The first time was a few weeks ago. I was walking my dogs on the same route I always do: down my block, past my neighbors' houses, then round the bend toward the little stream. When I got to the end of my block, bundled under two hoods, thick fleece gloves, long underwear and snow boots, just before turning the corner, it struck me: the smell of lilacs and freshly mown grass. I stopped still. Ignoring the confused dogs, I stood like one of them, sniffing the air, turning around, sniffing harder. Where was it coming from? I walked a few more steps and smelled it again, looked around, for what I don't really know. A still-warm lawn mower? Shaking my head at myself and glad that no one else was crazy enough to be out in this weather and see me acting like a fool, I rounded the corner and it was gone. But on the way back, in that same spot, I smelled it still. Though I knew it was ridiculous and likely just some fabric softener venting from a nearby dryer, I didn't care. I stood there basking in this Bermuda Triangle of spring freshness for as long as the dogs let me, then walked home smiling.
Today, in the same spot, it happened again. But this time, it was roses. I turned, half expecting to see some blooming bushes on my neighbor's lawn, poking out of the snow, riotous with color. But of course, there was no such thing, only dead branches that had blown down in the past days' high winds. Nearby, discarded Christmas trees with the tags still on the trunks made a depressing scene in the woods. Deer tracks in the snow wound between the bare trees, past an abandoned and falling-down shack. I walked on.
The human brain is an incredible thing: it can block out trauma when it is more than one can bear; hold vividly detailed, decades-old memories; learn all our lives long. Perhaps mine has had enough of my self-imposed hibernation, the same four walls day after day, broken only by pages of poetry for escape. Whatever sparked it, my brain has found a way to induce me into walking around the block daily, regardless of the weather, with the promise of something too long dormant, something it knows I need more than anything else right now. And though my brain knows nature can't provide it just yet, it's going to draw on its amazing tools to remind me to just get up and get out tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow; that each of those tomorrows will ultimately bring me back to the heaven of spring.