One of the scents that is capable of immediately and forcefully reminding me of childhood is that of Honeysuckle. Every time, I catch a whiff of the stuff, I am transported to a patch of scrubby grass and a grown up ditch, near the clotheslines that stood behind the apartments where my family lived in Oxford, Mississippi. We weren’t there very long, only two years, while my dad finished his doctorate. Many of my childhood glimpses and snippets come from this place – I was between four and six years, then. I remember, after the honeysuckle waned, the blackberries coming forth in full force. Mom would send me, and whomever else was hanging about, into the overgrown vacant lots back there to hunt the berries. I distinctly remember her always giving us a pail of water, with sugar melting in it, to wash the berries with. Rarely did many actually make it home in those containers.
We have honeysuckle up here in North Alabama. Only, it’s not quite as much and not quite as fragrant as it was in my memories. But, you know how memories are, we tend to remember the good things as very, very good. So, maybe honeysuckle doesn’t smell quite the same in reality.
We went down to Auburn this weekend to see some baseball and catch The Tempest at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (very good – go). In the evening, after the game on Friday, we were strolling across campus to my daughter’s dorm when the scents hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s warmer down in Auburn, and the honeysuckle was in full bloom. The heady scent was just like I remembered it. And to add to it, there were quite a few tea olive bushes around (at least I think it is what they are called, or something similar). They have an extremely sweet perfume. When I first encountered them in New Orleans, I always thought someone nearby had overdosed on some overpowering Giorgio, but eventually, I figured out it was the bushes.
I love that smell. I miss it. It always makes me feel happy. I just stood there in the cool evening breeze, letting it waft over me and carry me back to my Freshman year on Tulane’s campus. I almost cried. I cannot believe my youngest is in college. Where did the time go? It was just yesterday, I was tromping through briers, cutting up my shins and knees, picking blackberries.
The boy in my family is forever trying to convince me to take up whatever fantasy, roll playing, and/or war game is the tops du jour. He is convinced that I will love it. However, I know that I just do not really have all that much free time, and I don’t want to spend it in front of a screen.
So this past weekend, I opted to go on a hike. I took my doggie because none of the boys in my house wanted to go outside in the real world. Unfortunately for me, I had a little mishap that ended with a sprained ankle, a bump on the head, a swallowed spider web, and an encounter with a rattlesnake.
I am starting to wonder if maybe, the boy has the right idea in spite of my objections.
Nah. I’d still rather play outside.
UPDATED to add this photo of the hiking buddy!
The other night, during adventures designed to escape reality for a short while, my sister and I went to see the bat flight at Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge.
During the summer, a large colony of gray bats emerges at dusk for feeding. Recent estimates has numbered the population in the 300,000 to 400,000 range. In my mind, I imagined that they would all emerge, in one gigantic whoosh, from the cave mouth. I drag my sister out to near the middle of nowhere, up a sketchy looking path, after parking on the side of the road, as it’s getting darker and darker.
Only, that really isn’t how the bats performed. We waited and watched, then noticed one, then two occasional little dark gray, silent, fluttering objects near the cave mouth. It’s very hard to see, because the bats are dark, the cave mouth is dark and the surrounding vegetation is dark. (And like fools we didn’t bring a good flashlight). So we waited some more. We saw another singular winged mammal, then another. Hm. This isn’t at all what I expected. Then, suddenly, seester grabbed my arm, and pointed, and said look up! The sky is a lot lighter than it seems, and against that contrast we could see them. First a few, then dozens, then more bats noiselessly swooping back and forth.
It was a Sistine chapel moment, if anything. You expect to be immediately wowed, but you aren’t. Then you are a tiny bit disappointed by the hype. But, then you sit back, and have a chance to take it all in, the wow fills in gradually.
The information posted at the cave, indicated the colony consumes billions of insects each night. BILLIONS! Unfortunately, those bugs feasted on two seesters first, because we realized we had neglected bug spray on our arms and were ett up, so to speak.
And, boy, does a bat cave smell Terr-i-ble!
Batman doesn’t seem so glamorous, now.