The Lilacs of Maine

One of the perks of a late spring season in Ogunquit is getting to experience the lilacs all over again. On many years, Memorial Day arrives too late, and follows too much warm weather, for the lilacs to hang on until we get there. This time around, they were in full bloom throughout the entire town. Everywhere we went their delicious scent formed a perfectly-perfumed backdrop. The sweetness carried on every breeze, and even at night when they hid in the darkness, we could tell they were there.

No other flower conveys memories of childhood – and spring – as powerfully as the lilac. It’s also come to signify our time in Ogunquit, as there is a long row of the New England beauties along the driveway of our guesthouse. Innkeepers Greg and Mike always include a bouquet of them if they’re in bloom, and so our room is filled with the glorious scent as well.

Fragrance is one of the most powerful memory-triggers of the human experience. Music comes in a close second for me, but certain scents have a way of bringing me back to moments more effectively and meaningfully than anything else. (There’s a certain corner of McNulty School that always brings back to the terror of grade school with its stale odor, and my reaction to it is frighteningly visceral.) The memories that lilacs brings up are much happier. Hopeful. The stuff of spring – and the start of a new season.

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