Smell The Camellias

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February always seems a sprint to me, unlike the tortoise crawl of dark December succeeded by joyless January. It’s the shortest month after all, and sweet too – I turned 24, ate multiple slabs of birthday cake, made new friends and passed my driving test. I drove past these camellias the other day at dusk, blousy, bloomy, beautiful against the blue-tinted sky, and made a mental note to walk back with my camera in the daylight. So this morning my mother and I laced our running shoes and headed out into the morning wind. The sun shone weakly, not yet warm enough to streak our fair hair or erupt the freckles dormant on our cheekbones. It may be the first of March, but it didn’t feel like spring.

I know it is – officially – weeks until the equinox and that camellias are hardy plants, valued for their early flowering. But March has always been my personal start of spring, calendar-setters be damned. The camellias stirred something awake inside me – a memory, a prayer, a reminder that the end is in plain sight and winter is, therefore, bearable. There are violet crocuses pushing through the oozy mud in the park and snowdrops, daffodils, sporadic cherry blossoms too. The evenings here are not so black, the days not so tightly fastened at both ends. Slowly winter is losing its momentum, like a punctured tyre leaking air. I leave my gloves in the drawer and feel quite like a weary traveller at the end of a long journey, home all of a sudden visible on the far horizon. These pink camellias seemed a metaphorical way marker, of sorts – a shout into the sky. Spring! She’s on her way! You’re almost there! I’m fizzing with anticipation for my favourite season.

Camellias remind me always of To Kill A Mockingbird, when ordinarily-sensible Jem rips off the crisp green buds from Mrs Dubose’s japonica bush in a fit of impetuous rage. By association, the sight of them makes me think of doing something equally impulsive, something unknown and exciting. It’s the same feeling spring invokes, the sense that the world is brand new again with the gift of light, of long days and sunlit evenings lie spread before us. I feel primed for the new – new words, new pastimes, places, sights, people. The camellias, in all their premature spring glory, seemed a symbol of what is yet to come and a reminder to act, like Jem Finch, on impulse (though maybe in a less violent, more sensitive manner.) To seize life with both hands. To smell the camellias, both metaphorically and literally.

Are you as delighted, perched here on spring’s eve, as I am?

P.S. Speaking of To Kill A Mockingbird, raise your hand if you too always had a crush on Atticus (aka Gregory Peck). And are you also hotly anticipating Go Set a Watchman (claims of Harper Lee’s forced coercion aside)?