The first first time I ever smelled violets was yesterday.
It amazes me somewhat to write that sentence, since I know the smell of violets like I know the colour of my eyes, but that smell has only ever been in perfume or in Parma candies : a chemical appropriation thereof. For some reason I have never before, in this lifetime, come into contact with the breathing, fragrant flowers themselves.
Yesterday, walking in the cold, in the pleasant but mundane town of Fujisawa where I mostly work ( life has been quite dreary since coming back from Cambodia : it is as if I am shellshocked by reality and the drop in temperature and have had to try in vain to tame my recalcitrant, wayward inner spirit which just wants to live in dreams: : a lot of turbulent and discordant stress of late being the result ) – I did a double take when walking past one of the standard florists as my sight alighted on some pots with the label ‘nioisumire’; or fragrant violets ( the ones that live in the woodlands near our house have no smell : these flowers are doubled in petal, more bunched up, I think Parma)……..and as I leaned in, like Snow White, I could smell violets – just as I always imagined the smell to be : sweet, pretty, velveted, but with green edges and a breath of soil – and I had to buy them.
During my lessons last night – fraught; perspirated; overcompensating for my lack of enthusiasm with frenetic ‘energy’, while the students were writing, I came down for a few minutes to the teachers’ room. And, when no one was looking, I plunged my face into the paper-wrapped potted plant. The smell of the nestled, living flowers hidden within the paper was nothing less than thrilling : as if all the history of violets in literature, and perfume, were condensing in one true moment and I was smelling them in their raw and pristine state: delicate; beautiful ; emotional.