Olfactory Outlet

It completely shocked my system.  It’s too early for that!  Winter’s barely over!  How can that be?

But there they were in all of their violet glory.  Lilacs.  In April.  The mild winter and early spring tricked them into bloom weeks ahead of schedule.

Driving the jeep yesterday.  Topless.  Through older city neighborhoods.  Hauling a rattling pile of chandelier nuggets and serviceable parts of my old ceiling fan off to be re-purposed at the Habitat for Humanity salvage shop, i was jolted by scented whispers of their presence as well.

Is there anything more powerful than a scent memory?

Mom had a treasured lilac bush at the edge of the driveway.  Grown from cuttings she had harvested from her mother’s home, the bush would burst into bloom in late May.  Unlike roses, you can’t buy lilacs at the florist.  They are there and gone.  Once a year.

The end of the school year.  My birthday.  The beginning of summer.  The best days of my childhood… Right there.  Next to the driveway.

For over twenty years, i lived in a large suburban home on a half-acre of land.  During that time, i could have easily cultivated a fortress of lilacs.  My husband, however, struggled every spring with debilitating allergies.  The cottonwood was bad enough.  Adding anything with pollen to our yard was out of the question.

So i was relegated to theft.  Usually around Mother’s Day, i’d bring flowers to Mom, take her out to lunch, and then harvest my own bounty from that old bush by the driveway.

After completing my errand to the “Re-Store”, i decided it was time for a raid.  Last year, i assaulted the big lilac bush in the cemetery near my home.  Packing up scissors, a cloth tote, and my dog, i set out to bring home something to brighten my mood.

Walking over a slight rise, i expected to be greeted with a wall of purple.  Nope.  Gone.  It had started to get a bit wild, and was over-growing some of the old headstones.  The grounds crew must have removed the lilac bush.

Defeated, i turned to head back home.  Mr. Pickles bounced along the path, finding an endless variety of interesting smells to hold his attention.  But he had a rather grumpy companion at the other end of the leash.

Since the night was pretty spectacular, i also took the jeep for my evening outing… Off to a dinner party at a friend’s house.  Pulling into his driveway, i smelled them before i saw them – and was freshly awed by the power of the scent memory.

Presenting my host with a bottle of wine, i asked “Would you be horrified if i swiped a few of those gorgeous lilacs next to your driveway?”

Between the stems i harvested last night, and the bundle i snagged from a luscious blooming bush next to a parking lot on a very busy street today on my lunch hour*, i have my lilacs.  They’ll be shriveled and gone within a couple of days.  Tonight, they’re on the dresser in my bedroom… their scent like a tranquilizer, sending me back in time.

If i’m lucky?  i’ll dream the dreams of an unbroken young girl…

* i’d spotted them earlier this week.  Since Studley was driving on lunch hour today, he had to man the get-away vehicle, and keep watch, as i hopped out of the car to break off several pounds of smelly lilac blooms!  We avoided capture…

51 thoughts on “Olfactory Outlet

  1. I hate it when cemetery crews decide that things need to be tamed. Around here there are so many old burial grounds with wonderful bushes and trees and flowers….

    Lilacs: I love them too. I have a big bush next to the mailbox and it scents the whole yard. I would share them too. They need to have the blossoms pruned off so new wood can grow and make blossoms next year. Might as well cut them while they are in full bloom.

    Sweet dreams.

    • i think they actually dug it out, and sold the spots to plant dead humans. couldn’t even find the stump! grrr….

      i tried to plant a lilac last year here in my new place. she’d taken a cutting from a favorite bush, but it didn’t take. i may try again with some of these sticks.

      • You will do better to go to the bush and dig out a sucker rather than try to root a cutting. Good luck.

        If all else fails, you could actually buy one at a nursery… I am intending to do just that because we want a row along the street and I think it would be cook to have some other more exotic cultivars and colors, which all smell delightful, by the way.

        • that might explain why my cuttings always failed in the past! i think it may be better to just buy one and plant it!

  2. Back down the years…almost 60, to the day…coming home with friends, I spotted a wild lilac, close to road.”Please stop, Uncle George.Please!’ An old screw driver did the trick and I clutched my lilac suckers all the way home.
    They say a lilac takes 7 years to bloom.Mine was right on the button, on my 14th birthdyt, and every year after. Probably still going strong.
    I can smell it now…:-) Thank you.

    • one of the reasons i’ve been reluctant to try to plant one here at the condo is that 7 year thing… will i be here in 7 years? maybe not. but someone will be. i ought to do it just to pay it forward…

        • i may try a combination of buying a more mature one, and seeing if i can root some of these lovely sticks that are making my bedroom smell like a garden!

