Our home growing up had a wall of lilac that bloomed each spring along the edge of our driveway. Each season I looked forward to the perfumed air of those purple flowers, and the magic of pretending that their trunks were a part of some mystical forest. I would weave my body in and out of the branches of the lilac playing make believe, inventing a world filled with creatures who lived in the embrace of that living perfume. Through osmosis I came to associate lilac with my mother, she who tended our gardens and made them bloom each year greater than the next.
While on a run the other day, beaten down by the blinding sun and heat to which my body is not yet accustomed due to months of training in a New England winter, frustrated, tired, mentally undone, I ran by a lilac tree. And in that instant, bathed in the scent of her flower, I felt a sense of relief that I thought could only come from a cool glass of water.
The smell of lilac brings me comfort. Like my mother.
This evening I stepped outside armed with clippers and a basket, intent on filling our home with the scent of lilac, a gift for our friends who will watch our feathered and furry lot while we’re down south. Ursa lay on the lawn before me, chin tipped slightly skyward, wind creating waves through her silky black coat, nose rippling as it processed all the news carried by that breeze. She’d spent the later afternoon in that very spot, content in absorbing the world around her, peaceful, elegant, soaking it all in as though she had an innate sense of the beauty around her.
An older women on the street stopped me today to inquire about Ursa, her missing leg a constant source of intrigue. When I explained her situation, she replied, “Well, lucky for dogs, they live every single moment to the fullest. No one needs to tell them to do it. They just do. We could all learn something from that kind of spirit.”
And so there was Ursa, doing just that on a gorgeous, late spring afternoon.
As I began clipping blooms of lilac from the tree that now lines the driveway of my own home, I let my mind wander to what life might be like when I am no longer greeted by Ursa lounging in the middle of our front lawn. I reflected that I had only ever known adult life with her by my side. That a certain innocence, a part of myself from a simpler time, would be lost in her passing. I thought about the naive girl who scooped up that wriggly black puppy nearly eight years ago, a girl who never once considered the weight her heart might carry by making that choice, and felt an ache for those years and that simplicity. Just a girl and her puppy and the whole world before them.
As I felt the panic begin to rise in my chest, drowned in the heavy scent of lilac and nostalgia, a heard the hop hop hop of the 3-legged emerging by my side. I must have left our gate ajar when I’d gone to the lilac tree, and so there Ursa stood, tail flapping, nose nuzzling.
I’m right here. Snap out of it. I’m right here.
While she couldn’t possibly have known that I was caught in my own head spiral of grief, she appeared by my side at the exact moment that I needed her, once again a reminder that often all we can do is live in the present and be grateful for what is before us.
The smell of lilac brings me comfort. Like my mother. Like my Ursa.