No, we're not talking the 1970's perfume here. How did the ad go? A [something or other] full of rain-washed breezes. A poem waiting to be written... At 17 years old I fell for the cutesy gold cherub embossed on the packaging and the tiny booklet of poetry that came with it; generally something like Rabbie Burn's My Love is like a Red, Red, Rose. The height of romance and sophistication or so it seemed to me at the time, even if the actual perfume was a bit on the cloying side.
That so, I'm sure just a whiff of it now would send me back over 40 years in an instant. Strange how smells have such a power over our minds; potent keys to the past.
This morning on my way to church, it was the definitely unromantic pong of allium that transported me back, not too far this time, but to the grounds of the place where I first began to go on retreat about eight years ago. Heaven scent it may not be, yet the smell of alium leaves crushed underfoot takes me back to those special times at Compton Durville.
I often find nowadays that recalling such times when I've felt so held and close to God, far from being self-indulgent, often help me focus myself during those leaner, bleaker periods when I'm struggling.
Like last Spring, on our pilgrimage to the Western Highlands. During an scaringly hairy section of Loch Lomond in horrible weather conditions, when it seemed we'd never reach our destination without emulating the old song and leaving ourselves on the 'low road,' it was that familiar, faintly oniony scent that helped me 'hold on.' I'd love to say that I was aware of God upholding me every step of the way but that would be fibbing When it's all you can do to put one foot in front of the other without slipping over on to the rocks below, your focus needs to be on survival first, prayer second. But, that ordinary, workaday, familiar smell - well...I'm sure it was truly 'heaven sent.'