Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth
In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.
It's lilac time.
Old Winter stayed overlong this year, but now she's well and truly gone and the sweetest time of all has come: lilac time.
Here in the North Country, May through Midsummer is the time of fragrant nights, when merely to step outdoors is to enter into a region of delight.
First comes apple blossom with its delicate honey smell, then the lilacs in all their prodigal abundance. The heavy, white fragrance of lily of the valley follows, then the wild grapes with their impossible, invisible sweetness. Somewhere in there the peonies flounce on out, and before they've finished, the Russian olives will pour forth spicy perfume in great, drenching olfactory waves. And last of all—right around the solstice—the basswoods fill the white nights with their creamy nutmeg scent.
By then we'll all have become a little inured to the sweetness on the air, but now it's lilac time, and we're still close enough to the memory of winter to savor the experience as it deserves to be savored. It's finally warm enough to be outdoors comfortably; even the nights are warm but, thankfully, still mosquito-free.
Lilacs: in white, in lavender, in purples pale, gray, pink, blue and magenta. In old neighborhoods like mine, the aroma is everywhere, and we all walk around a little drunk with it. The lilacs bear in such profusion that flowers in public areas—along the alleys or sidewalks—are free for the taking. Soon bushes are picked bare as high as the arm can reach, but the flowers and the fragrance pour forth undiminished. Children walk around with great armfuls, thoroughly bewitched.
Spring in the North is an explosion: brief, startling, in some ways violent. Soon it will be summer, with all its toils and rigors. Soon sunset will necessitate escape indoors before the mosquito clouds gather. Soon heavy sunlight and the humidity of 10,000 lakes will smite with lightning force whenever one leaves the house.
But for now, we're all in love with Earth the Maiden at her most bewitching. Sweet springtime, choicest of seasons.
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