Harbingers

The lilac is about to bloom.

My yard is a mess. The lawn is mostly crabgrass and clover, with a few dozen hyacinths that have escaped the confines of their beds. The dandelions will rear their heads later. The patio furniture is covered in yellow pollen—not that we have a patio, exactly, just a flat spot near the house—and I’m not inclined to sit outside until I motivate enough to clean the chairs. But at least we have a yard, and the lilac in the corner is about to bloom.

Spring is not my favorite season; I associate it with restlessness and sneezes, with damp socks and uncooperative hair. In Portland, it’s generally soggy, sodden, grey and cold. But this is the only place I’ve lived where spring comes when the calendar says it should. It’s not just an afterthought or a brief muddy interlude between “snow” and “mosquito.” The equinox comes, and on its heels, a true and separate season.

And suddenly there are lilacs and daffodils, camellias and magnolias and azaleas. Even the names of these flowers are lovely: they sit on the tongue like the droplets of nectar stolen from honeysuckle blossoms. (Honeysuckles come later, when the days are long and lazy and we’ve forgotten the taste of rain.) Across the quiet and unnervingly deserted street, the sweetgums are just starting to bud and a number of birds’ nests are cradled in their branches, tangled knots of twigs and grass visible against the sky. Some afternoons I sit on the front stoop and listen to the robins singing their little hearts out.

I can’t count the number of years I’ve missed the lilacs altogether. It’s so easy to lose track of time. I catch a whiff of fragrance and when I turn around, the overlong grass under the tree is littered with wilted blooms. This year, though, I’m watching and waiting, back door cracked open to let in the first hint of perfume. Today the sun is shining, and I think I might dust off the chairs after all.


9 thoughts on “Harbingers

  1. Jen Mierisch says:

    A nice reflection. I am a poor groundskeeper at my own house, I basically just mow the lawn, but we planted a lilac bush and my fingers are crossed! I liked the line “a brief muddy interlude between “snow” and “mosquito.” HA! Sounds like Chicagoland!

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  2. northie says:

    Plants, nature, and gardening are some of the things keeping me sane. Taking time to appreciate the smaller things in life is another. OK, so you may not be a great horticulturalist but that doesn’t stop your enjoyment. That is evident by the end of your piece and I enjoyed your journey along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Katie E. says:

    This piece is so lovely and lyrical. “The equinox comes, and on its heels, a true and separate season.” – I love the rhythm in this line. And I love your conclusion, as the beauty of spring motivates you to actually get out and enjoy it!
    I also really appreciate that although this essay is written now (when the street is “unnervingly deserted”), it doesn’t scream “I’m an essay about confinement 2020”. I might appreciate a few more paragraph breaks, especially to set off those last two sentences together.
    Haha, “a brief muddy interlude between ‘snow’ and ‘mosquito'”: sounds like spring in Michigan where I grew up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Hanolsy says:

      You have no idea how hard I wrestled with paragraph breaks! One of my pet peeves with my own writing is “all my paragraphs are the same lengths.” Grrr. Also, I *may* have been referring to “spring” in Vermont, where the four seasons are snow, mud, mosquito, and leaf-peeper. 🤣

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  4. d3athlily says:

    I’m reading this and sneezing out of sheer reflex. The descriptions of your Spring make me almost yearn for it. It’s Autumn here, but you can’t tell the trees or weather that. Still, we all certainly seem to have a lot more time to enjoy nature and that’s probably not a bad thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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