The richness of spring always surprises me. Every year, I manage to forget the incredible, lush world that sleeps under the snow. The gorgeous colours, the intoxicating scent of soil and rain and grass, the warm breeze. How freeing it is to walk bare-legged into the morning chill. How magical it is to catch a glimpse of white-spotted fawn through the budding trees, or come across a field pebbled with young rabbits, wide-eyed and wild. And the lilacs… oh, the lilacs.
Although their lives are fleeting, the presence of lilacs fills the world with giddy delight. For the two or three weeks of lilac season, we fill our homes (and Instagram feeds) with cuttings, brew cordials and tonics, and press blooms in between the pages of books. In folk wisdom, lilacs are messengers of perseverance, tenacity, and new life, and I like to think that we mortals take this to heart, perhaps subconsciously, when they appear. There’s just something about those impossibly fragrant, delicate flowers that captures the imagination and fortifies the soul.
This spring has been one of deep renewal for me. I have never felt more sure of myself and my purpose. I’ve never been more brave, or more heroically irresponsible. I’ve also never worked so hard. Dreams demand blood, sweat, and tears before they can become flesh, and I gladly make these offerings at the altar of my muse. I have a feeling that this is a time in my life that I’ll want to remember. I want to preserve this exquisite exhaustion, this trembling feeling of anticipation, so very like the last weeks of spring before the world erupts into summer. And because I write, a single jar of ink, soon put down onto paper, seemed the natural choice.
This ink is my way of paying tribute. To spring, to lilacs, and to possibility.
What you’ll need:
1 cup crushed blueberries
2 cups crushed lilac flowers
a glass jar
1/4 tsp 100 proof vodka
1/2 tsp gum arabic
1. Crush blueberries and lilacs together in a glass jar. Be thorough in your demolition, destroying as many petals as you can. Although the blueberries are the champions of colour in this concoction, the lilacs contribute a wonderful, muted gray overtone that I adore.
2. Cover the plant material with boiling water, and let sit at least at least 24 hours.
3. Transfer this mixture to a saucepan, and boil for around 5 minutes to reduce.
4. Strain the liquid back into the jar, and then transfer the liquid once more to the saucepan for further reduction. Boil until you reach the colour consistency you desire – I like quite a dark ink, but this would make a lovely light stain as well. You should have just a few tablespoons of liquid left.
5. Transfer this liquid back into your jar, and wait for it to cool completely. Once it has cooled, add your vodka, stirring thoroughly. Now add your gum arabic – this improves the flow and consistency of the ink!
This ink is best used for brushes, quills and dip pens – I would recommend against using it in fountain pens with cartridges.