Scents of a Woman

There are days that begin like any other – wake the boys, fix the breakfast, pack the lunches, drive the carpools – that then unfold with the most unexpected delight.  Not all surprises are good ones, I know, but sometimes the unanticipated delivers a burst of joy.  Last week a friend, a good friend who will not flinch at the mention of either silver polish or faltering faith, sent Meyer Lemons from California with no warning.  I sliced the top of the box with the kitchen scissor and unrolled the stiff paper bag releasing the citrus scent laced with sweetness.  I tipped them into the box and bent at the waist to breathe it in.

Careful not to waste the bounty, I plotted and planned, flipping pages of cookbooks to look for recipes appealing, yet unfamiliar.  I hadn’t baked with lemon before, though I love it.  Lemon Marmalade? Well, I’d never, though now I have and will again.  The fact that no one else would like it made it better, bore the same satisfaction that ordering Milk Duds at the movie did as a kid.  (My sister didn’t like them so I didn’t have to share.)

And then, on to the 147-step Lemon Tart that gave me fits, the result of my insecurity.   No need.  The flavor was delicious, but the texture of both crust and curd were memorable.  Everyone liked it, but I ate most of it myself, standing at the counter on one foot, the other resting against the inside of my knee, a habit of unknown origin that I can only hope works the core.

A little left, enough for muffins, surely, though I saved it for cocktails and toasted the giver.

And then, as if the universe knew that winter had ground on a little too long, another gentleman pressed a bouquet of flowers into my hands as we parted.  I can’t be sure that this is so, but I do not think that hyacinths and I had been previously introduced.  I’m pretty sure we never met (though perhaps our cousins went to camp together) and now, I cannot imagine life without them, so heavenly is their scent.

I carry them with me from room to room, nuzzling their rubbery blooms.  I am intoxicated by them.  The idea of hyacinths comforted me through the lines of a poem I kept tacked to my cubicle wall a lifetime ago:

If thou of fortune be bereft,
and in thy store there be but left
two loaves, sell one and with the
dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

I thought it was the beauty of the blooms that inspired the poet, but now I realize they delight the soul not only at each sight, but with each breath.

Fruit and flowers and friends are carrying me through to Spring.

The poem, above, and the one secured with push pins to my wall, was attributed to John Greenleaf Whittier.  In searching for it today, I see a very similar version is attributed to Moslih Eddin.

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14 thoughts on “Scents of a Woman

  1. Had to write a comment on lemons & hyacinths! I love lemons in anything + the smell + beauty of hyacinths is amazing. How special you must be to your friends.

  2. No Ruz, Persian New Year, is the first day of Spring. The "haft seen" table is the Persian counterpart of a Christmas Tree. It is decorated with items symbolic of new life and renewal including many vases of cut hyacinths and hyacinths growing in beautiful pots. Intoxicating indeed.

  3. like you, I love ANYTHING lemon – lemon curd, lemon tarts, lemon muffins, lemon cocktails!
    As as boy my grandma would always have a potted hyacinth in each room of her house towards the end of winter – the promise of upcoming spring. I might do ONE at home, each room can be a little overpowering!

  4. At home, I'm less a fresh-flowers guy than I am a dead-leaves-&-bare-branches branches guy–except when it comes to hyacinths. You can pick up roses any day of the year, and these days, they sell orchids at 7-11 but you can only find hyacinths for a few short weeks this time of year, so when they;re available, I make the most of the opportunity and buy them en masse. I sleep with my windows open–not cracked, OPEN–and the sill is lined side-to-side with plastic-potted hyacinths that I buy at the grocery and repot into my grandmother's scabby old terra cotta pots. All night long the cold breeze blows the smell at my face and I when I wake up, I'm already smiling. As you found out the scent is quite addictive–think Homer's Island of The Lotus Eaters–but my reaction to that is the same as that of Odysseus' men: oh, well…

  5. I love you turn of phrase! this is such a delightful post for so many reasons, but mostly because it's so much fun to read.

  6. Daughter and friend have Meyer lemon trees so I get them quite often. I make an amazing lemon meringue pie. The Meyer lemon is the very best.

  7. You are a very very good writer. I feel compelled to ask, however, is everything OK?

    I suspect you will not feel compelled to answer, nor should you.

  8. Hello Patricia,
    This is the first time I have read your blog. I'm not sure what led me here, but it must be fate or the miracle of Springtime. I absolutely
    LOVE this post about lemons and hyacinths! It is so fresh and well-written..and inspiring..I ran right out to the store to find a couple of beautiful potted hyacinths. They are
    sitting right here beside me as I type, and their fragrance not only is intoxicating, but it is taking me back to my childhood when my mother grew them. Lovely memories…. and as for the lemons, I love anything lemon and I'm going to make the marmalade tomorrow. Thank you for a wonderful Easter gift..this post.

    Peggy Hunt
    p.s. I too stand on one leg all the time at the husband calls me a flamingo.

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