythia early in April, but the lilacs had yet to emerge. Winter’s extension postponed my favorite blossoms. But it was a kindness, not a cruelty of April.
Every year I await their arrival.
When I was a child, my father planted a wall of purple lilacs to line the edge of our back yard. For a few weeks in April, when we opened the back door, the aroma of lilacs permeated our kitchen.
But when I grew up, I had no green thumb, no lilacs, only memory and desire. Memory is the harvest of long ago seeds. Desire is a yearning for the next season. We want spring in winter, summer in spring. Desire is hope. Hope only finds its fulfillment after we plant and water and wait.
After 11 years as a single mom, I married my husband Paul who has a farmer’s heart. He harvested lilac vines that had crawled under our backyard fence. Three plants grew into walls of flora. For a few weeks every year, their aroma spilled into my living room.
One year, the blossoms emerged in a heat wave. Three days later every bloom was brown, cooked by the July-like temperatures. Gone before I had the chance to stand next to them and breathe deeply.
After a few years, the bushes grew so large, Paul had to hack them back to keep them from overtaking our tiny front yard. Last year, after cutting them one more time, Paul planted some hybrid lilacs. The same aroma lasts longer and doesn’t require extensive pruning. If I forget to inhale, I still get another chance.
After a long winter, extended spring before the warmth of summer. A new season.
At another house across town, there are no lilacs. There stands a great wall of rhododendrons. For years it was the house where four of my grandchildren played on the porch in the shade of the leaves and purple blossoms.
The eldest of those four is getting married in June. The couple plan to spend their lives in ministry. It may be awhile before they will have their own patch of ground in which to plant lilacs, rhododendron, or perhaps a yellow buckeye tree–which would suit them perfectly. For when it blooms, it looks like a tree full of lanterns.
It would reflect a memory seed they’ve already planted.
When he proposed my grandson recruited friends to recreate the scene for her. A seed planted and watered. Hope springing forth.
I love the movie because both main characters are willing to completely give themselves away for the other. And when I was a child, my mother and I would sit on our back porch swing as she read to me. My favorite story was “Rapunzel.”
A vine that weaves its way through generations shows God’s gifts of beauty and fragrance, of memory and hope. Each season has purpose. Each season passes so quickly.
Memory, the past. Desire in the present. Hope for the future.
“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully,” II Cor. 9:1.
May their crop of memories be abundant and full of light.