Tuesday, June 19, 2012

the scent of the night stalks

 along the caloosahatchee river. florida. january, 2012.

windows, thrown wide open to receive the warm, breezy, new air of daytime, need to be closed before bed. it is turning chilly, a real maine evening, one of those evenings where sitting in an adirondack chair around the campfire in the backyard—zipped in a sweatshirt, feet stretched toward the flames—is a good thing, but once you're inside, the night needs to be shut out.

as i reach for the handle to crank the window i pause. a sweet smell lingers on the nightair, a scent heady as incense—though more subtle—not a scent that can be described or identified as one particular plant.

forget-me-not. fiddlehead fern. chive. columbine. lily. euonymus. dandelion. azalea. peony. vinca. lilac. phlox. meadowsweet. grass. oregano. iris. hosta. countless weeds.

i stand motionless. i inhale. it is none of these—and yet it is all of these.

the aroma originates below, in the darkness of the underground world—not only in my yard, but everywhere—each place with its own particular scent, sometimes pronounced, sometimes not. the scent comes from the night work of plants. a pervading smell—a heavenly smell—of what, i cannot be sure, of what, i cannot say, but it strikes me that it is like a clear, rippling liquid, so i will call it a night juice: the juice that rises up.

i breathe it in. night essence.

it begins its move beneath the surface as the rainwater that washes over everything is gratefully accepted by earth and roots. the roots drink and it slowly starts the ascent, the vertical suck, streaming into stems and stalks after the roots have done their work, the lifting of the juice as it continues to make its way into the tips of quivering leaves and blades—long and narrow, round and full, small and compact, shiny and pointed, slivers, a multitude—and then out onto the air.

in the silent evening the earth stirs with that restless climb of fluid and nutrients—with life itself—and brings its perfume to my nostrils. i remove the screen (damn the mosquitoes, but then without them the bats and wrens and phoebes would not be satisfied) and stick my head out, hovering by the window a moment longer to drink in the sweet flow, this mighty night therapy, and its ability to calm and soothe after a long day.

i savor it—the heaviness, the dark rush, the pulsing up. the evening, alive.

i pop the screen back in place, lock the window tight. i climb into bed.


Leonora said...

I can just imagine what you're describing. The mysterious scents of earth and vegetation all blended together and ever changing.
There are certain places I walk that smell so mysterious and intoxicating I will stop dead in my tracks to look around and try to figure it out. It's always elusive.
If we could only bottle your night air...

Jayne said...

"[...] the night work of plants." I love that, m. And the imagery. Yes, if it could only be bottled!

At a an outdoor party last weekend, a scent wafted through the air that caused me to stop in my tracks. What is that smell?! I asked my sister. We couldn't identify it, it was lovely, and I was frustrated by my failure to name it, or even point to its origin. Makes me want to learn more about the scent of of plants. Night essence. ;)