Over the weekend I complained to a friend about some problem that's causing me anxiety and frustration. "I'm going to give you the standard cliched advice," she said. "You know: take one day at a time, and stop and smell the roses."
"Roses aren't out yet," I said. "I can't stop and smell them. Lilacs are doing pretty well right now, though, and I always stop to smell them."
I wasn't kidding, either. I love lilacs. I do my best to smell every single lilac I can find, because the sad truth about lilacs is, the blossoms are intensely beautiful to look at and to smell, but they don't last all that long, so you've got to sniff 'em while you can. Walking is one of my main forms of exercise; one particular route I often follow has several lilac bushes along the way, and I stop to enjoy each and every one I encounter.
I've noticed two things while doing this: 1) Some people seem to think it's really weird and roll their eyes at me, as if I've done something vulgar or indelicate. 2) Plenty of other people do it too--thank god, I might add, because it shows that it's not so very weird for me to smell a lilac, and also because it's really pleasurable and I don't think I should be the only one to enjoy this pleasure. A week or two ago, I turned a corner one evening to approach a yard that boasted two enormous lilacs, one white and one more, well, lilac-colored, only to see that the lilacs were already being sniffed. This couple had split up so that each of them could smell one of the plants. I slowed down, because although I have no hesitation about doing this myself, in public, somehow I'm shy about doing it in public with strangers. But as soon as they walked on I head straight to the bushes and smelled each one.
I got tired of relying on other gardeners for this pleasure, so a few years ago I planted my own lilac, past the corner of the garage, where I can still see it from the porch. I walk out and smell it a couple of times every day. I suppose I could cut a few stalks and bring them inside, but I rather like to leave flowers on the plants that produced them. It seems selfish to cut them. After all, they last longer if they're uncut, and then the garden as a whole is this pleasurable thing, not just for me but for others who see it.
Anyway, until we find a way to transmit smell over the internet, you'll have to settle for a visual depiction of my lilac, taken this morning.