Summer’s Sweetest Scent

I sense it the moment they open.  The air is instantly different.  Heavier with fragrance, yet lighter and warmer with summer’s sweetest scent.   It is as if the world has stopped.  And I am encapsulated within a gossamer cocoon, spun of the perfume of tiny yellow blooms peeking out shyly from among the silvery green leaves of its tree.

You cannot even see them, until looking close.  Close enough to notice their bright yellow eyes, their sweet scent almost visibly aloft in pale waves upon the summer’s evening air, proclaiming dreamily that summer is here.

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I’d love to bottle their sensory beauty, corking it carefully airtight, and displaying it reverently upon a shelf.  But it wouldn’t be enough to just look at it.  I wouldn’t be able to resist its summery magnetism, opening it slowly with its soft scent taking me back to June, no matter the month.

One summer evening years ago, as they were just beginning to unfurl their fragrant blooms, I thought there could be nothing more perfect than cutting a few branches to put in a vase in my house.  I imagined their perfume lightly scenting my entire house, waking me in the mornings with their sheer, veiled aura.  But after only a few hours, their scent had fermented into something hotly putrid and overpowering.  I’m not sure if it was their anger at being cut from their mother trees or the extremely close proximity, but I quickly realized that some things are better left unrestrained, wild and floating freely on the hint of a summer breeze.  That they just cannot be bridled and harnessed into a vase indoors.  They must be aloft upon the breeze, their yellow scented pollen riding happily to destinations unknown.  Their strong scent diluted with the warmth of the air, moving and swirling their fragrance here, there and everywhere.

Of all the many scents in the world, I know it is my favorite. It is memories of small towns in summer, of tall grass growing green in the hay fields, swaying with the breeze like a loosely-threaded tide.   It is memories of summer concerts, the music rising and mingling with their perfume upon the still summer air.  Of barbecued ribs, and warm evenings not yet disturbed by the hum of mosquitos, serenaded with its sweet scent upon the dusk.  It is the feeling of night’s coolness slowly filtering across our little valley from the wet rushing of the river, dampening the grass and the day’s memories with dew.  And in the morning, its perfume rises again, lifted from its tiny yellow petals to be wafted upon the light air for another day.

How I wish it lasted all summer, this perfect essence of fragrance.  Ushering us into and out of summertime, like a graceful doorman, visible with the first opening of the glass door to summertime, but almost unnoticeable the remainder of the summer with his well-trained etiquette and quiet existence.  Eventually they would escort us out of summer without even a goodbye, only the faint fading of their scented beauty growing slighter and slighter, until we no longer even miss their presence.

Alas, we are blessed with but a week of heaven in June.  Maybe that makes its arrival all the sweeter, and its exit all the more lonely in its abrupt end.  Its short-lived aromatic culmination something relegated to just memory again for another year

So as the lovely season of the fragrant Russian Olives draws to an end, may you find the time to be still, soaking up the most of what comes around just once a season.  May you enjoy the sweet scent of summertime upon the warm breeze and may you relish the many blessings summer brings.

*As a footnote, I feel I must tell you that the Russian Olive tree is an outlaw.  It is a foreign species that gained notoriety for its overtaking of western river banks since it was introduced to the US in the late 1800’s.  But in its defense, it is without a doubt, a scrappy survivor.  With shoots of sharply-thorned branches hurtling forth from its trunk almost daily, it doesn’t mourn for the weak.   Their roots ground them in odd places, unfit for other trees.  They thrive in sand and poor soil, reaching deeper and deeper for water and nutrients. And according to multiple sources, their roots can produce their own nitrogen, allowing them to grow even in nutrient-deprived soil.  They have a bad habit of out competing our native trees and shrubs in wild areas and they enlist the help of our feathered friends, who gorge upon the tree’s ripened berries, to disperse their seeds.  The Russian Olive is currently classified as an invasive species in Colorado and 29 other states.  For this reason,Colorado banned the sale of Russian Olive trees within the state to its residents in 2002.

Steroids, Doctor Visits and . . . Bubble Gum?

