Liberating Lilacs [or the kindness of neighbors]

purple-lilac-flowersI’ve been known to “liberate” flowers and plants from abandoned properties.It feels so satisfying to give abandoned flora a good home.

Several weeks ago,  I ran into my neighbor Jim while taking a walk. I pointed out the beautiful lilacs growing across the road midway between our two houses. I shared with him the “secret” of how to liberate sprouts from lilacs. He got very excited and later that day came to my house with two white lilac sprigs liberated [with permission] from his son’s yard.

This, of course, was not enough for me. It merely whetted my appetite for more. The farm house across the way where the purple lilacs are growing is all but abandoned. Rachel, who was born in the house and lived there her whole life, has been gone nearly 10 years. There is quite a story about Rachel, how she lived all those years without electricity and stayed at the farm to raise sheep and blueberries long after her parents were gone. I convinced myself that Rachel would want me to have some of her lilacs. There was no one home to appreciate them anymore. Her nephew, who inherited the place, rarely came and the lawn looked like a hay field. Besides, we live on 18 acres of what was part of Rachel’s farm, so I was simply moving some of them to another location. They would look so lovely in our yard; I was sure she would be pleased.

I liberated one sprig a week or so ago and placed it in the middle of the two Jim had given me. Then I set about deciding where to put more. This morning I set on digging three holes and running to Agway for more compost. I was ready. I could almost smell the lilacs blooming under my bedroom window in a year or two. I grabbed my special “liberating” shovel, bucket and work gloves. I said an incantation to keep the deer ticks from jumping on me and set off. With my butt to the road, I found the perfect spot to dig. I heard a car slow down and figured it was Jim ready to tease me. Imagine my embarrassment and surprise when the owner of the property, Rachel’s dear nephew, pulled up! He rarely visits and, besides, what were the chances he’d come at Noon on a Wednesday? YIKES! I thought I was sweating BEFORE he arrived, now I was drenched with “I’m so embarrassed” sweat!

Earl parked in the hay-lawn and got out of the car with a big smile on his face. I walked up and shook his hand, called him by name and said, “OK, you caught me, I’m stealing your lilacs! I’d have asked, but you weren’t here, so now that you’re here….” He laughed and told me it was quite all right. He had taken some home to his place and that, yes, Rachel would want me to have them. He set about his work, hooking up a new brush cutter to the 1950s Ford Tractor; the one that Rachel had used for the farm and even drove to town for whatever she needed. [Rachel never did drive a car]

I set about liberation. I was going to take three sprouts but settled on one big one, mostly because I had been caught. I brought Rachel’s lilac home and got it planted and watered quickly. Didn’t even wilt. Then I went into my pantry and found the last jar of Peach Jam that I made last year. I quickly slapped on a label with PEACH and 2012 and headed down the driveway and over to Rachel’s [Earl’s] place. Earl stopped the tractor and accepted my gift. I said, “Kindness deserves kindness in return” and handed him the jar of jam. I believe we’d still be chatting if I hadn’t excused myself. He told me about being born in the house, more about Rachel, more about how he loved the place. We were both happy.

I am immensely grateful for our kind and generous neighbors. And I need to confess right here on my blog. In the eyes of many this was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! In my eyes, too. Otherwise why be embarrassed when I was nailed? Anyway, this is one of the reasons why I have a blog, to admit to my imperfect self, my human nature that sometimes creates trouble, chaos and drama and sometimes creates better neighbors.  I’m not afraid to ask, be vulnerable, hear NO, be silly, be daring, be forthcoming, be human.  I sometimes make peculiar decisions and rationalize them in strange ways. And sometimes this leads me to getting to know my neighbors better and have an opportunity to return their kindness.

Oh my, now that I’ve been jam for lilacs, I wonder if there is another jar of jam tucked away for Jim?

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4 Responses to Liberating Lilacs [or the kindness of neighbors]

  1. sueanniepie says:

    A favorite quote of mine is, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.” Not that that philosophy hasn’t gotten me into a few jams too!

  2. Toni Miles Vitale says:

    Great story! Thanks for sharing. Toni

  3. Win McIntyre says:

    Wow! Great blog!

    On Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 1:25 PM, Cate LaBarre

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