    • thanks, jeannie. yes. i am a big sap. underneath this crunchy, crispy outside, there is a soft and squishy part. that’d be mostly excess flab. but if you keep going deeper? it gets pretty hard and crusty again…

  3. Lovely, lovely, lovely. We had a lilac bush growing up, too, and now I finally have another. It was buried under the rambling blackberry bush, but pushed its way up this month. Soon …. heaven!

    • i’ve never found a candle, or perfume, or lotion or potion, that can really capture that scent. and it’s overwhelming, and can be cloying and stickysweet. but i love it all the same… glad you’ll be getting your lilac on this year!

  4. I love the scent of lilacs..I had one outside my window as a kid. The heady floral scent is amazing.

    Am I the only one who is needing clarity about exactly what was topless. You or the jeep?

    Just saying..perhaps that sentence needs some clarity

  5. I’m very grateful for my sense of smell. I so enjoy it! And those memories that come with memories attached are for me a treat. Memories of atmospheres, times, people, objects… Songs can do it too, eh?

    • there are other smells as well… Polo cologne sends me racing down memory lane, thinking of a boy from my past. Old books? The years i spent working at a charity book fair. It’s always amazing how clear the memories are, with just a few molecules in my nose.

      Songs? Oh, yeah… those memories are almost more emotion, than memory.

  6. I am a big, big fan of lilacs as well. And two of ours bloomed after only three years. The others are still sulking. I have a deep, deep purple, a true lilac and a white. Lovely things.
    Yesterday doing some much needed weeding (before the planting) I found a jonquil flowering its little heart out. WTF? It has to be three or four months early.

    • My mom swears that the newer strains of lilac don’t smell as nice. i may still try to grow one of each.

      Isn’t it almost winter there? a Jonquil? how cool! Glad you had a chance to get to the garden. hope you’re doing well…

  7. Quickly scrolled through the comments and it seems not ONE person riffed on your “driving topless” remark. C’mon people! She put it right over the plate for you! Flowers is the best you can do? At least take a swing at it.

    • re-read them Unbearable…I already nailed her for it a few spots back..Despite her answer, I have no doubt that we will never fully know the truth about which one was really topless… entirely possible that both the jeep and Daisy were topless…would have added some fun to the town she lives in.

  8. What a sweet post. I have a similar scent memory that’s linked to my birthday also. I’m in the library at my elementary school. It’s early June in California and the weather is warm. School will be over for the year in just a few weeks. The scent of freshly mown grass is wafting in the open door. I know there are a birthday cake and presents waiting for me at home for my ninth birthday. I’ve long since forgotten what those presents were, but I’m immediately pulled back into my nine-year-old self whenever I smell that scent on a warm day.

    • freshly mown grass… yep… that’s another. one of my favorite things about the jeep and the motorcycle is being so overwhelmed by that smell as i travel. cross country trip may have to happen one of these days…

  9. Love, love love, lilacs…there was a lilac mandate when we purchased our home. They become more prolific every year. However because we’ve had such a crappy spring they are still stubborn little buds….but soon I will share in scented memories.

    • They are STILL blooming here! Going back out on a raid again. Only another week and they’ll start disappearing… unless i can get out west and up north!

  10. Good Lord, Daisy Fae, your house is crowded today! I near about couldn’t find a place to sit. I had violets too, in the secret garden. Buy a bush at a nursery. You’ll have blooms the first year. You write well. In or out of jail. You bad child. I loved the image of…now get this…really try to get this…

    Driving the jeep yesterday. Topless.

    You are a wicked one. I love it.

    • there is always room for another good human here! just wrangle the dog out of the way and grab a seat…

      there is so much joy in the jeep ride. i love it. all summer long. it’s best, though, at night. doors off. nothing around you. feels like flying in a spaceship sometimes when i look up at the sky…. but only at stoplights. i’m not crazy.

  11. The nostalgia in this post is beautiful, Fae. Makes me want to sit in the lilac-scented dark with you, drink a beer, and talk about our shining youth.

  12. It is always amazing to me how certain things like smells or tastes can bring you right back to a moment. I’ve heard that you can use certain scents to help you remember things on exams, although I should think that trying to associate vanilla with Maxwell’s equations would might well ruin vanilla for me forever. I’d rather use mnemonics for that (ROYGBIV anyone?) and save the smell of roses to remind me of my mom, patchouli to remind me of my favorite English teacher, and the smell (and taste) of mussels to remind me of an old girlfriends pussy.

    • welcome to the park, sarah! any friend of our mutual friend is quite welcome here!

      yes, they are peacocks. great way to describe them… but they don’t hang around long, so it’s pretty easy to tolerate them!

  13. The only things that equal Lilacs in April are Jasmine in July and Honeysuckle in August! I too have been known for driving my jeep topless through older city neigborhoods! I kind of miss doing that. Naw just kiddin’ tuk tuks are way more fun to go topless in! 😉

  14. Pingback: Lilac Alert! « Pheeled Trips

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