Thursday, August 9, 2012

Olfactory Ephemera: The Scent of Dandelions

This summer the aroma of dandelions has eluded lawn mower blades and long stretches of land where wild plants cover the earth with slender blades of grass, spiraling tendrils and radiant flowers. The ground is carpeted by dry grass that crackles like straw underfoot. The smell of cut grass, evocative of cucumber and watermelon, the quintessential fruits of summer, is gone.

In the early evening I seek the aroma of oakmoss, a type of lichen that grows on oak and conifer trees, in a nearby preserve. The thick sappy facet is so faint it feels desiccant, but some hay and tobacco notes still shine through. I pray for rain and spot a pair of dandelions, the circumference of their seed heads uninterrupted by wind or the underside of a human foot.

The next morning I get up early and head for the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market at Kerrytown. I look for dandelions in side streets, lawns bereft of weed killer (not uncommon in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan) and cracks in the sidewalk. I find them and wish I could bottle their tenacious fragile beauty. I walk past tables of fruit, pickles, vegetables and pies and stumble upon Down on the Farm, an Amish farmers cooperative based in Homer, Michigan.

The stand is covered in a red and white checkered tablecloth and is topped with tomatoes, cucumbers and jars of homemade jam. I spot a single jar of dandelion jelly and the woman behind the table tells me her mother-in-law made it. I buy it without asking what it tastes like. Her cerulean blue eyes evoke clarity and honesty; they match her dress and bonnet. I am reminded of their color when I gaze skyward at a hawk after leaving the market.

I slowly turn the key in the cylinder of the apartment door when I notice a package to my left. I bring it inside and forget about it until the next day. My mind is peppered with thoughts of  dandelions. The next morning I open the jar of jelly and taste it. The flavor reminds me of smooth black tea with honey and lemon. There's a hint of warm spiciness in the finish that is comforting and mysterious.

I see the box from the previous day's mail delivery next to the kitchen table. I take a knife to it and remove the contents. Inside is bottle of Dandelion perfume by Demeter. It smells like cut grass, creamy musk and yellow flowers. A fantasy of the colors one associates with dandelions. I spray it on my wrists and inhale. It is olfactory ephemera. I am reminded of the smells I miss most this summer...