life distilled

image by peregrine blue via flickr

Around this time of year my married-into family makes rosewater. It is a rite of Spring. They distill the fragile petals, and fill little bottles with its fragrant water which they use throughout the year to perfume pastries, to soften the thick bitterness of coffee. They sprinkle it in the air and put a few drops in the water they use to wash their hands.

No doubt they would smile and laugh at the odd way I romanticize and intellectualize what for them is simply what they do when the roses bloom.

Each year we send my mother-in-law a bottle of tea-rose perfume which she treasures, spritzing it on her wrists for special occasions and spraying it on guests as they leave as a sign of grace and generosity, sending them out with wishes for a sweet journey, even if it takes them just a few steps away.

I, on the other hand, much prefer that little bottle carrying the memories of the petals she has gathered with her still deft hands.

We feel scent viscerally. It tells us stories not with words but with memories. Delicate flowers which last only a short while are preserved with care, savored, a thousand petals distilled into one single drop. Scents are paintings of moments in time, stages of life.

Seasons are the same. To most of the world they are not just pages on the calendar or a sign of what is to come. They arrive with a whole orchestra of rituals, and are marked by these, not by vacations blocked out or tick-marks in an agenda.

Our rituals are often watered down, forgotten. Books and magazines tell us how to create them. Some diligently follow their direction, while others avoid them, finding rituals dusty and superfluous and not realizing that fleeing them is like fleeing life itself. They mark time. They soothe and center us. They distill meaning and allow us to surrender the self to their eternal repetition without reticence or question.

Spring is the time of rosewater.


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