Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lovely lily

As I write this I am within "nose shot" of two of my favorite scents: lilac and lily.
I inhale, remember, and smile.
Many a scientist has explored why scent and memory are so intertwined. A brief internet search reveals articles about the "olfactory bulb," and its connections to the brain's amygdala and hippocampus.
My brain, briefly fascinated, started to fade as the forest of technical terms thickened. The poet in my brain brightened when I came across this quote on the Pacifica Perfume website. It's from Diane Ackerman, and her book "A Natural History of the Senses":
“Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once."
Poignant land mines indeed.
One whiff of lilac and I'm transported to my childhood back yard, where a grand old lilac still blooms. That tree gave us blossoms for the grade school flower show; a perch for a birdhouse built by one of my brothers; a hiding place for Easter eggs. When we played wiffle ball, the lilac roughly marked third base.
That tree is the mother of the lilac I transplanted some 20 years ago to a corner by our front porch. Each year I eagerly await the blooming season, and keep my kitchen vase filled.
The lily I mentioned, whose flowers have mostly faded, was an Easter gift from our church in memory of my dad, who passed away in January. Whenever I see it, I'm reminded of him, and also the wonderful, caring community of St. Peter's.
This was a happy/sad Easter, one of the many "firsts" families have to mark as they move through their loss. 
Aside from one nephew now in California, our family was all together for the traditional feast at my Mom and Dad's house. I find such comfort in their company.
I'm reminded of a phrase I often use. When there's a party or event that I can't attend for some reason, I'll say, "I'll be there in spirit."
That's how Dad was with us at Easter, and will be all the days to come.
Good to remember.

Monday, April 16, 2012

With graduation season almost upon us, a big question for students is: Where do I go from here?
Many parents will ask themselves the same question, along with another: 
"Where did the years go?"
From the perspective of those moms and dads in the bleachers, childhood traveled at warp speed. (Parents in the diaper years may beg to differ, but they'll learn soon enough.)
For our family, the college years are just about a memory. Our nest still sways between empty and full, and happily so. 
I've come to learn though, that when you have pets, your nest is never really empty. (I think that was part of my heart's buffer plan.)
Our "first-born" was a black and white kitten we named Opus (after the penguin from the "Bloom County" comic strip). He stayed with us for 20 years, a furry older sibling for our son and daughter.
Opus left a large hole in our hearts when he left, making room for two more cats and a dog, who joined us during the high school years.
When our last-born went off to college, I was so grateful to have the three of them for company.
I think of Louie, our dog, as an eternal toddler. A Westie mix, he's about the height of a 3-year-old when he stands on his hind legs, paws on windowsill, looking out at the world. There's nothing so heartwarming as coming home and seeing just his eyes and two party-hat ears poking up from the back window. He's always happy to see us.
The cats, being cats, speak a different language of affection -- and disaffection. (Louie, the eternally optimistic dog, still seems to think a swishing cat tail is the same as a wagging dog tail. "She wants to play, right? Right?" Wrong.)
Our cats do like to play. Hunters that they are, their games usually involve stalking, chasing and pouncing. (Louie and April, our tortoise shell cat, face off daily, each taking turns as the chaser and the "chase-ee.")
This morning I found more evidence of their games.
A small collection of plastic Easter eggs had been nestled on a shelf in the living room. (I like to let holidays linger.) This morning the shelf was empty. I found eggs "hiding" all over: under a bookshelf, next to an old corner cabinet, wedged in the sofa.
It's become an annual event, this post-Easter egg hunt.
A bit of childhood preserved, courtesy of our cats.
April with her seasonal "prey."