Monday, April 26, 2010

Springtime has a scent all its own

Nothing else smells like spring. It is dank earth, green-growing life and early blossoms. It is new leaves returning to lavender branches that when, rubbed, give off a heavenly reminder of my grandmother's linen drawers. It is the change in the wind – when the air moving against your cheeks feels moist and carries with it promises from far away places and sometimes, rude surprises.

Last year the fresh-scrubbed scent was springtime in Paris. This year, spring is playing hopscotch with all the other seasons in Colorado – we had at least three of them just last week. Sunshine flirted with rain, then hail, and tornadoes, and snow, then more rain, then sunshine. Then snow. Call it springtime in the Rockies.

In springtime, scent and light are twins....or perhaps it is that all the hidden things respond to the promise of more light and warmth and come looking for it. Even before the pageantry of last week, the earth had awakened. Pansies were smiling purple and yellow and tulips were looking up. I had begun to clear the winters accumulation from my garden beds, where perennials were sprouting beside the sentinel line of crabapple trees. As I moved my way along the garden, the green scent of living things wafted up, mixed with dead leaves. Rachel Carson's words sprang to mind: “For the sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories and it's a pity that we use it so little.”

I am not alone in my spring, 2010 garden. The scent of growing things pulls me back to memories of my Mother tending her beloved flowers, or determinedly pulling beets in the vegetable garden for super. I see one Grandmother in her raspberry patch, and with another, smell her roses. I recall a photo of my Great, Great Grandmother as an old woman, standing in a sea of flowers in her garden.

Also, for some strange reason, with the smell of spring my mind comes to rest in my Mother's handkerchief box. Let me explain. My Mother was a devoted handkerchief girl. I doubt that she used more than a few dozen Kleenex in her life. She had dozens and dozens of handkerchiefs, in all sizes and colors; linen, cotton, laced, tatted, embroidered, flowered. She always had a couple in her purse, and one in her pocket or tucked up her sleeve. Like me, mother had allergies so it was both utilitarian as well as lady like. She particularly liked white linen hankies with stitch work and deplored the fact that her daughters did not share her sensibilities about this matter.

During the past year as we have slowly sorted and emptied her house of her lifetime collections, I came away with a half dozen white linen memories. They smell like my Mother. One, that I found in her purse right after she died, I brought home and tucked in my lingerie drawer. Every time I open the drawer I lift it and, pressing it to my nose, inhale. Mother's scent is faint there now. So perhaps like baby boomers everywhere, I am finding not a Silent Spring, but a spring where it is the scent of new growing things that remind me of her. Since her birthday was April 28th somehow I think this delights her!

“Smells are surer than sounds and sights to make the heartstrings crack.”
Rudyard Kipling

©2010 Jan Johnson Wondra

1 comment:

Jon Hokama said...

I just sorted and cleaned out two "lifetimes" in preparation for selling Mom and Dad's house--so I really appreciated your well-crafted musings on family and scent!