When the Lilacs Bloom

Spring, in my neck of the woods, is easily the most longed-for season of the year.

All too often, however, spring is like a bashful pixie, a reluctant, shy, embarrassed late-arrival to the all-season party where winter dominates the proceedings and monopolizes the conversation. Eventually, though, as the pages of the calendar flip forward, day by day, we reach the month of May, when spring finally unfurls its plumage, the self-consciousness gone, the reticence of March and April a forgotten thing.



Almost overnight, it seems, grasses that were yellow and brown turn a rich, verdant green.  Buds appear, as if by magic, on the trees.  Colorful grosbeaks and bobolinks return to the area, and the year-round songbirds sing louder and longer, as if basking in the long-awaited, nearly forgotten warmth.



And. perhaps most spectacular of all, May is when the lilacs bloom . . .

This weekend, I will take the seven-hour drive from Vermont, my adopted state for the past eleven years, “back home” to Rochester, New York.  I’ll visit my parents, my brothers and sister, extended family, and old friends.  I look forward to it.  It is always nice visiting my roots, inspirations, the people and places who have been there for me from the beginning.



And, time permitting, I will also make a point to see the lilacs.

Rochester has long been nicknamed the Flower City, and no time of the year embodies this more than the month of May, and no single piece of real estate more so than Highland Park.



Situated on the city’s south side, Highland Park is home to the largest collection of lilac bushes in the United States, boasting more than 500 varieties of lilacs and 1,200 plants in all, bedecked on a green hillside that spans 22 acres.  Every May, for a span of ten days, the park hosts the Lilac Festival. It’s an enormous event, bringing in more than 500,000 visitors from around the world.



For me, though, I most enjoy the park early in the morning, before the food and craft stands open, before the crowds gather–when there is still dew on the grass and when you can listen, without interruption, to your thoughts and luxuriate in the heady fragrance of the lilacs.





I savor it, savor them, drinking them in because I know they will be gone within a fortnight, the delicate petals fallen, the purples and pinks and lavenders stripped away, the color show over and done until the same time next year.  It always seems sad that such a magnificent display should be so brief, such a bounty so fleeting.



Perhaps it is.  But it also serves as a reminder.


Have you ever been struck by an idea, something so inspired, so riveting, so full of life and vitality that you instantly knew you had to let it out?  Maybe it was a concept for a short story, or a new focus for a novel.  Maybe it was a poem, gift-wrapped, arriving in total, the lines and rhythms dancing before your eyes like gemstones.  Maybe it was a landscape or a street scene for you to paint, the contours, shadows, and nuances perfectly clear in your mind’s eye.  Maybe it was a tactic, an approach, a way to sway your audience or win the approval of your coworkers on a long-debated and polarizing project.



Moments like these are energizing, and often hit us without warning, a creative bolt from the blue, as it were.  They are as invigorating as they are rare.



Sure, ideas strike every day.  But how many of them make you stop what you’re doing mid-thought, or distract to the point where you forget the supper in the oven or fail to see that red light switch over to green (the motorist behind you will certainly let you know should this happen–and yes, I speak from experience!)?  I know for me, such ideas only occur infrequently, and there is no way of guessing when they will come.



I’ve tried to figure it all out.  Is there something specific I tend to do that might encourage the best ideas to strike?  Is there a certain TV show or movie I should watch?  Maybe a book I should read?  Or maybe a particular food . . . perhaps a “creativity diet” that exists, a certain combination of vegetables, starches, and nuts that assures at least one winning idea per day?



But if there’s a secret magic formula, I’ve yet to discover it.  The muse strikes when it will, a capricious, fickle thing, as inscrutable as the undiscovered wonders at the bottom of the sea or the farthest reaches of space.



The truth is, those earth-shattering ideas that rock my creative world and send paradigm shifts running through every page of a manuscript are as rare and transitory as the lilacs that grace Highland Park for a fortnight every spring.  And maybe that’s as it should be–for all of us.  If they struck every day, they would no longer be special, no longer demand our attention and make us take notice.  They’d become ordinary, just another check mark on the to-do lists of our lives.  “Brush teeth, check.  Make breakfast, check.  Pick up groceries, check.  Pay the bills, check.  Be inspired by fabulous, Pulitzer-Prize-worthy idea, check.”



As tempting as it sounds (especially in those seasons of writer’s block) to have an ideas-on-demand app that we could tap into anytime we want, I kind of like it the way it is now.  Not everything should be so convenient and easy.  Some things are meant to be special.

Like Highland Park in the month of May . . .



. . . when the lilacs bloom.



Thanks so much for reading!


46 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. joeyfullystated
    May 07, 2015 @ 17:48:49

    Enjoy your trip 🙂


  2. Letizia
    May 07, 2015 @ 18:58:40

    Seven hours is a long drive! (well, I know in the States it’s not considered excessive, but still). I love Spring too and the idea of so many lilacs being in bloom sounds wonderful!


  3. Sue Dreamwalker
    May 07, 2015 @ 19:27:06

    Beautiful, and love Lilacs.. reminds me of when I went to BC in Canada in May/June in 2000, all the Lilacs and Rhododendrons were out.. Spring is spectacular.. Enjoy.. 🙂 and stay safe.. 🙂 Sue


  4. evelyneholingue
    May 07, 2015 @ 21:48:04

    You have no idea how your post hits home. Since I left France I have rarely seen lilacs. My father grew them in my childhood backyard and their fragrance has always stayed within me. I have been to Rochester and found the city very interesting, but I was too late for the lilacs. Enjoy your road trip and your time home, Mike. They make for great writing later on.


