The sarcococca is the first of the fragrant winter bloomers, unfolding itself in late January to mid-February. It prefers shady spaces, and in this darkness, under the muted gray of the Pacific Northwest sky, its scent is somewhat arresting and incongruous—a season resurrected before its time. I am reminded of Camus each year as it blooms:
In the midst of winter I have found, within me, an invincible summer.
But rather than Camus' summer, I find the promise of spring. In the midst of this interminable winter, the sarcococca blooms, and I am restored for a time.
The daphne is next, a true harbinger of fairer days. Its scent is stronger—not as subtle as the sarcococca—as if it is emboldened by the lengthening days and our impatience with the seasons.
By the time the lilacs are in bloom, the landscape is saturated with blossoming of all kinds—a type of olfactory white noise. The only ones stopping to smell the literal roses will be the mindfulness set, the would-be Buddhists and self-help junkies trying to live in the moment. For the rest of us, we simply grow accustomed to the seasons.
I never thought of myself as one to measure time by the flowers, to internalize the old country wisdom to such a degree that I find myself thinking time to plant the peas when the forsythia first bursts into bloom, a fountain of yellow in an otherwise dormant yard. I take note of when things bloom and when they die. How easy it is to observe a lifetime condensed to one season—flowers bloom and wither; birds hatch and fledge. The daphne are lovely this year we might say, fully recognizing there will be seasons more of rebirth. Nature is a microcosm of our larger existence—but with second and third chances. How cavalierly we say this year with regard to the natural world when in our own lives we are forced to say that was lovely once. And never again.
Today I noted the impatience of certain magnolias, of forsythia blooms that will fade before spring. There is no consequence to this year's rush—just a strange, unnatural beauty in spent blossoms scattered across the winter ground.