Sunday I stopped at a branch library on the other side of town, one I don’t usually frequent. The outside temperature was in the 90s; as I opened the car door, the air was almost a living presence: thick with humidity and heavy with perfume. I was expecting the heat, but the perfume caught me by surprise. It was sweet and sticky, and I recognized it immediately: linden flowers. The library parking lot was surrounded by linden trees, all of them in full bloom.
I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, the sweltering heat forgotten. The air vibrated with the inebriated buzzing of hundreds of bees as they staggered from flower to flower. I closed the door, rolled down the windows, and just sat there, adrift in scent and sound. A light breeze rustled the leaves and actually felt cool as it fanned past me.
Eventually, the slamming of a car door reminded me where I was and my purpose for being there. Unhurried, I checked the time and was surprised to realize I had to leave, my errand undone. I didn’t mind in the slightest, though.
Twenty-five years ago, I lived in downtown Indianapolis and walked to work. At that time, many of the streets were planted with linden trees, and I remember the dizzy sensation of walking to and from work when they were in bloom. So distracted and transported was I by the heady fragrance of those blossoms that it’s a miracle I didn’t walk into traffic and get myself killed.
Certain flowers and their fragrances have always had that effect on me. When the black locust trees are in bloom around here, I am truly a navigational menace on foot. I keep my car windows up because I fear I’ll go off the road following my nose if the breeze carries that powerful perfume my way. Black locust are very tall, so their sweet aroma carries for quite a distance, with or without a breeze.
Linden and black locust trees are both native to the region where I grew up and where several generations of my people lived and died. Maybe the scent of those blossoms stirs some deep, ancestral memory. Or maybe, as some have suggested, I was actually a bee in a previous life.
Special thanks to Ken Broadhurst of Living the Life in Saint-Aignan, who let me use his wonderful photo of bees and linden blossoms. He wrote a lovely post about the linden behind his house, with lots more photos. His blog is full of beautiful photography and stories that make you want to move to France — and don’t forget to check out his post about making dolmas using leaves from his own backyard vines!