Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lilacs Blooming


When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.

Most students of literature recognize these lines from Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,” a poem about Lincoln’s death. I especially like the third stanza:

In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash'd palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color'd blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.

When I was down the road at the farm the other day, I broke some sprigs of lilac, and the flowers’ “perfume strong” still fills my kitchen. The old-timey lilacs smell so much better than the new-fangled ones.

In the old days, when smells of cooking hung heavy in country kitchens, lilacs made a good air deodorizer. How many housewives stepped out their farmhouse or cabin doors to escape greasy smells? How many picked sprigs to take inside?

On my Union Hall farm, an old lilac bush blooms every year. When I was a kid visiting my grandparents, I remember my daddy killed a copperhead with hoe near the bush. An old kitchen—a separate building—used to be beside the bush, but that was way before my time. Now only a few stones mark where the kitchen was. My Aunt Belva, who died in her 80s a few years ago, told me that the building “fell in” long ago while she and her sister Virgie were playing in it.

Near the power pole in my driveway, a lilac bush grows. It’s one of the new-fangled varieties with the smell bred out of it.

But down the road a few miles—at the farm—I can get my lilac fix.

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