Max and I have been having a go at it. It began with his annual shots in February. From there the weather warmed nicely and Max went from a winter kitty, spending all day indoors napping and grooming, to a full-on bird watching, bird chasing, tree climbing, dirt rolling, catmint eating blur of an alley cat outside of my house. Zero to 60 in ten seconds flat. So it’s no wonder that his winter body wasn’t quite ready for this immediate transformation.

Just a couple of weeks after he got his annual shots, which I’m just certain must have included some caffeine and catnip, he sauntered up to my back porch one afternoon looking literally like something the cat had drug in. Only he was the cat that was being drug in.

His fluffy fur was matted down with what appeared to be foreign doggy drool and he was covered in dark, filmy mud. I was certain that his buddy, the neighbor’s giant hound dog, had mistaken him for a Frisbee and some intense, rough housing had ensued. I pictured my poor Max being hurled through the air, then caught between the strong jaws of the dog and finally being held down under a big furry paw as he tried wriggle to an escape, all in the name of puppy play.

For all my wild imagination had created, I knew Max had probably simply squeezed himself under some fence, clearly underestimating the extra weight he was carrying from winter’s lounging, and had gotten stuck if but for a moment between the wooden pickets and the mud beneath.

Regardless, he had been somewhere. And your guess is as good as mine.

As he jumped gingerly across the grass to run back inside, I thought I noticed him limp on his back leg. But with the story I had imagined involving the neighbor dog and Frisbees, I chalked it up to yet another minor Max incident that would disappear by the next time he stood at my back door, wanting to be let back out into the great outdoors.

Only it didn’t happen that way. He didn’t want to go out. He didn’t want to eat. He didn’t want to move. Day after day I would find him sulking in my closet, curled up on a winter sweater fallen from a hanger to the floor. He wouldn’t even raise his head.

I was worried.

But the real worry never hits until Saturdays, when the vet clinic is closed and I have enough time in the day to conjure up grandiose stories in my mind about his doomed fate. Before long I find myself worked up into a tizzy, fully believing that he may not survive to see Monday.

I called the vet, through the emergency weekend cell phone number. This was an emergency, right? Small towns definitely have their perks, and the vet did the best she could to diagnose my Max over the phone, based on statements like: “He’s depressed and won’t get up. He may have been limping on one foot. He’s just not himself.” She asked me detailed questions about the possible limp and the day he came back covered in mud and drool. You can imagine it was a highly scientific conversation based on these facts I had given. She promised to leave some antibiotics outside the vet’s office that I could begin to start giving Max.

Max, looking worried that I may be approaching him with a bright pink, bubble gum flavored vial in hand.

The funny thing about cat and dog antibiotics is that they’re flavored like . . .bubble gum. Yes, bubble gum. Not tuna fish, or steak, or some kind of mystery meat. Nope, the liquid version is HOT pink and smells like bubble gum. Oddly, I wonder if cats and dogs find bubble gum to be yummy and who it was that made that scientific determination. Nonetheless, I gave my Max his daily dose of bubble gum, watching carefully for his depression to fade and his energetic kitty playfulness to return.

Only that didn’t happen either. I gave it another couple of weeks, until, you guessed it . . .a Friday when I was almost out of time to get him to the vet’s office and my doomsday thoughts began kicking in that he may not make it to Monday.

After of battery of tests including Max’s first x-ray, broken bones were luckily ruled out. However, she did notice a few “murky” vertebrae in his back and tail. She attributed it to Max getting caught somewhere and pulling himself loose or someone tugging him by his tail. You know which version I instantly went with. Who would yank my poor Max by his fluffy tail?!

I left the vet’s office with a daily regime of steroids, in decreasing quantities, to be given over two week’s time. Her hope was that the steroids would ease Max’s pain at least long enough for the “murky” vertebrae to heal. “Murky” vertebrae do heal, don’t they? What exactly is a “murky” vertebrae?

I decided I would save those questions for a Saturday, when I would become quite certain that these “murky” vertebrae were threatening his life.