The neighborhood smells good these days, of green, of dust, of dying flowers, of cooler air and lower clouds. I walked into the woods on Rosh Hashanah to smell it even closer, to get that scent along with calls of birds, a few falling leaves, and filtered sunlight through the trees.
I heard an Ellen Bass poem that included the line, “…the smell of apricots thickening the air when you boil jam in early summer” and it brought me right back to my mother’s kitchen, to the enormous steaming pots on the stove, the mason jars lined up on the countertop, the glazed golden fruit sending up that particular redolent scent of apricots stewing, condensing, reduced down to their essential flesh. She gave jars away as presents and still dozens of glowing quarts lined the pantry shelves, or the shelves in the garage, along with the dill pickles she also put up every year.
I don’t read a lot of poetry, and oftentimes poems leave me confused or bored. But sometimes they land on me like a mantle or take me soaring in a direction I’ve never been, or hadn’t expected.
We’d decided not to have a family dinner for Rosh Hashanah this year, I’m not sure why, but it ended up right because one kid was in the midst of moving and the other kid had a family with fall colds. I spent the morning in a luscious four hour writing retreat, and then walked in the tiny wooded hillside near our house. Tall shady trees, dense underbrush and forest scents, robins, chickadees, sparrows, kinglets all singing and rustling around me – it’s like being dropped into a new skin. It turned out to be the perfect start to the new year. I do love people, but I love my aloneness and loneliness as well. I can smell and hear and taste and see so much better when there’s less stimulation coming at me.
I’m reading the book Quiet, which confirms all the physical reasons why this is the case for me, and why it’s so hard for me to be in large groups where everyone talks at once. I spent most of my life thinking I was defective, and often wanted to be the talkative, interesting, popular girl. But I’m not wired that way. In my earlier days I would melt down after too much intense social time, rather than withdrawing gracefully, perhaps leaving others bewildered. But maybe not. Maybe they knew me better than I knew myself. It’s only in maturity that I’ve not only come to understand it but also relish it and love my own weirdness, and titrate as needed. The brighter side of aging.
The afternoons are still mostly warm for now, with a few in between days of drizzle. I’m determined to absorb all the sunshine I can while it remains, and squeeze out every last bit of summer. Glimmers of fall show themselves here and there, but mostly it’s fading flowers, scattered brown leaves on the ground, and cool early mornings that allow for a comfortable soak in the hot tub.
I linger in the shade of the woods, not ready to return to the other world, and hope for a chance to see the bunnies at their crossing before heading back home. I haven’t seen them yet, but you never know.