It’s an almost insidious sensation that catches me off guard every summer. I walk around the corner of the house. It’s late afternoon and there’s just a slight breeze coming down off the hillside above the house. Suddenly I’m almost knocked off my feet by a fragrance like none other–sweet, heady, it sweeps away any other thought in my mind and sensation in my body. I’ve never used mind-altering drugs, but it must be something like this.
I always come to a stop. It demands my attention. It’s the Little Leaf Linden tree up on the hill behind the house. It emits this lovely aroma as it blossoms for only a few days in late July. This year, because it’s so warm, it only lasts a day or two. Sometimes, when I have a window open, I can smell it inside the pantry, on the back side of the house. One year I swore that the next summer when this happened, I would move a lawn chair out into the gravel driveway the second I smelled it and just sit and take it in. And I did.
And then the peaches! They’re the right color, so I reach up and feel their fuzzy, warm skin. Stone hard. Will I wear them out by pressing their skin to see if there’s any “give?” Then suddenly, after I decide I really must leave them alone for a few days longer, I notice a peach on the ground. They’re ripe! Half the peaches on the tree are ripe and begging to be picked–like right now.
Summer surprises! I suppose every season has its own, like the intense red leaves of the blueberry bushes in autumn reflecting onto the kitchen walls, casting a fire-like glow in the kitchen that always makes me catch my breath. The first sound of whirring hummingbird wings in the spring. The call of an eagle that demands I look up–that sound belongs to all the seasons, but it still catches my attention.
We can’t ignore the signs and signals going on in the world around us. They call us to act sometimes, like when we see a dead baby orca being carried for days and days by its mother, or by seeing refugees caged like animals. Or by the smoky haze that reminds us that our climate is changing–and it’s changing much faster than what is natural.
Other times we’re called simply to stop and take it in, relax and breathe. We learn to balance our fears and horror, and we learn to love the earth and “all who dwell therein,” becoming just a little more human as we do.