Sweetclover in my skin

I wish I could bottle this up and send it to you.

I wish I could pick the right words to describe the sweet, fresh scent that fills the air tonight and gives me comfort when I breathe it deep in my lungs while standing still or moving across the landscape, stepping high, eyes on the horizon. Or maybe my  hands are on the wheel and the windows are open in the car as I reach out my arm. Or I may be laying down, ready to drift to sleep while the breeze kisses my skin laying silent in the night air.

I imagine everyone has something like this that hits their nostrils and brings them back to a time in childhood when they felt so deeply loved, so overwhelmingly safe, so much themselves, so free. Maybe it’s your grandmother’s warm cookies from the oven. Maybe it’s the smell of a diesel tractor plugging across a field. Maybe it’s your parent’s home or your fur on the back of your old cat or the salty air blowing across the ocean and onto vast beaches.

For me it is sweetclover.


It’s not something that graces us with its presence every year, but when the ground is saturated enough and the sun is warm it seems to pop up overnight like an old friend knocking on your door unannounced–and you just happen to have the coffee on and bread warming in the oven.

And so I think I have sweetclover in my skin. My first best memories are laying among it, rolling down the highest hill on the ranch as the sun found its way to the horizon and my cousins, tan and sweaty, hair wild, would fling their bodies after me. We would find ourselves at the bottom in a pile of laughter and yellow petals would float and move around us and then stick to our damp skin.

For us the clover was a blanket, a canopy of childhood, a comfort. It was our bouquet when we performed wedding ceremonies on the pink road wearing our grandmother’s old dresses, an ingredient in our mud pies and stews, our crown when we felt like playing kings and queens of the buttes, feed for our horses, our lawn, a place to hide from the seeker, to rest after a race,  to fall without fear of skinned knees, a promise of summer.

A wave of color to welcome us home together.

And so it has appeared again, just like it did last July, only bigger, more bountiful, taller–up to my armpits even the sweetclover grew! It’s there all season, the seeds tucked neatly under the dirt, and still I am surprised when I open the windows of the pickup after a late night drive and the fragrance of the lush yellow plant finds its way to me.

The night is dark but I know it’s there…

And I am taken back…

I am seven years old again and my grandmother has our bunk beds made up in the basement and my cousins will be coming down the pink road soon. And when they get here we will climb Pots and Pans and we will put on a wedding and look for new kittens in the barn. We will play “The Wizard of Oz” and I will be the Tin Man. We’ll catch frogs in the creek and take a ride on the old sorrel. We will play tag on the hay bales in front of the barn.

We will hide from each other in the clover that scratches and brushes against our bare legs.

Oh, I wish I could bottle it up for the cold winter days that showed no sign of release.

I wish I could build my house out of it, weave it inside my walls, plant it in my floor and lay down in it at night.

I wish I could wrap my family–my father and mother, my sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles, my grandmother and grandfather and all of the souls who have touched and breathed and lived where the clover grows–I wish I could wrap them in its soft petals and sweet stems and watch as they remember now.

And tell them not to leave. Not to grow older.

I wish I would have sat still long enough to smell it on my skin when I was looking to find the real me.

I wish I would have always known I had it there. 

But mostly I am just glad that it came to visit me this year…

so I could remember.

8 thoughts on “Sweetclover in my skin

  1. Man, I feel like we were just looking at photos of the snow! Thanks for keeping us posted on life in western ND. I sure do miss living there (there – I said it!).

  2. Wow… the photos are fabulous, stunning… yet not even close to comparing to the images you have created with your words… pulling at the senses, collecting heartfelt moments and gently carrying them home.

  3. Oh how I wish you could bottle it up too! That would be a wonderful solace in the midst of our cold harsh winter! But I will save this and go back to it when I am trying to remember the smells, the warmth of the sun and how nice it is to just be outdoors, Thanks Jessie for giving us this to tuck away for a later date!
    🙂

  4. LOL..when I was visiting my sis in NC(in the Blue Ridge Mtns), she was going to send me some lavender but I forgot to get it b4 I left. Ugh. Thanks for the beautiful pics. They are beautiful. Happy Friday 🙂 Nicole

  5. Jess, your story reminds me of my trips to my Aunt/Uncle’s farm on the Forrest River. The gravel road, crossing the bridge, and the last turn before seeing their place on top of the hill. Uncle Frank with the bib overalls and Aunt Francis with dinner ready…..But it was those country smells of summer that made it so real….thanks for taking me back there if only for a moment..Rich

  6. Not all of us had childhoods as blessed as yours, but, we take pleasure from listening to your wonderful descriptions. For me, it was the wild roses which I ate, rubbed on my skin and picked small bouquets to put in a special bottle in my room. Those of us who grew up in the country can never describe to our friends from town how enchanted we are with the sights, sounds, and smells of rural life. It’s nice to know someone who loves it as much as I do.

  7. Jess you did it again as always. I have LOTS of triggers like your sweet clover. Its fun to remember when they started.
    You brought back a memory of riding at The Shade Ranch last summer and the sweet clover was so tall that there was no way you could stop your horse from grabbing a fresh bite everytime he quit chewing.
    This of course is a mortal sin in the trail riding handbook of “Dont Let Em Get Away With Anything” but I had the best excuse ever to pay no attention. And I did.
    The horses enjoyed the ride almost as much as we did.
    The prickly pear were blooming crazy there at the same time last year.
    So nice to remember………Thanks Again

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