On Planting a Lilac Tree

Yesterday we planted a lilac tree. Or rather, D. Lucy did most of the work while I merely supervised and indulged in vague thoughts about the lost gardens of Aleppo and the vanished Lemoine nursery that developed the cultivar we planted, Syringa Vulgaris Belle de Nancy. There is something about tree-planting that is very life affirming. We plant, knowing that we shall never see the tree in its full-grown beauty but with the hope that its leaves and blossom will delight another generation. Tree-planting is a truly anonymous act, a collaboration with nature rather than a defiance of it and, as John Evelyn understood so well, an act with consequences beyond the particular. Trees may be felled or sicken and die; gardens may be destroyed, nurseries disappear, but the impulse to plant, to cherish and to grow remains. We do not know what will be the fate of our little lilac tree, but it was planted with a prayer — a reminder of Eden, of Calvary, and of the hope that sustains us all.

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