Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dream Season in the City of Lilacs

   In the dream I stepped up on the porch of an old house, walked across weathered and warped floorboards and, cupping my hands around my face to block the outside light, peered into one of the clouded glass panes of one of the front windows. Through the dust I could see a few pieces of furniture—a table and chair in the corner, an old bed frame—but it was obvious the house was empty and had been so for a long time.

    I wasn’t sure how I got to the house but I could tell it had once been someone’s home. As I looked around I noticed a tall lilac tree growing at the end of the porch. It was as tall as the house and its leafy branches, heavy with deep purple blooms, spilled over the rail, forming a canopy around the porch swing. The air was filled with their fragrance.
    At that point something woke me and as the dream slipped away, fading like a wisp of smoke, I opened my eyes to the sound of robins, the early birds who wake up long before the sun rises, calling “Cheer up, Cheer up” to one another.

    Through the window I watched the sky grow slowly lighter. When a light breeze blew and ruffled the curtains at the window, the fragrance of lilacs trailed through the room and I realized the perfume must have stolen into my dreams and become part of what I was imagining as I slept, the way a newborn’s cries or morning voices on the bedside radio might do. I’d caught the scent and my mind had simply written a story to go with it. Isn’t it wonderful what the human brain can do?

    I lay there as long as I could, unwilling to leave the warmth of my bed, the music of the birds and the faint perfume of the lilacs, before I slipped out of bed and into my day.

    The first lilacs in Spokane were planted almost 110 years ago, when J.J. Browne, one of the city’s founders, planted a pair at his home. Others followed and Spokane quickly adopted the fragrant flower and they were planted at homes in every neighborhood. By the 1930s we were the “Lilac City” and a section of Manito Park was planted as a lilac garden. This time of year it is filled with people who stop what they are doing and come to the park to smell the spring flowers.

    That afternoon, after my walk through the park, I went to the corner of my backyard where lilacs grow. I sat down on my grandmother’s wrought iron bench, under an umbrella of branches laden with cascading blooms, and let the day end as it had begun.