Scent to find me

Pacing through my daily walk and lock down reprieve, an atmospheric scent took hold of me. I sought out its origin, a discreet, unassuming, daphne bush. Memories rushed through me. The end of a stinking hot summer day, a sprinkler is set with intention under my childhood trampoline, my school dress, drenched and clinging to my skin as I bounce again and again, mists of water elevating and falling with every bounce.  My mother, patiently watering the garden. The scent of daphne wafting over us.  

My mother’s most prized plants were the bougainvillea vine that majestically wound its way across the detested pale brick wall of our family home, and the daphne bush, which grew in a barrel of a planter, precariously positioned under the basketball ring where my elder brother gave it a daily battering.  

While not the prettiest of plants, the daphne’s scent asserts itself. One day the doorbell rang. We found a passerby at the door who said she had been overcome by the most ambrosial perfume and felt impelled to find its origin. My mother proudly led the stranger to the daphne bush in the back garden, from whence the scent wafted, happily providing cuttings and instructions on how to grow her own.  

And so, as my olfactory senses, once again interact with this godly scent, it is to those happy memories that I am thrown. This daphne bush sits on the verge of a path, on public land. As if at some point it was planted by a loving neighbour, and, finding nothing to hold it back, took hold and thrived there. I search my brain to remember the instructions my mother gave on how to propagate this plant. Finding my mind empty, I resolve to Google when I get home and tear off the stem of one of the bunches of flowers. It does not come off cleanly but clinging strands painfully rip further and further down the stem, as if I am pulling the loose skin near a nail that tears down the finger.  

With my small cluster of flowers free from the bush, I breathe in the perfume, deep and heady. I resume walking, every few moments burying my nose into the soothing olfactory experience. Once home, I Google the propagation of daphne plants and find I have taken from the wrong part of the bush at the wrong time of year. Instead, I fill a brown medicine bottle with water, pop the stem of the flowers into it and stand it right here, next to me on my study desk. It drenches the room with its sweet scent.  

Some of the flowers are in full bloom, some are beginning to unfurl. There are several large buds, readying themselves to open and there is a cluster of bright purple tightly closed buds. One of these has swelled to a size greater than those around it. This one draws my attention. It no longer fits with those that it should otherwise fit with, but is perhaps too far from the unfurling buds and blossoms to know and trust that that is where it is heading. How does this bud feel? Is it scared of its own growth? Does it pain with the unknowing of why it no longer feels like it fits within the space it used to? Is it aware that its growth is leading it to a glorious metamorphosis where, one day, it will unfurl into a blossom and emit a scent so sweet that it impels passersby to ring the doorbells of strangers?  

I am heartened by this one larger bud. Hopeful that I too am on a journey of metamorphosis. Hopeful that I too can unfurl into blossom and send my gifts into the world as impactfully and effortlessly as a daphne bush.  

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