Friday, August 30, 2013

The Smell of Happiness

Another entry I forgot to post. Oops.

The Arbor Day Foundation sent me some free forsythia with my order of dwarf cherries. So despite having a broken leg, I dared to disobey doctor's orders and take up a shovel. In the middle of planting, I noticed a tree that I couldn't name.

Recently, identifying neighborhood flora has become something of an obsession with me. I'm trying to figure out what kind of forage is available for the bees month-by-month. So naturally, I clipped a twig and went to The Arbor Day's online field guide.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find it in the guide. Maybe it was because the leaves were still too small, but I had trouble answering the guide questions.1 I was about to give up when I happened to peel the bark and a whiff of root beer and menthol surprised my nose. It wasn't sassafras, because I'd know those mitten-like/dinosaur-print shaped leaves anywhere.

Sassafras illustration from Wikipedia

No, it was sweet birch, and its fragrance hinted at some sunny activity in the fringes of my memory. I don't know what it is -- maybe a  picnic, a walk in the woods, I don't know. I can't remember exactly what happened, but I know this secret scent of a nearly forgotten delight. It's there "filling me up with rainbows" to borrow an expression from my son. It reminds me of the description of Wendy's mother from Peter Pan.
“She was a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such a sweet mocking mouth. Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East, however many you discover there is always one more; and her sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner.”
For a few weeks, the memory (or lack of it) nagged and nagged at me. I couldn't place it. Couldn't file it away neatly where it should go. It was just there, just out of reach -- fresh and green, wayward and flighty. But now I've come to prefer it that way.

At the risk of sounding like sour grapes, maybe the memory isn't so great after all, or it might be more indelibly printed into my brain. However, whatever it is, I've begun to think that recall might come too close to possession or cataloguing. Trying to hold on to it or bring it up at beck and call might make the magic fly away like Peter Pan. As it is, I'm happy to let myself be beautifully, enchantedly happy that something this wonderful exists.

If you were wondering why the leaves were so small when we're already into summer, it's because I started this post back in May. Of course, the leaves are full-size now.


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