I have a perfume so rare you cannot buy it at Les Salons du Palais Royal. In fact, I don´t believe you can find it in all of Paris. It is so rare that you cannot even buy it on eBay.
It is mine, and I am enjoying it privately, because it is so fleeting. Time is short.
Come with me. I can show it to you. You have to know where to look, though, because its white, waxy flowers are so unassuming, barely the size of my fingernail. Go on, lean in. Bury your nose in those tiny flowers, their piercing green sweetness, breathe their nectar richness, somewhere between jasmine and magnolia. Stand here in the snow and confront beauty at its most absurd and transitory.
It blooms in late January or early February, too early for adoration from the bees. Sometimes its blossoms are covered in a sheet of ice. It is always blooming when my father and I are fighting what we half-jokingly call our winter doldrums. For sustenance there are always those rare flowers, cuttings from leafless branches of the bush by the back door of the house I grew up in, brought inside to contemplate.
That bush is more than 60 years old; it is beginning to fail, maybe reaching the end of its natural life span. No one is exactly sure what it is. I have spent a fair amount of time looking, and I believe it is winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), although none of these photos captures precisely the delicate white beauty of the flowers on this particular bush by that particular door.
I spent a year trying to root some cuttings, to start one from seed, with no luck. Then my sister said, over there, dig that part up, I think it´s a baby. And it was. Just one. It lives in the corner of my back yard, in the sun, where the children won´t trample it and the dog won´t pee on it and it has room and time to grow.
If we ever move, I can leave behind my beautiful mop-head, oakleaf and lacecap hydrangeas, I can tear myself away from even my carefully tended and much-loved heirloom roses. I can turn my back on five kinds of lavender without regret. I can leave them all for the next family to enjoy, but that small, plain bush is coming with me.
It is blooming, right now, in eleven inches of blowing snow.
Lonicera images – wikipedia.org, luzhok.ru
Snuff bottle – chinacart.com