These tiny snippets of daphne are an absolute marvel to me.
Not just because they smell so impossibly, absurdly, WILDLY good.
Although, swoon: the fragrance is out of the world, unreasonably joyful, exuberantly ecstatic, like lemons having a honeysuckle orgasm.
They smell so good that I’m carrying my little bunch around the house with me and taking deep restorative sniffs throughout the day.
They are so delicious that I keep holding them out to my kids’ faces, urging them to smell them. Yes, again!
But this little bunch of daphne flowers feel like a total miracle to me because I cut them from the little spindly bush out in my garden, the one I planted last year.
Wait! Pause! Did you hear that?!?!? They grew in my garden! I have a garden! And I can plant anything I want to! And what I plant belongs to me and not a landlord– oh marvelous marvel! And the little stubby sticks I planted with wild hope actually BLOOMED!
(My husband would probably like to point out, if he is reading, that actually he plants the things. That’s true. I pick them out; he digs the holes. It’s not a fair arrangement.)
Do I seem overexcited about this? But you see, I have been longing for my very own daphne bush for more than twenty years.
It was this bit of life that I believed other people could have, but not me.
Daphne were the stuff of intense longing. They were as rare as emeralds, as unattainable as a Porsche. Only in my wildest dreams did I ever dream I’d get to have my own daphne that grew out of the very dirt of the place I lived.
That’s because I was a renter until two years ago, living mostly in city apartments my whole life. I’ve had concrete balconies, shaded second floor porches, and dismal failures at indoor pots.
Gardens, flowers– those were for other people. The closest I could get was coveting my neighbor’s blooms.
I have been doing this my whole life.
Growing up as a kid in Japan, I saw daphne bushes in our neighbors’ yards and sometimes they’d even be growing at the train station and I’d sneak over to smell them, surreptitiously, leaning in close but nonchalant, always aware that my wild blonde hair and foreigner status meant that trying to do anything surreptitiously was actually not possible. I’d huff them in deeply, the way the cooler kids maybe did drugs. I may have even stolen the odd bloom sometimes. Don’t tell anyone. I still feel guilty.
I knew I looked ridiculous leaning into other people’s bushes, but I loved the smell of daphne so much. It smelled better than I ever believed life could actually feel.
I didn’t learn what the little waxy crystal blossoms were even called until years later, when the dinosaurs disappeared and we got the internet instead.
I’d always thought of them as a Tokyo peculiarity– this heavenly thing that happened in February to get us through the bleakest winter.
When I moved to Portland after the earthquake, though, the most marvelous thing happened: it turned out that daphne grew there too. Not even just in manicured gardens! On the side of random sidewalks! What bounty! I couldn’t believe it! Now I could smell so many other people’s flowers even if I could never have my own!
It seemed like a sign that I was meant to stay and start a whole new life in that place of blooming abundance.
So I did.
When I moved to Alberta six years later, I got a new and wonderful family but I missed the daphne badly. They simply wouldn’t grow in the arctic climate, even though February lasted 11 months of the year.
I couldn’t figure out to bloom there either.
At each point, life seemed permanent. I assumed I’d always live in a concrete high rise. Or a quirky city apartment. Or a bare suburban lot. (I’m a slow learner, apparently.)
And now, I have a daphne bush.
It grows in my very own garden and the chickens keep attacking it.
It’s my own personal miracle.
So naturally, I didn’t think the marvel of the daphne would ever wear off. I rejoiced at the first blooms last week, carrying them aloft and indoors with great ceremony. I took some snippets with me on our spring break trip and smelled them hungrily even as they grew wilted and tired in their Air BnB shot glasses.
But the human mind is so fickle.
On our first day back home, instead of running out to greet my daphne bush as soon as I hugged my children, I forgot about it.
Somehow I moved through the house unpacking and cleaning up– maybe even grumbling, I’m sorry to tell you– all day. Without ever remembering to go out and cut new blossoms.
I didn’t even go out to smell it.
It bloomed un-smelled.
Can you believe it?!?
What a waste!
Daphne bloom for a couple of weeks at the most.
In a few more days, they’ll all be gone for another year.
And I missed out on a whole day of olfactory joy.
Isn’t it heartbreaking how we become immune to the tiny (and even the great) gifts of our own lives?
So today, I went out and cut some more snippets. I’m carrying them everywhere with me.
And I’ve come here to wave wildly at you and say–
First of all, that thing you long for that seems impossible? Don’t give up on it.
And if there’s any daphne within a mile of you, go find it. Smell it. (That’s the way the universe feels about you. That good.)
If there’s something else in your world that would have made twenty-year-ago you absolutely weep with the unlikely good fortune of having it– maybe go smell that too.
The top of your baby’s head.
Your very own car.
The fancy perfume you now buy yourself.
The good coffee.
Your grandmother’s soup.
The smell of freedom in the night air.
We longed for this.
Let’s not miss it.
Let’s not miss any of it.