One of the best things about summer? Driving around in “smellovision.”
This time of year in WNC (and probably lots of other places), the privet is blooming. Privet (as I know it) is a shrub that blooms with tiny white flowers that look like little stars and smell like heaven. (When fall rolls around, privet adorns itself with bunches of elegant blue berries that look beautiful in wreaths and arrangements, if you can rescue a few from all the fine feathered locavores that feed on them.)
Plenty of things smell good, but nothing smells any better than blooming privet–it’s sweet and fresh and just a teeny bit tangy, somehow. If a perfume atelier captured this scent, they could call it “Summer in a Bottle” and meet truth-in-advertising standards. If you could make tea* out of it, it would be like drinking liquid sunshine (with a splash of summer rain and a pinch of something fresh and green, just to keep you guessing).
I know we live in a mostly air-conditioned society, and on a 90+ degree day like today, it’s a pretty comfortable way to live. The next time you have to drive somewhere, though, try to forego the AC for an open window: see what you can smell. If you drive past a privet patch, even on the interstate, it will swirl through your car on a big wave of summer.** It won’t last–it’s not an air-freshener that swings from the rearview mirror–but it is a face-full of old-fashioned sweetness that speaks of stolen kisses behind the hedge that separated your grandfather’s house from the house of the girl-next-door. Faded flowers tied with a velvet ribbon and pressed between the pages of an old book. Summertime. And summer, and time.
Privet is a plain sort of name for such a pretty shrub, and it probably comes from the privet’s traditional use as a privacy hedge. (See? I told you that a hedge separated Grandpa from the girl next door!) When it’s breezy, watch for showers of flowers to rain down all around you. It’s worth waiting for, like you stepped into an illustration from an old book of fairy tales.
Regardless of whether or not you find any privet , I hope you manage to spend a little time in smellovision–summer is truly something to sniff at.
*Caveat 1: Don’t make tea out of it-consumption of privet is for the birds. Literally.
**Caveat 2: The wretched reek of roadkill will also infiltrate your car when traveling in smellovision, but true smell-enthusiasts will assume the risk and trust in their own good “scents.”