How Grandma Lilly knew the navels were blooming, heaven alone would know.
Her house was always dark, the burgundy curtains drawn against the bright light of Robertson. And then, on a Saturday morning, she, ex cathedra, announced that Grandpa Boy and I were going to get the enamel buckets out of the pantry, and with an action water over the bottom, go pick some cloves. What she did not know is that Grandpa and I had been waiting for orders for weeks.
With a bottle of sweet coffee, wrapped in brown paper, we made our way – through Hopley Avenue, across the Willemnels River, past the “churchyards” and town town, to the foothills of Wolfkloof. By early spring, the “tulips” were already sprouting, there were ghielemienkies (redfin freshwater fish) in Wolfkloof’s clear stream, and baboon sniffing under the blog trees along the road.
At the powder house we rested, with cold coffee from the bottle, and some of Grandpa’s dried peaches in a flour bag. Then the search began. The powder blue flowers were neatly cut off against the ground with the thumb and forefinger, and laid down in the bucket, carefully, because Grandma was full of fiemies that the flowers should not be bruised. With our buckets full of flowers, also here and there a searching base (wild freesias) we proudly walked back home.
Grandma went to get a red Murano glass bowl from the wall cupboard, poured in about half an inch of water, and then, with great care, packed the nails. She slid open the curtain of the large living room window, and then placed the glass bowl on the windowsill. In the light shaft, the nails glowed like a gas flame in the oblique light. Gradually, the heavenly fragrance seeped through the house. As far as I can remember, it was Grandma Lilly’s only concession to the field.
What do cloves smell like? Robertson’s cloves (Lapeirousia pyramidalis) smell like no other flower on earth. The closest I can get to this is Coty’s heavenly Masumi, a perfume from the sixties. Imagine; violets, caramons, and maybe a melon, and you might get close. More clinically, I suspect alpha- and beta-ionones, linalool and (E) -osimene, all three of which occur in freesias.
Before I die, I want to take my children to the field, and establish these rites with them.
Because we exist, because we remember.