Thursday, June 21, 2007

It doesn't say that the woman visitor can recognize herbs by smell. That's assumed.

She's visiting her friend who has a house that faces the sea.

In front of the house is an herb garden. When the visitor is in the house, the sea breeze brings the smells of the herbs into the house, "balm and sage and borage and mint, wormwood and southernwood."

And more. Thyme, for example.

The herbs smell more strongly when the woman who planted the garden is taking care of it. "Being a very large person, her full skirts brushed and bent almost every slender stalk that her feet missed."

The thyme was in the part of the garden farthest from the house, so its smell wasn't always evident in the house. Except when the gardener was out among it, tending it and breaking it. Then thyme smells joined the other smells.

The visitor liked to wake to these smells, stronger if her hostess was in the garden.

This happens in "Mrs. Todd," the story near the beginning of "The Country of Pointed Firs" by Sarah Orne Jewett. What is an event? There are several in this story, but of a kind not always noted.

Smelling plants, tending plants, smelling nature smells carried by nature's wind.

And all for healing. That's why the gardener and house owner had so many herbs and so few flowers just for pretty. To heal her neighbors. Neighbors coming to the door asking for help--the specific healing events are not described in this story, but they are implied, because that's what it's all about practically.

And not so practically, having herb smells waft through the house together with sea smells is a good thing, and also what life is about.

I had heard of"The Country of Pointed Firs" by Sarah Orne Jewett. I would have read it sooner if it had been called "The Country of Talking Women," which would also fit. Many moments where women in a small town or out in the country around the town talk and it matters and they know how to do it in a down-to-earth, up-with-the-pines way. There are not all that many people to talk to. For people in the country there are not all that manyoccasions to talk. They make talking count. This beginning story with the herbs, "Mrs. Todd," has the women communicating without talking. I know you are working your garden by how the sea breeze smells.

The combination. The space between. We are healed.