I may have mentioned before that I like trees. Okay that may be an understatement; I’m a little bit nuts when it comes to trees. I just moved 50 yards at a net loss of $900 or more just to be near trees instead of asphalt.
The sounds and smells of trees do something for me that little else can do. There is nothing like walking down a familiar street when the breeze suddenly carries the heavy sweet scent of a wet tree. There is no breath deep enough to experience it fully. I have to stop myself from hyperventilating sometimes I’m breathing so rapidly and deeply trying to suck in the smell.
Here in CA there are fragrant trees everywhere and a walk in the evening after the dew has settled is like a cornucopia for my nose. The easiest to distinguish are the dogwoods that line several nearby streets. It’s a sweetness that stops just a shade before it becomes flowery, rich and heavy, yet fresh and green, with a hint of cinnamon.
There are the tall eucalyptus, with their trade mark scent, though one must stand still and catch the air just right to experience it fully. There are the giant pines outside my window, and now that the days are no longer oppressively hot their fragrance comes to me as I take my first few conscious breaths of the crisp morning air, and I think longingly of Canadian forests and mountains, and every camping trip I’ve ever been on.
Pepper trees have been a new and exciting adventure for my nose, both green and spicy, and yet still sweet even when mixed with heat and dust.
I fell in love with a Bay tree in northern California where my friend lives. I vowed to plant one beside any house I come to own if it will survive the climate. One of the reasons I dream of owning a house is to plant around me the fragrances I find so entrancing, to create a cocoon of fresh smell and sound where I can rest in the center and my soul can be nourished along with my senses.
I have learned, to my astonishment, that not everyone can smell trees. I told my friend once to stop under a stand of Dogwoods after it rained and breath, and she thought I was nuts, she couldn’t smell anything at all. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Canada, I spent so much time outdoors breathing clean small town air. I would go for walks in the woods after it rained just to smell the poplar trees, and the grass, and the wet dirt. I would return wet up to my knees, red cheeked and refreshed, full of hope and joy.
In autumn in Canada I could smell the frost, and the slightly rotten leaves as they softened in the mud and mixed with the residual green, the apples on my grandmother’s trees, the bitter smell of leaves burning, and warm rich smoke from wood fireplaces as they once again found a use. I once told my husband that it was going to snow soon, he asked how I could be so sure. I could smell it, feel it in the air. I love walking in the first snowfall, especially when it falls silent and thick, diffusing the light and bathing everything in a soft glow, and covering the ground in peaceful beauty. Everything is transformed, hushed, reverent and still. Even snow has a scent.
When the Boy was born I was blessed to have a large forest preserve right outside my back door. I would put him in the baby carrier and we would walk for hours through those forests, when it snowed I would put him underneath my coat or sweater and we would explore the woods together. (I think I was happier and more content that year than any other year of my life. Maybe it was the trees.) After the Girl came we lived near a different forest. (How I miss Canadian cities, full of parks and trees.) I loved taking them for walks there, no cars to worry about, no exhaust, and no immediate danger if they strayed off the path a little; we enjoyed every minute of those adventures.
My daughter hugs trees, which makes me hugely happy. Not that I want her to turn into a raving environmentalist or something, though now I see what urban sprawl truly is I can see why I inspires such passion. I am glad that she feels for them the same affection that I do. She explores their surfaces with her hands, puts her face near their trunks to smell the bark, she holds leaves to her nose.
It seems that when I am consciously experiencing a tree, I can’t be anything other than happy, or grateful. I can’t smell a tree and be anywhere outside of the moment I’m in. I suppose that it is my place of rest, of centeredness, a gift to me from the creator reminding me to stop, and experience and come back to peace, if only for a moment.