When I wake up in the morning and go outside, I am overwhelmed with the powerful scent of the beautiful hawthorn flowers. It’s incredible how their fragrance is everywhere I go, how perfumed the air is now that they are here. Every breath is a pleasure, and deep breathing is a favorite pastime as I greedily try to take in more of the scent with each breath. The heady, floral fragrance envelops my house, my yard, and the old dirt road I walk upon. It’s as if I’ve fallen into a perfumed world. And nighttime is perhaps the best, when I turn off the light and clouds upon clouds of hawthorn flower fragrance drift into my room and send me off to sleep.
|Sensuous flowers and treacherous thorns.|
But there is a heavy price to pay for this rapturous experience of the senses, and it is difficult and treacherous. The razor-sharp thorns of the hawthorn develop and strengthen at the same time the plant is producing billowing clouds of fragrance. Tricky, very tricky. That’s a faerie trick if ever I saw one, and of course, the hawthorn is famous throughout faerie lore. They passed the use of it down to herbalists, who employ it in the treatment of cardiac insufficiency.
“Razor-sharp thorns” is putting it mildly. They are deadly. The long tendrils of the bush grow upward and then reach out and down, so that the plant resembles an enormous fountain. This fountain contains terrible thorns that will scratch at your face--watch out for your eyes!--and rake your arms and hands if you come anywhere close to the plant at all. In the summer, the thorns are hard to see but not hard to feel, and it’s so easy to come too close because the beguiling fragrance sweetly beckons. In the winter, the thorny bare stems reach down and often tear holes in my coat if I am shoveling snow near them.
Every year, I tell myself this is the last year I will leave the hawthorn bushes here. I cannot take the torturous thorns anymore, and this time I am removing them. Then summer arrives and the flowers hypnotize me once again with their opium-like qualities of addiction, and once again I am lost in a sea of hawthorn. Thorns? Thorns? What thorns? Oh, those tiny things. What does it matter when I roll in ecstasy at the foot of the ocean of hawthorn?
It’s these two extremes, you see, that keep toying with me. If you think back on the most memorable days of your life, it’s always the days of extremes. No one sits back and waxes nostalgic over a quiet and moderate day. Not that there’s anything wrong with those days, and the comfort of moderation is always a blessing. But it’s the extremes we live for, the exultant highs and the forlorn lows. It’s the overpowering sense of wonder and the crushing feeling of pain and loss that stay in our memories forever. The two dance together, and if we are honest with ourselves, we can find a balance. No one ever conquered the world with mediocrity.