Friday, February 3, 2012

The far side of the lilac

For Kavya, who sends me these beautiful lines from a cold country, saved by the bright sunshine she revels in:

“To make the most of the sun’s warmth, sparrows flock the bush (lilac colored flowers bloom out of it in Spring) bordering my window. The leaves of the lilac bush have never withered. No, not even in harsh winter. They, just like the sun and the sparrows, want to keep me in high spirits. I often wonder where do the sparrows and the geese hide when it snows. They come back the very next day it stops snowing.” (Indeed, where do they hide?)

My favorite passage on the lilac, from Berger:

“Perhaps lilac is the most abundantly feminine of flowers. It came from Eastern Europe and was imported into the West in the sixteenth century. A Slav flower.

Among the mountains here, the lilac trees flower at the time when the first cuckoos sing. Cuckoos and lilac come as a pair. The cuckoo is pure impudence. Later when he falls silent after mating, he eats grubs and caterpillars-even those which are poisonous for other birds-with impunity.

The scent of the lilac, you once said, is not far from the smell of cows in the stable. Both are smells of peace and procrastination.

The days are becoming long, and in the evening I sit in the kitchen reading without a light. On the windowsill is a jug with a flowering branch of lilac, which I cut in a friend’s garden. It is pale purple, the color of a much-washed ultramarine blue shirt….

….The walls of the house are thick, for the winters are cold. On the window embrasure, close to the windowpanes, hangs a shaving mirror. As I look up now, I see reflected in the mirror a sprig of the lilac branch: each petal of each tiny flower is vivid, distinct, near, so near that the petals look like the pores on skin. At first I do not understand why what I see in the mirror is so much more intense than the rest of the branch which, in fact, is nearer to me. Then I realize that what I am looking at in the mirror is the far side of the lilac, the side fully lit by the last light of the sun.

Every evening my love for you is placed like that mirror."

John Berger
'And our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos '

Photo by Kavya.

1 comment:

Jean said...

Asha, I just love this piece and the very mention of lilac makes me think of my late father and how he introduced me to the Richard Tauber singing 'We'll Gather Lilacs in the Spring,'

As I wait for the Lilac Tree in my garden to bloom, I remember those shared times when Dad and I were silent but knew what the other was thinking.

Thanks for bringing all this back to me in such a beautiful way.

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