Friday, March 06, 2009

heaven scent

I thought I caught the ephemera of a woman's scent this afternoon. A heady perfume, yet subtle, and mind-focusing. Perhaps, a more primitive part of the mind.

And then that part of my consciousness that pretends to be a fruit of the Age of Enlightenment kicked in. It was a flower, and a flower I seek out every early spring: Daphne.

I have always been amazed at how a small flower can produce such a heady logic-fogging scent. And, even though it is small, it will draw admirers directly to it by smell alone. Homer, in all of his blindness, could find Daphne.

And that was Apollo's problem. In Greek mythology, Apollo, the very epitome of Greek rectitude, was tempted by the nymph Daphne. He pursued her shamelessly like a buck hare.

To protect her virtue, she cried out to the gods -- and was turned into a shrub. Thus the classical pictures, like that at the bottom of the blog, that we all know from those interminable art history lectures. (A resemblance that this blog will not attempt to avoid.)

There is a moral in the tale, Daphne's fragrance (the plant, not the nymph) can still lead even the most moderated life astray. But she has a new protection. The berries of the Daphne shrub are poisonous. She has her revenge on Apollo's sons.


Anonymous said...


that flower is beautiful. i could almost imagine its fragrance. the same is true of gardenias, small yet it has a wonderful scent. you will, as you probably know, find them in mexico.

have a great weekend!

Theresa in Mèrida said...

I love Daphne, they don't grow here, as far as I know. But so many things don't due to the humidity more than the heat. At first I thought it was a Flor de Mayo (Frangipani, Plumeria) and was going to ask for a cutting. I guess I got confused and forgot that you are in the Pacific northwest!

John said...

Steve--you'll leave Daphne behind, but as Theresa says, you'll find a more than adequate replacement in Plumeria. Blooms and heady scent for months every year!

Nancy said...

We had a Daphne in our yard in Washington, right by the door so every time we came in or out we got to smell the wonderful fragrance. I wonder if it's ever been made into a cologne or perfume? I'd buy it.

1st Mate said...

I've never seen or smelled daphne, but now that you've described it, I hope I do someday.

But frankly, if that Daphne chick wanted Apollo to behave himself, maybe she should have put on some clothes! How'd you like to end your life as a shrub?!

Steve said...

Teresa -- While you are here, we should stop by to visit the daphne.

Theresa -- I do not know if daphne grows in Mexico. The fact that it so happy here on a cold sunny day leads me to believe that it is a temperate zone plant. And quite soon my location will not be so confusing.

John -- I have already experienced the overwhelming perfume of Mexican summers. And I look forward to another one.

Nancy -- I had one next to my back yard gate. It was always a welcome smell when I came or went. The Pacific Northwest does have its charm. And this is one.

1st Mate -- I suspect that Apollo was not in his most gentle mood when pursuing Daphne. Just my guess.