My husband and I visit with family in southern Vermont frequently throughout the year, and that’s where we were for Memorial Day weekend. The house has an extensive garden and it was blooming like crazy with purple and pink flowers that I’d never seen before. “Those are beautiful,” I said. “Did you plant them this year?” The answer was no, the lupins (which is what they turned out to be) had been blooming at this same time of year, every year, for many years.
How could we have missed them, I thought? We’ve seen the garden in bloom before, many, many times. I realized that we must not have visited in late May or early June which is, apparently, when the lupin are in bloom. Every year this beautiful display happens, and depending on the family’s various schedules, there are some years when no one sees it.
I understand the fleeting beauty of flowers. My own house has a wisteria vine that runs the length of our front porch, trained along a metal rod that was hung for just that purpose. For a couple of weeks in May, when the wisteria is in full bloom, I feel like I live in a chateau in the Loire Valley. The bright yellow forsythia bushes that border our property seem to bloom and disappear within days. They come and go so fast that some years I doubt that I saw them at all. And our apple tree, old and tired and broken down as it is, still manages to produce flowers every other year, presaging the small crop of apples that I’ll have to pick up before mowing in the late summer.
Also in bloom at the house in Vermont, but with some evidence that their days were already numbered, were the lilac bushes. They were alive with so much activity that I was content to watch, inhaling their perfume, for long stretches at a time. The most colorful visitors were the yellow and black monarch butterflies. They would land with their wings spread open and stick a long thin proboscis down the lilac, pull it out covered with yellow pollen, and immediately poke it into the next flower. One of the butterflies was missing half of its left wing, and yet it didn’t seem deterred. It performed just as the others did, and flew off when it was done. Later we saw another butterfly missing half of the opposite wing. It must be a dangerous business, being a butterfly.
Before we left Vermont I stood in the yard where I could smell the lilacs and admire the lupins at the same time. The sun was perfect, just warm enough to warrant the shorts and tank top I was wearing, but not so warm as to risk driving me back inside. For a few moments I was in my idea of heaven. I wondered how I could keep that feeling with me; the sights, the sounds, the smells.
Maybe if I try very hard, I’ll be able to find something fleeting to appreciate every day, and in that way, I’ll be able to keep the spirit of that feeling alive. After all, flowers are not the only things with short seasons; in the grand scheme of things, ours are short as well.