Over the years, I've always felt a little thrill when coming upon one of three proof-positive signs of a vanished, treasured homesite: rhubarb, lilacs and apple trees.
This time of year, stumbling off a path or wandering in the woods, one sometimes discovers a gnarled crab apple tree dropping its crop on the ground for deer and squirrels to feast upon. Earlier in the summer are the "prehistoric" giant leaves of rhubarb, and perhaps most touching? Lilac bushes.
My mother had some. They were french lilacs, a deep purple blue. I had an ancient bush of french lilacs in the last house I lived in and took a shoot with me when I left. It is slowly establishing itself in clay soil – an ancient lake bed, no less!
These three remnants of the past have a feminine feel to them. You might also find a rotting well cover or a lone, brick chimney but lilacs, apple trees and rhubarb evoke the image of a woman, white aproned, standing at the back door and for a long minute, surveying the fruits of her labors, then tossing wash water into the air and turning back to her kitchen.
A splendid lilac bush discovered, this summer, off a main road near Duluth, Minnesota.
With roads on either side, two restaurants nearby and signs of additional disturbances to a formerly peaceful landscape, this enormous plant endures.