“The whole world smells of lilacs”

A gorgeous lilac bush on Frankford Road, Hastings County.

A gorgeous lilac bush on Frankford Road, Hastings County.

No matter what differences we in Queensborough or anywhere else in the world may have, I think there is one thing that we can all agree on: that lilacs are beautiful.

That was reinforced for me when I tossed off a quick post the other night (because it was late – Raymond and I had just come home from a dinner party – and I was tired) about how much we had enjoyed the lilacs in Hastings County during our Victoria Day long weekend at the Manse. Much to my surprise, that post had a very high readership, and I got a lot of reaction to it in the form of comments and emails. (Including a lovely offer of some lilac cuttings that we can transplant at the Manse!) Clearly people love lilacs.

One commenter asked me to post more pictures; hence the one at the top here, which was a quick snapshot of one particularly beautiful lilac bush outside a place where Raymond and I stopped last Saturday at a yard sale (where we bought books! Imagine!) on Frankford Road between the villages of Frankford and Stirling.

But your response has kind of got me thinking that there might be something in this lilac business. Remember how I mentioned that pretty little Warkworth (a village in Northumberland County, the next county over, to the west, from Hastings) has a lilac festival? (As, I have subsequently discovered, does the town of Lindsay, in nearby Victoria County – and yes, I know it’s now called Kawartha Lakes or some such foolishness, but it’ll always be Victoria County to me.)

Well, perhaps Hastings County needs a Lilac Trail – a driving (or cycling, or motorcyling) route that people could follow to see beautiful lilac displays and pretty countryside and nice little villages and hamlets. And maybe we could do some cross-county promotion and team up with Warkworth and have the Hastings Lilac Trail end up at the Warkworth Lilac Festival. What do you think?

Meanwhile, in a bit of serendipity that was another encouragement to revisit lilacs in tonight’s post, we got an email today from the good people working to raise money for the Al Purdy A-frame project, to restore the late great Canadian poet‘s hand-built house in Prince Edward County and use it as an arts centre. It was about a fundraiser being held in Toronto June 7 (a screening of the movie The Shape of Rex with a party to follow; it’s at the Royal Cinema, 608 College St., 7 p.m., and if you’re in the Toronto area, go!). The message included some lines from a Purdy poem that I had not previously known, called May 23, 1980. That same poem was also the theme for the latest post on a wonderful blog about Al Purdy and the A-Frame Project, called In Search of Al Purdy; that post is here. I don’t want to infringe on copyright so I won’t reproduce the poem, save for a couple of lines; I urge you to buy one of Al’s books (try Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy, which you can buy here) and read it for yourself. It’s lovely.

Basically, Al starts the poem by recounting what he was thinking about on – well, May 23, 1980. (And as it happens, as I started writing this post it was also May 23. Serendipity again.) He had got home – home presumably being the A-frame in Ameliasburgh – after a long day of driving,

and you know
– the whole world smells of lilacs
the whole damn world.

He goes on to reminisce about a young woman he’d met at a party a long time ago, a woman with violet eyes. Now, he says, he’s grown old, though he still thinks of the night he met her:

tell her for me
there will come one May night
of every year that she’s alive
when the whole world smells of lilacs.

And that is true. For the young woman with the violet eyes – and for us all.

6 thoughts on ““The whole world smells of lilacs”

  1. Lilac Luncheon & Bake Sale at St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church in Madoc on Saturday May 25th, 11:30 am – 2pm!! Not sure this will be as grand as a Lilac FESTIVAL, but hey, it’s Madoc, let’s start with a Luncheon!!

  2. Thanks for the Al Purdy line–I didn’t know it, and it’s perfect. It should also remind us to stop and appreciate our fleeting seasons. (By which I mean apple blossom and lilac season, strawberry season, corn and tomato season…)

  3. Hello, Katherine. Did you know about the statue of Al Purdy, in the north-east end of Queen’s Park, Toronto? It’s just a bit south of University College. The statue depicts him seated, with a book in his hand. If you haven’t seen it, I can send you a photo. I hope to be at QP for the Monday Victoria Day firing of the guns for the Queen’s birthday salute. And, the nearby lilacs are always worth a photo or two.

    • Hey Sash, I know of that statue, but I have yet to see it in person. I would love to see your photo! And how lovely and appropriate that it would be at lilac time. Thank you so much!

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