Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Fragrance, The Invisible Sweetness

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

"They blossomed, they did not talk about blossoming."
DEJAN STOJANOVIC, The Sun Watches the Sun

The Mayday trees burst into bloom this week, and their inexplicable fragrance wafts everywhere in our community. Come to think of it, the week the Maydays bloom has to be one of my favourite weeks of the year—the trees with masses of creamy white blossoms emitting their sweet scent on a sun-warmed spring day. The first whiff on the breeze always catches me by surprise—it's not there and then suddenly it is. And as quickly it's gone again. The moment awakens such a state of happiness in me.

It makes me think of something I read by Helen Keller many years ago. As I recall, she described traveling by train from her home in the South up to Boston in the North. With her acutely sharpened sense of smell, Helen could tell when the train had moved out of the southern state; the further north they went the less fragrant the air. I'm not sure why that bit of knowledge stayed with me all these years. Perhaps it was one of those moments in my young life where I marveled that there could be such spot in this world. To imagine living in a place where the whole countryside would be so saturated with the scent of flowers and trees you could smell it for miles.

Having only lived to that point in the northern hemisphere where summers were short and it took a lot of courage for a rose and other tender fragrant flowers to grow, we thought we were lucky if we got a handful of such fragrant blooms in a season. Certainly not enough to create a fragrance frenzy in the air for any length of time. Fresh-mown hay fields would waft but only a short while. We had lilac bushes on the farm where I grew up, but I don't ever remember noticing their scent wafting on the wind quite like the Maydays do; it was more like you had to bury your nose in a branch to really catch a whiff. And, of course, you smelled them once you cut and brought some into the house.

Yes, Mayday trees make me happy. I never want to take for granted this little bit of scented heaven that comes but once a year and for so short a time.

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

Helen, in her book The World I Live In, wrote a lovely piece about the sense of smell. Here is an excerpt from the chapter entitled 'Smell, The Fallen Angel'.  As I think you'll want to read the whole chapter once you read this short passage, in case you don't have the book, you'll find the link HERE.

"I doubt if there is any sensation arising from sight more delightful than the odors which filter through sun-warmed, wind-tossed branches, or the tide of scents which swells, subsides, rises again wave on wave, filling the wide world with invisible sweetness. A whiff of the universe makes us dream of worlds we have never seen, recalls in a flash entire epochs of our dearest experience. I never smell daisies without living over again the ecstatic mornings that my teacher and I spent wandering in the fields, while I learned new words and the names of things. Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across a thousand miles and all the years we have lived. The odor of fruits wafts me to my Southern home, to my childish frolics in the peach orchard. Other odors, instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief. Even as I think of smells, my nose is full of scents that start awake sweet memories of summers gone and ripening grain fields far away."

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

"Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch,
but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same."

* * *

And so, I wish you a beautiful day.
Keep healthy and stay safe.

Heart hugs,


  1. I never knew these were called Mayday trees. I always wondered what they were.

    When we visited the islands in the South Pacific I was enthralled with the fragrance of the many flowers filling the air. It mixed with the humidity, the smell of the sea ... so “there” that you could almost touch it. Thank you for reminding me of that today.

  2. That is a wonderfully descriptive passage by Helen Keller. I love the phrase, "Smell, a potent wizard", for it does seem like magic how a smell can evoke long ago times and places so vividly. I wish we could bottle these delightful spring scents and have them for a comfort in the long, cold winters!

  3. I enjoy your blog so much and have been drawn to books that were new to me, and which I ordered. Thank you.

  4. Fragrance is powerfully evocative. Just now, it's the lilac whose aroma wafts about on the breeze. (And from the Mason Jar on the dining table.)
    Is that beautiful flowering bush mock orange?

    1. Maydays? I know nothing of them. I do absolutely love the aroma of May day flowers and have gone on searches to find them. Haven't found any for years, decades even.

    2. the photos are of Mayday trees/bushes. Our mock orange doesn't come out till about the first week in July.

  5. Beautiful but I'm probably allergic to them. Never used to be but the older I get, seems flowering scrubs and bushes really get to me.

  6. I don't recall ever hearing of a Mayday tree before, but I think I would like to meet one!

  7. What a beautiful tree, I had to Google it and it is in the rose family and a species of cherry. Thank you for sharing your beauty here with us.

  8. I'm not familiar with the Mayday tree but it is lovely! Helen Keller probably had a very acute sense of smell. How wonderful to appreciate such nuances of scent!

  9. Your post made me think about all the garden fragrances I've enjoyed in the past. What a gift each season brings. And it is true that here in the South there are times during spring and summer when the fragrance of flowers and flowering plants sweetens the air. I had never heard of Mayday trees and had to look them up. It was mentioned that they're also called hackberries but I don't remember seeing hackberries around here be as beautifully flowered as your pictures. So pretty!

  10. Gorgeous flowers!

    Occasionally, I catch a whiff of something that instantly transports me back to Taiwan. I haven't been able to pinpoint the source of the smell but it catches me unawares and suddenly I'm standing on the streets in Taiwan. I really want to return there.

  11. Dear Brenda such a lovely post. We do not have Maytrees here but the fragrance of the multiflora rose drifts my way on the daily walk. It reminds me of when I was a young un:)! Dad was never happy when it grew along his fence row. To the farmer it was a challenge to keep it under control. It still is a fragrant smell...hope you have a wonderful day. Hugs!

  12. Here's something interesting: I live short of an hour's drive from Helen Keller's birthplace! I've been to Ivy Green, and, sadly, it was on a school trip, so I didn't appreciate it as much as I would now.


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo