A few Junes ago I was in Montana to perform a wedding. After the rehearsal, I had a few hours to myself and decided to take an early evening drive around Flathead Lake. Heading south from Kalispell, I turned east so that the setting sun shimmered off the surface the lake on my right. It was a stunningly beautiful evening – cool fresh air bringing the sounds and scents of early summer through open windows. The road was not too busy so an unusually leisurely pace left time for looking at majesty all around.
About half way down the lake, a fragrance filled the cab of my truck that, in an instant, took me back to my childhood. The heady, rich, lush, intoxicating smell of which nothing is like it in all the world. Slamming on the brakes and pulling over to the side of the road, I got out of the truck and followed my nose into someone’s back yard and there, sure enough, a lilac bush with a few delicate purple flowers – all that remained of the short season of bloom. But enough to compel me to stop. To pay attention.
We had a lilac bush at the northeast corner of the house I grew up in. Depending on the weather – always a factor in Calgary – it would produce a few hardy flowers or, occasionally, the bush would be so full of purple wonder that you had to look for the green. And the fragrance! You could smell that bush from the moment you got out of your car. It would draw you in with its delicate power and stay with you for years.
Southern California, at least the part of it where I live, is short on lilacs. It doesn’t get cold enough to set them, and the few varieties that take advantage of the ten minutes of winter we get each year have only a pale hint of the powerful aroma of their northern cousins. Perhaps it is the cold that produces such a powerful fragrance. Whatever it is, the drifting, fading smell of that Montana June drive took me back home in an instant.
Fragance has a way of doing that – taking us to places, reminding us of moments, inviting us to pause. Plumeria or tuberose has me in Kaua’i in a heartbeat. Nightblooming jasmine places me in the back yard of home. It all got me to thinking – what do the long cold winter seasons of life produce in me? Is it an aroma of resurrection life in Christ – a fragrant invitation to stop and wonder, to turn aside and see, to pause, reflect, remember?