My lilac bush is in mid bloom.


When I smell lilacs, I imagine what life was like when they were in high vogue around a hundred years ago. Like fashion, garden plants have trends, too. For instance, evergreen bushes hardly sell now, but they seemed a mandatory addition to the houses I saw built in my 70’s childhood. My family once lived in a house that was built during World War I, and it had a massive common lilac bush in the back yard that had grown heavier with blossoms with each passing year. By the late 80’s, this bush had become a yearly riot of purple joy that measured about 12 feet in all directions. Prince could have shot an album cover in front of it. I can imagine our claw-footed tub transplanted to the foreground of the bush, with steam rising from it as Prince pouts at the camera.

This house was so dilapidated that our landlord sold it to a prison rehab project for a dollar when we moved out. The linoleum had buckled in places, exposing a lining underneath made of newspapers from 1917. As the floor slowly fell apart, I saw the hairstyles and must-have dresses of that era. If I closed my eyes, I could see these women chatting beside the lilac bush, eating crust-free watercress sandwiches cut twice on the diagonal as they sat around a wrought iron table painted white. Their 18-month-old children would already have been potty trained and could have built houses of cards for the entire forty five minutes it took their mothers to finish tea.

In contrast, we the last occupants of that house as it was originally built were barbarians. This was the house I lived in when I started wearing bras. When I balked at this change, Mom reassured me that things had become so much easier for womankind regarding foundation wear. There was a freedom in never thinking a girdle was necessary.

Mom raised this subject again recently, and told me, “You should have seen some of the crap women thought they needed to wear. I remember women wearing gowns that were ridiculous. If they moved wrong inside them, their entire body would be punctured.”

This was the house where I daydreamed of vacationing with Duran Duran, the narratives of which were deeply informed by V.C. Andrew’s starter smut. This was also the house where I later gained 30 pounds in a summer listening to the Beatles while sipping Classic Coke and eating Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls by the box.

We moved out the next summer as the lilacs moldered from the heat and relentless bees. A couple months later, Roseanne appeared on the cover of T.V. Guide for the first time, and I was horrified to notice that she and I were wearing the same Lane Bryant plaid shirt.

This is what comes to mind when I smell lilacs, all the women I could have been.

Spring Photo Walk, May 13


I couldn’t have designed better light for this morning’s photo walk. I again visited the Allen County Children’s Garden next to the Lima Public Library. I was early enough that I spotted a dozen or so profoundly eager library patrons who were waiting for the library doors to open on a Saturday morning. I don’t recall being so dedicated to the pursuit of any text that I’d have given up sleeping in on the weekend to get a book from the library. Perhaps that is my loss, or maybe it is a side-effect of having grown up in a home stuffed with its fair share of books. I still have more books than I can comfortably store.

Unlike the words on a printed book, the morning light would not be preserved without my intervention. I returned this weekend to check if the peonies had begun their bloom, but their buds are still growing heavy for their upcoming debut. Peonies must be more inflexible than lilacs in timing their show; lilacs began blooming three weeks early this year.

I did find that the irises are in bloom. What more could I expect today?

Welcome Lilac Bush


My husband bought me a lilac bush last week, but several inches of rain prevented its planting until today. I’ve wanted a lilac bush since they first enchanted me as a child. My recent reflection on the lack of a Hellebores plant in my garden made me consider that there are several plants I love but have not made the effort to bring home. Aside from planting a pink hibiscus and a pair of dianthus, I’d added nothing but annuals to our yard. The addition of the lilac, a James MacArthur pink of my choosing, is another step toward creating a garden I can relish.

Hellebores in Bloom

I relish the early spring bloom of Hellebores, a.k.a the Lenten rose. This year I nearly missed it and was pleased to spot it in bloom in the garden next to the local library:


Every spring I’m wary of missing Hellebores in bloom, and I’m not sure why I haven’t planted it my own yard. Buying one and adding it to my garden could solve this longing as reliably as powdered sugar and butter can be whipped into frosting.

Another early spring bloom I adore and is not yet a part of my garden is Virginia bluebell:


Next week my convalescence will progress to physical therapy that is more structured than the simple walking program I’ve been following since my surgery. I hope that this upcoming therapy helps to resolve a disappointing development from last week. For whatever reason, some of my sciatic pains have returned. While these sensations are not as widespread as those from before my surgery, I had hoped that they would not return at all, especially since they’d been absent from the moment I woke up from my surgery.

My surgeon offered me a revelation that stunned me and reminded me of how deeply the human mind can engage in denial of reality. When he visited my hospital room the day after my surgery, I asked him to estimate how long my back problem had existed prior to the surgery, based on what he’d literally seen with his own eyes. He told me that my rupture and other signs of degeneration had begun 10-15 years ago!

Who knows why I assigned so many symptoms to anything but my back during those years. I get legs cramps at night because I don’t drink enough water. My legs will stop hurting if I lose weight. Now that I’ve lost weight, I just need to find the right piece of exercise equipment that doesn’t make my knee or butt feel numb. It hurts to stand in place because the human body was meant to stay in motion. I am not the only woman who gets sciatica during PMS.

Oh well. At least my incision has healed enough that I can return to the animal shelter and take comfort in the company of cats. Before my surgery, I was fond of visiting Morgan, who was wont to ride on my shoulders while anchoring her claws firmly into my coat. At that time, she looked scrawny, with fur that seemed a bit oily. I even had a dream that she was wanted by the authorities in New York City because she had ridden on the bare shoulders of a musclebound tourist and left him with scars down his arms that reminded me of the slash work in Elizabethan clothing.

When I visited Morgan this week, I was so pleased to see that she’d gained so much vigor that she looked transformed, at the peak of health with a fluffy coat:

I Believe in Magic

Red Geranium, Allen County Children’s Garden, Lima, Ohio

Every once in a while, I take a picture that proves to me that the world is indeed a good place. I see that I am not a fool to believe there is magic here.

In writing, I struggle to show rather than tell. This problem is absent in photography. There is only show and no tell.

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