Three large abstract paintings on a white wall.

The heart behind "The Syringa Series"

I have a handful of very strong memories from when I was little - of myself and my three younger siblings (and two family dogs) all packed into the car, heading from the city to the place I so wished I could call home all the time, the county. 
It would be chaos in the car - truly. We’d all wanted nothing more than to arrive to our destination as quickly and painlessly as possible. 
That being said, my most favourite rides were the ones when we would have just turned off the highway and mom would wake from her long nap in the passenger seat. She’d look over to our dad and say softly below the cacophony of the back seat, “Gord, pull over…” It would be May, and she would have spotted Lilacs growing on the side of the road. 
She kept contingency pruning shears in the trunk for such occasions. 
She’d roll down our windows and pass us each overflowing handfuls of sweet-scented purple flowers - as many as our little hands could hold. We’d rush home to get them into water.
Most mornings in May, we’d wake up to the smell of lilacs dripping over to us from our side tables - mom had quietly placed them there in little cups of water while we slept. It was a very special gesture that I became excited to expect from my mum, every May. 
The county was a really special place, to us all. It was the place I learnt how to slow down, detach from time, and melt into my surroundings. It was where I learnt how to enter into that creative state that requires nothing but presence, and I’m so grateful for our years spent there. 
We had a lilac tree at our farm in the county. Mum called it a “family heirloom.” 
It had been transplanted from my great nana’s garden in Ottawa, and we always made sure to take great care around it when we were doing yard work. 
From what I gather, lilacs were adored, cut and brought into the house by not only my mother, but my nana, my great nana… They hold a special place in the history of the mothers of my family. 
As a woman, I’ve found myself falling into that same love and adoration for the flower. I bring them into the house for my loved ones, and will forever. It’s an incredibly simple tradition that lends me a feeling of belonging to a place, a season - a maternal lineage. 
I’ve alluded to the Syringa series (“syringa” is the latin form of “Lilac”) representing the soft warmth of spring. To go a little further... to me, the Syringa series calls in the promise of gentler weather, tender memories of a childhood spent in nature, a mother’s love, and the memory of mothers well before that. 
My basic hope is that when you look at these paintings hanging in your space, you are transported (even just for a moment) to a space without time, just warmth. 
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So nice to hear this story. Your writing is beautiful and so are your paintings! I see the Syringa series in a whole new light. Thank you for sharing.

Pamela Jukes

I too recall chaotic family car trips, they made such fond memories.
My beloved lilac trees, transplanted as well, and given such TLC. The sweet aroma of spring.
Thank you Willo, you made me smile :)

Emily Anne Walton

Beautiful memories… scents remind us of beautiful people and places. Thanks for sharing

Leslie Cowan

Beautiful story and tradition you’re keeping alive Willo. Back in the 70’s when I was a kid in elementary school, we had lilacs in our backyard in Willowdale. If I get near one today and the aroma hits me I go back in time to that backyard and my family and friends. Everytime.

Rich Bullis

Aw Willo, a beautiful tender story ! I smiled while reading about the car ride as my family did similar adventures in the car, myself and 4 siblings creating lots of energy, giggles etc.

The story of your Mum asking your Dad to stop the car so she could go and cut some lilacs is gorgeous. I can smell them throughout ! And how lovely that your Mum would place bits of lilacs on your bedside tables for a morning time gift.

You are a natural story teller !

Many blessings to you on this gorgeous summer day !

Love, Mags


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