I was driving home with the windows down, enjoying the amazing weather, and started smiling. There was the smell of summer. Even going 70 miles an hour, I could still smell it.
My brother used to say that summer smelled like gasoline and fresh-cut grass (slightly ironic for someone who hated cutting grass). But this was sweeter. Honeysuckle. It was everywhere and the scent was strong. For me, that is the scent of summertime. It was almost overwhelming in spots—just an amazing sweetness surrounding me.
I remember, as a kid, thinking that the nectar inside honeysuckle flowers should taste like honey. I would pull the stamen from the flower and there would be a drop of the nectar, sparkling in the sun. I would lick it off and pretend it tasted like something. I remember being disappointed. I’m sure it is significant for a hummingbird or a bee, but just didn’t amount to much for a growing boy.
Another sign that summer is here are the lightning bugs (calling them fireflies is acceptable too, but I grew up calling them lightning bugs). They are out and glowing in the trees after dark. Another childhood memory involved running through the yards, chasing them down and catching them in a mason jar. We would take a nail and poke holes in the metal lid to give the insect air to breath. If we were feeling extra generous, we would throw some grass in there, too. I never had one, but I seem to remember some of the kids having a “ring” that you could wear on your finger and attach the bug’s abdomen to it. It would stay lit and glow on your finger. Obviously, it didn’t work out so well for the lightning bug.
Late spring and early fall are my favorite times of the year. High summer is great, if you’re up to your nose in water (which I do as much as I can), but this time of year is perfect. The humidity isn’t stifling yet. The days are hot and the evenings are warm enough to stay outside and just “be”. I love to sit outside and stare at trees in the evening, unwinding and distressing. And with the gentle evening breeze, you can smell the honeysuckle. If you look up in the trees, you’ll see lightning bugs. That says summer to me as much as anything else.
If you don’t live in a place where honeysuckle grows wild, I’m sorry for you. You’re missing one of the great scents of summer. If you live too close to the city and there aren’t any lightning bugs around, ditto.
If you’re looking for some grander conclusion in this, there really isn’t one. Smelling the honeysuckle just made me happy and I wanted to share it. Get out and enjoy the world around you. Turn off the television. Unplug the computer. Roll down your car windows. Get outside and breathe. You’ll be glad you did.
Now, it’s time to head back out to the patio.