I love it when the wattle bursts into flower. All of a sudden there are splodges of fluffy yellow over the hillsides. Wattle trees often hide their glory with soft olive leaves and subdued bark. Then they blaze with sunlight and frivolity for a few weeks. On warm evenings the smell of the flowers gathers in pockets held down by the cooler night air. You’ll be walking along in the coolness and suddenly you are surrounded by warm, slightly sweet air with a tang of dust. It doesn’t sound like much. If someone walked past you wearing it as a perfume you might not notice.
One whiff of it though and I am eighteen again, at university in a new town, stunned by the ideas and people that I am meeting for the first time. People dress differently, talk differently, think differently. I’m judged mainly by my contributions to conversation and class discussions. No-one knows or cares who my parents are or really where I come from. I have no responsibilities beyond taking care of myself. The lake and creek are lined by wattle and their scent was interwoven with memory.
I can’t separate my love of wattle and these memories. Do I really like the smell or is it just an aide-de-memoir – a reminder of when I first realised that there was a life of the mind that was valued and when incidently, I met Mr Blithe?
And being unable to separate my writing self from my other self, I’m wondering what smells would transport the Jaeckels back to Germany? Were there particular flowers or trees or the smell of food cooking or something that was an intense visceral reminder of their past?