Bear in Mind

Exploring the common minds and emotions of people and other animals and their lives together

The Lesson of the Lilac

Second thoughts on stealing heaven

Lilacs and pines 1
Jeff Borchers
A suite of arched lilacs grace the field’s edge. Their stems are strong trunks, lined and hardy after decades of living. Gnarled roots are no longer separate from the pungent soil. Earth and plant have fused into one.

Every spring, the sky opens into bouquets of purple and white scent. Like me, the pines move back with a gasp of awe at the sudden beauty that the lilacs unfurl.

Occasionally, in honor of a visiting guest, I have reached up, and murmuring an apology, clip off a few bunches of ivory blossoms. I place them in crystal vases. They hang in the arc of a dancer’s hand.

I learned that I must time the cutting carefully if the guest is to see this bit of heaven. The stolen lilac does not hold her form for long. In a few short hours, firm sensuality disappears into dry and brittle bone. The crystal vase transforms from stage to mocking internment.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Having witnessed this death several times, I no longer harvest the lilac. These snips and cuts are much more than a manicure. The lilac architecture is a tiered cascade of fractal kingdoms. This diversification of form and function is illusory. She is unicellular. She is single souled. The layers of branches, leaves, blossoms, and roots are merely alternate expressions of one heart beating in a single song.

Lilacs and pines 2

Jeff Borchers
I now know that she cried out in despairing fear when my encroaching hand came to sever. I now understand that the lilac wept in knowing anticipation of the withering hours when she saw a piece of soul die.

This is the lesson of trauma. This is the lesson of the Lilac. Neither she nor we dies alone.

G.A. Bradshaw, Ph.D., Ph.D. is the author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity.

more...

Subscribe to Bear in Mind

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.