daffodils

Ya got me on a run here. After writing about my honeysuckle memories, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about daffodils.

When I was in third, fourth and fifth grades, my mom and I lived in Urbana, Illinois. Smack dab in tornado alley central Illinois. My mom was going to the university and working and we were pretty poor. In order to make some extra money and teach me a lesson in earning my own money, my mom got the idea one year to drive back home to southern Illinois, pick daffodils and bring them back to Urbana to sell them. We did this all three years we lived in Urbana.

Daffodil season in southern Illinois is in early Spring. Mid-March is prime time for the perfumed yellow (and sometimes white) flowers. We would bundle up in chilly central Illinois and drive south to where it was warmer and flowers were blooming. It was a marker of Spring.

Stores sell daffodils in either little planter pots with three or four flowers, or as small bunches wrapped in paper to take home and put in a vase. The ones that we picked grew in fields reminiscent of the uninterrupted poppy fields in the Wizard of Oz. We would drive on bumpy old gravelly back roads until we found a field. Then we would jump out and fill our baskets with the sweet-smelling flowers.

My mom taught me to not pick too many from one bunch lest we strip the flowers from that location. Pick selectively, she advised.

We would gather all day, then spend the evening with my grandparents walking through the woods and warming up next to the wood-burning fireplace while watching the sun set over the Shawnee hills.

Home.

When it was time to leave, we would wrap the flowers and pile them in the old red Fiat and drive the four hours back to Urbana. Monday morning we would take our baskets full of daffodils and sell them for .25 to students and professors on campus. People greeted us with smiles of delight. The flowers reminded them that Spring was just around the corner.

Like a lot of fragile, beautiful things, daffodils are also short-lived so we had a small window in which we could do this adventure each year.

Those simple days shared with my mom were wonderful. To this day, the daffodil remains my favorite flower. It is sunny, fragrant, delicate and graceful.

And the sad thing is that right now I can’t conjure up the smell of my most beloved flower.

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honeysuckle

Why is it that certain smells evoke specific memories? Perhaps I should ask, “how,” because I know there is a very scientific explanation for this phenomenon.

It is Spring and lots of allergins are blooming, and oh how wonderful they smell as my sinuses close up…. Last night as I rode home from my Vintage Motorcycle weekly dinner meetup, I was caught in a lovely fog of a familiar scent: the honeysuckle.

Apparently, we have our own kind here: Lonicera arizonica (go figure). And it smells just like the honeysuckle I grew up with in southern Illinois, which oddly enough is actually Japanese Honeysuckle : Lonicera japonica.

I’m not a botanist, and didn’t pay much attention in plant biology class, but I know what I liked. My favorite flower is the daffodil. But a close runner-up is honeysuckle. When I was a kid I would pick the flowers, nip off the base and suck the sweet nectar out. They aren’t called “honey suckle” because they are bitter and nasty.
They only bloomed for about two months in the summer, so it was a special treat.

The fragrance was especially poignant at night. Those were nights filled with catching fireflies and long walks with my best friend, Hoka. He was a Shepherd mix and was one year older than me.

I had a pretty idlyic childhood in a lot of ways. It was great to grow up away from cities, with the enveloping comfort of the forest and friends made of frogs and turtles and birds.

Riding my motorcycle last night evoked memories of those simple days. I seem to write about those days a lot. A friend once told me that the more keys on your keychain you have, the more complicated your life is. I have too many keys right now. I need more daffodils and honeysuckle and fireflies in my life.

motorhead

We didn’t have clubs in southern Illinois where I grew up. Every now and then a cool group would come to the arena, but I wasn’t a big fan of arena shows – the audience wasn’t involved enough. I can’t just sit back and /watch/ a band!

We had shows in basements. Punk rock. Hardcore. It was great. Dark, low ceilinged basements. Beer smell and cigarette smoke heavy in the air. Young men in leather and studs and jean-jacket vests with their backs slightly hunched over and arms holding the rafters. The band would start and the loud, driving music would compel my body into the pit. I’d go ’round and ’round blind to any audience, feeling bodies whipping around me, with me. I loved that feeling of being surrounded by hot, sweaty bodies exerting our angry, desperate for release, out of our heads, animalistc energies. If I fell down, anonymous hands came out of nowhere and grabbed me everywhere, picking me up off the ground. There was a solidity to it all, a cameraderie in passion.

The songs would end and we would come to, as of out of a trance – sweat pouring down our faces, soaking our raggedy tshirts. We would make eye-contact and recognize ourselves in each other. Nod. Grab a beer. Slap each other on the back, still growling, huge smiles on our faces.

I sometimes wish I could transport myself to age 17 so that I could experience that again. Now, I go to a show and I stand at the edge of the pit, watching the people in their frenzy, feeling the energy eminating from it. Where I stand, I am packed in tight with bodies pressed around me. We are dancing together, throwing our fists in the air and yelling because the pressure is building and in these older days the only way we can get it out is through our lungs. But they are pressing against me, and every time I rock back and forth to the surging music I feel the bodies pressing into mine and I remember those fevered nights of my youth and I am transported.