    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 08, 2015 @ 21:20:13

      Thank so much, Evelyne! And you’re right about them making for great writing later on. Generally speaking, my trips back home are very helpful for me creatively! Hopefully this trip will prove to be no exception.:)


  5. Shery Alexander Heinis
    May 07, 2015 @ 23:32:37

    Lovely post and very informative. I’ve never been to NY (blush of embarrassment) although I’ve travelled widely, so I did learn something here. Creativity on demand, hmm – there’s a book by that name…


  6. stockdalewolfe
    May 08, 2015 @ 00:05:03

    Have a wonderful time, Mike!! Hope you do get to see the lilacs!! Safe traveling, Ellen


  7. jjspina
    May 08, 2015 @ 02:13:40

    Have a relaxing trip and enjoy the family and the lilacs. Thanks for sharing your lovely words and photos!


  8. isabelburt
    May 09, 2015 @ 17:14:20

    Those lilacs make the eyes dance! What a pretty post, Mike, thank you 🙂


  9. Dennis the Vizsla
    May 09, 2015 @ 22:43:31

    hello eye dancers its dennis the vizsla dog hay my dada groo up in the mithikal land of noo york and he klayms he yoozed to pull lilac flowers off the lilac trees in their bakyard and suck the nektar owt of them!!! like he is a butterfly or a hummingbird or sumthing!!! persunaly i think he is owt of his mind!!! hav a nice trip!!! ok bye


  10. teagan geneviene
    May 11, 2015 @ 12:37:57

    Safe journey, Mike. With all the lilacs, it sounds like a treat for all the senses. The photos are beautiful. Huge hugs. 🙂


  11. Aquileana
    May 11, 2015 @ 13:52:57

    Enjoy the trip!…. By the way you made me think of the song Lilac Wine…
    Best wishes Aquileana 😀


  12. laura kilty
    May 12, 2015 @ 13:01:59

    What a beautiful post- I really love how you write. Enjoy the rest and I am looking forward to reading the next!


  13. Carrie Rubin
    May 13, 2015 @ 19:39:44

    I drive through Rochester whenever I go to New Hampshire to visit my family. It’s always a quick drive-by for me, but your beautiful pictures make me think I should pull off the turnpike for an hour and check out the gorgeous Highland Park. At least in the spring, anyway!


  14. Sherri
    May 14, 2015 @ 10:14:30

    I hope you had a wonderful time with your family Mike. And those lilacs, how gorgeous are they?! I have one in my garden, but it is tiny, ha! I know well those moments when a great idea strikes, but then I forget it if I don’t write it down (which is usual) and yes, I also know about those red light/green light moments, ha! I have struggled to keep up with blogging and writing lately due to life events conspiring against me, although a couple of trips away are also to blame for good reasons. A change of scenery so often helps gain a sense of renewed creativity doesn’t it? But yes, as you say, it’s good that we don’t always have the inspiration flowing freely as perhaps it would become watered down. Perhaps 😉 Happy, safe travels Mike.


    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 15, 2015 @ 18:21:14

      Hi Sherri! I did have a great trip.:) And I completely agree about writing ideas down! You should see my desk–I have literally dozens upon dozens of scraps of paper strewn about, each with an idea scribbled on it!


  15. Carol Louise Wilde
    May 14, 2015 @ 17:45:01

    Wow. Beautiful.


  16. Julie Cacher
    May 26, 2015 @ 07:42:09

    Hi Mike. I haven’t been around for quite sometime. Nice being caught up. Who knew there were so many varieties of lilacs? On another note, if you haven’t read /come across a book called “Art is War”, I highly recommend it. It’s fantastic and speaks of the muse. I have it on audible and have listened on several occasions, particularly when I’m feeling uninspired.


  17. lillian
    May 27, 2015 @ 21:57:33

    Thanks for stopping by and Liking my Sea Salt. Relatively new to this blogging world, I’m finding I like the Return Policy the best. Seems indigenous to this cyber world of shared words, photos, paintings, and creative ideas. As in, someone Likes a poem or photo of mine, and I get to follow them to their site, and usually meet them over a cup of my morning coffee. In this case, it’s an early glass of wine on this summer like eve. I love this post on lilacs….everything about it.
    “I savor it, savor them, drinking them in because I know they will be gone within a fortnight, the delicate petals fallen, the purples and pinks and lavenders stripped away, the color show over and done until the same time next year.” — wonderful lines and especially when then “connected” to the fleeting way a muse appears….ideas for writing….the creative spirit’s fleeting ways.
    Did you perchance look at my post Flowers Personified? It includes a wonderful photo from the Lilac Lane at Boston’s Arboretum and three poems inspired by our walk through this magical place. Every May there is a Lilac Sunday at the Arboreturm. It is the only Sunday the acres and acres of nature’s beautiful creations are open for picnics. We always choose to go on a weekday after Lilac Sunday — calling ahead to insure “peak bloom” time. Walking the lane is heavenly! There are perhaps 40 different kinds of lilacs, also from all over the world. It is absolutely intoxicating — your Highland Park must be that and tenfold!
    I shall enjoy meandering your site a bit more — lovely to meet you and hope you’ll stop by again! For a morning coffee or an evening glass of wine….:)


  18. Karen's Nature Art
    May 28, 2015 @ 19:26:34

    What an amazing experience that would be to see so many lilacs in bloom at once! They put on a beautiful show here this spring which I enjoyed very much. Thanks for a great post!


  19. Debra Watts
    Jun 10, 2015 @ 14:32:15

    So beautiful! Love lilacs!


  20. Anna Waldherr
    Sep 02, 2018 @ 17:51:56

    Inspiration is, I think, like lightning. It strikes of its own accord. All we can do is be receptive.


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