Following the Scent Trail

The honeysuckle is blooming.

I walk home after work and come through the garden. I smell it before I see it–citrus-y, flower-y, like nothing else in this world. Strong, heady, a flow of heavenly scent. I can imagine it as a moving trail, a colored ribbon of semi-translucent yellow and amber (that’s my synaesthesia acting up).

Earlier today we were talking about smells, as a group of us went through a quick chainsaw training session. Katie stated that she likes a whiff of saw gas and exhaust and sawdust. Indeed. It’s the smell of fieldwork. Smell is the most primal of senses, hitting the brain and evoking powerful feelings and memories. Fieldwork smells like pitch and dust and horses and sweat. The smell of a forest fire stirs my adrenaline. There are subtler smells in the forest: blooming vanilla leaf. Fir needles masticated by thousands of caterpillars in the tree tops. Elk pee. All these ribbons of scent weave together, entwining the summer days.

Hiking along today, I was thinking of how a dog’s sense of smell is 200 times keener than human’s. How is that for them? Some smells must feel like they’re being shouted out loud. Humidity in the air affects scents. Moisture brings up the scent, which is why dogs love sniffing on dewy mornings.

The air has been muggy and damp these past few days, intensifying the honeysuckle. It fills the garden and house and the olfactory part of my brain is positively lit up. Wow.

What scent trails are you following?


I’ve been waiting for this, watching the buds develop. And now they are open, releasing their scent.

As with lilacs, honeysuckle evokes memory. The plant on my arbor came from Gramma’s house, where several of them vined up into trees, and over the garden house. She got a start from her neighbor, Mrs. Edith Henry. I remember–teenage years in the 70s. Staying with Gramma and Grampa at their place in the Boistfort Valley in summer. My two older cousins Matt and Andy were often there too. In the mornings we would get up, and after Grampa got in from milking the cow, we sat down to breakfast. Always fruit, then stacks of buckwheat or sourdough pancakes, with home-churned butter and honey. Fueled up, dishes washed, we headed out to move the irrigation pipes, or cut, rake, bale hay. The boys and I loaded the old pickup with hay and brought it to the barn. The roughness prickled our sweating arms as we bucked bales up onto the growing stack. The midday meal, a rest, then back out. Sometimes in the afternoons, we had time to go down to the river or explore backroads in the pickup. After supper, we would sit out in the yard and that’s when the honeysuckle let its fragrance out. Wafting gently through the warm humid air, calling hummingbirds to come sip nectar, flowery and a little citrus-y…

I hope wherever I live and garden, I will be able to take a start of this honeysuckle with me.