Boston in the early summer absolutely drowns in lilacs. It's lousy with them, the whole Watertown-Cambridge area in which I spend 99% of my leisure time smelling exactly like it's been dipped into perfume. The amazing and truly magical part of it all is that at this point in the year it can be impossible to actually see the blooms, since they're mostly dead and fading. Walking down the street, especially Brattle in Cambridge or, surprisingly, the Watertown walking trail (which runs parallel to Arsenal St for a substantial distance), is like swimming in it.
Is this what I've been missing for the last few years? Is this what I gave up when I started driving to work almost three years ago now? Shame on me. Walking today I got to see historic homes for more than fifteen seconds a piece; saw a wild rabbit, eyes wide and nervous, eating weeds in a front yard; and realized that one house not far away has some bronze sculptures in the front yard that remind me eerily of the Korean War Memorial in D.C.
Did I realize at one point that the defining scent of a Boston summer was lilac? Was it a realization that I'd had before? Have there always been so many people out with pets and kids and significant others and friends on the weekends? (Has it always been so awkward watching a Bostonian try to talk to a stranger? Yes.)
I spent last summer holed up in my apartment trying to get my mind back in order. The summer before that I was halfway between driving everywhere and walking everywhere. (The post below, from my first - abortive - attempt to share my specific kind of joie de vivre with the world, suggests that I felt pretty much the same way about walking then as I do now.) I've missed this.
I feel alive when I walk places, alive in a way that few other things match. (Horseback riding, sailing...) Headphones in one ear to help keep a certain sense of continuity when cars pass or other unnatural noise starts getting in the way, a sense of direction, and the time to not care how long it takes me to get there - these are the ingredients for a good afternoon, for me.
I can't imagine a world in which Boston on Memorial Day doesn't smell like lilacs. Right now I'm sticky with sweat, and the sunburn on my back is juuuust starting to itch. I have a slight headache because my eyes are light-sensitive. All I want is to take a shower and drink ice tea in the dark... and I feel fantastic. Today was definitely a good day, and here's hoping it's one of many this summer.