I was “in heaven” last weekend as I turned over the soil in my vegetable garden. The air was saturated with the perfume of lilacs from shrubs two yards over; the early morning was that perfect cool-with-a-promise-of-a-warm-day temperature; and the garden was still shady.
It got me thinking about memories connected with scent and flowers—in particular at my childhood home in Arkansas. The previous homeowners were gardeners, and left a legacy of flower borders and trees, as well as a little pine forest the last quarter of the lot.
Our yard was bordered by a field at the side and back, with a fence separating the pine forest and the field. On the other side of the fence was an old crabapple tree. It was underplanted with dozens of daffodils. These were the old-fashioned variety that had amazing fragrance. Each spring I’d find myself lying among the daffodils, lost in scented daydreams. To this day, that is the smell of spring.
We had two mimosa trees in the side yard. When they bloomed in the summer, I loved climbing up and pressing fuzzy pink blossoms to my nose, inhaling the peachy-sweetness. I get sentimental about mimosas now that I live in a northern climate!
A honeysuckle vine grew on the fence between our yard and our neighbor’s. I can still feel the warm grass—dormant and prickly on my bare feet—as I ran over to breathe in the honeysuckle’s exquisite fragrance. This was followed (naturally) by picking a red trumpet-shaped blossom, pinching off the tip and touching it to my tongue to taste a drop of nectar.
The summer I turned twenty, I worked doing odd jobs for a couple who lived out in the country. After work I’d often stop at a pretty little cemetery. It was just off a dirt road and loosely maintained—which meant that it was covered in wildflowers.
I’d sit on the grass in the shade of a large oak, breathing in the heat-kissed scent of flowers, grass, and earth. It was lovely and peaceful there with my father’s headstone a few feet away. He’d died the previous summer, and the time I spent at his gravesite was healing.
It’s been a long time since I moved away from that part of the country. Thirty-three years since my father and I shared that bit of spiritual landscape, and many more since running barefoot over brown summer grass. Immersed in lilac-infused air, I feel blessed that I’m attuned to “heavenly detail” with which I can infuse my writing—a literary drop of nectar that blooms into sweetness on the page.