My sense of smell is intricately (and sometimes quite inconveniently) linked to my memory.
The other day I caught a whiff of new-carpet smell, and I nearly burst into tears. (My dad used to work in a carpet store. That smell clung to his being all of my childhood life.)
And yet another day, the air was warm and heavy. We opened the windows. As I walked down to my room at the end of the night, I caught the smell, that outdoorsy, windows-open, fresh air, summer smell. I can’t handle that smell, the smell of summer…
Because my last summer was so awful. Daunting. Oppressive. Dark. Suffocating.
It can’t be summer yet. It’s too soon.
T.S. Eliot says,
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Did winter keep me warm? Winter was awful too at times. But the cold was so long and permeating that perhaps I forgot about the passage of time. And now it is April.
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
I never agreed with Eliot’s description here before. Who could call ever call the breath of April cruel? But now I think I am beginning to see what he means. Yes, spring is the season of the poets, but in the joy of new life, there is also sorrow. It is this very juxtaposition of the blooming April against the decaying winter that makes it so cruel.
The world is still slow, silent, dead, when spring tries to grab hold of us and thrust us into the life.
How do the seasons know
they must change their shirt?
Why so slowly in winter
and later with such a rapid shudder?
What will it be like this time around? Can I handle that rapid shudder?
And how do the roots know
they must climb toward the light?
And then greet the air
with so many flowers and colors? -Neruda.
I have lost my train of thought. Eliot: These fragments I have shored against my ruins… What does it mean? What will it bring? I need to climb towards the light. Lilacs, I want lilacs. I cling to the promise of the lilacs, of the spring rain. This dead land, this waste land, needs water to quench it and color to save it.
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock)