July 2, 2012

My Madeleine: Honeysuckle at the Jersey Shore

Japanese honeysuckle 


The scent and taste of honeysuckle at the Jersey shore this weekend sent me to find Proust's description, in In Search of Lost Time, of the unleashing of memories with the taste of a madeleine:
....after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection. 

honeysuckle nectar


I remember myself as a child, in my sand-covered feet, my father teaching me how to pull the pistil from the deliciously scented flower, slowly and carefully so as to preserve the tiny drop of nectar that emerges, which I would taste with delight. It was such a tiny little pleasure, but one that seemed to have outsized magic: sweets coming from a flower! It was part of the summer's joys: swimming in the ocean, bare sandy feet slapping on slate pavement, the outdoor shower, barbecues on Sunday evenings. 



Honeysuckle Goldflame


I grow honeysuckle here in Vermont, but as beautiful as the plants are, and as sweetly scented, as Goldflame is, they don't have that special drop of nectar.


Honeysuckle Dropmore Scarlet


Dropmore Scarlet is a tall and vigorous vine that grows beside my front door, adding vivid color almost all summer long....but it too has no sweet liquid, although the hummingbirds love it and I often watch them dipping into the flowers. It is only when I visit my family down at the shore that I can relive the surprise and delight of sipping nectar from a flower.




Thanks, Dad, for teaching me the secrets of the honeysuckle, and those of "riding the waves". I can't resist trying to body surf any time I see a small curled wave, and it's still a thrill to feel myself carried along by the energy of the water. And thanks for instilling in me and in my brothers and sisters a solid moral compass, a way of living with kindness and compassion, humor and love.


10 comments:

  1. Lovely post and picture of your father (verbal and actual). Your honeysuckle flowers are beautiful! Why not grow some of the other kind too? It's all around here, non-native, of course, which I usually disfavor -- but I crave that madelaine too!

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    1. Ravenna, it's too cold up here to grow that kind of honeysuckle. And if I could, I doubt I'd plant it because it's an invasive species. Even at the shore, I see less and less of it as gardeners pull it up.

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  2. My son just delighted his friends with the custom of breaking the honeysuckle flower from the stem, biting off the base of the flower and then sucking the nectar. I am glad I showed my kids when they were little. We are at the Jersey Shore, the same town where we have a Studio Museum dedicated to Peto which is how I found your blog.

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    1. Sarah, thanks for the comment. It's nice to know that others have the same fun with honeysuckle. I didn't know about the Peto house museum; maybe I'll be able to visit it one day.

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  3. A beautiful tribute to your Father.

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  4. Beautiful. Warm memories keep your father with you forever.

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  5. Thank you, Lisa and Lauren, for your kind comments, much appreciated.

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  6. This is a beatiful tribute. It is interesting how a seemingly small thing can bring back the whole cascade of memories. Proust said it so perfectly.

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  7. So very sorry for your loss. Your tribute is beautiful and deeply moving.

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  8. Dear Alton . he looks so kind and gentle in the picture. big hug for you and your family.
    YEHI ZICHRO BARUCH. יהי זכרו ברוך.
    Hadass

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