Summer Perfume

There are often sweet smells in the air these sultry summer days. They cannot allay the heat, of course, but they can — and do — soothe many a temper that is weather-frayed. There is the gentle, subtle fragrance that comes from wild roses on hillsides and beaches and of cultivated, rambler roses on white picket fences. Their country cousin ramblers that bedeck up-Island rail fences, similarly, perfume the rural air.

And then there is the honeysuckle at the edge of fields and woods and swamps. Three kinds of honeysuckle grow on the Vineyard — trumpet, Morrow’s and Japanese. The trumpet is a honeysuckle of the garden that charms not only with its fragrance, but by inviting hummingbirds to drink the nectar in its deep red flowers.

Morrow’s honeysuckle is a shrub of the woods and roadsides whose white flowers turn yellow as they age. Japanese honeysuckle is a vine with funnel-shaped flowers that start out white, and then turn pink and finally yellow. The flowers of the Japanese honeysuckle are a tasty treat to suck upon as well as smell.

The side-by-side graves of Tristan and Isolde, the star-crossed lovers of poetry and art and opera, were decorated with a honeysuckle vine and a hazel tree. So tightly did the honeysuckle bind the hazel, it is said, that though they had been largely kept apart in life, in death the lovers were inseparable.

On the Island, that’s beside the point. What matters is that wondrous scent of honeysuckle, tame and wild, and of the roses. They fill our senses on summer days and nights.