Take a Walk, Awaken a Memory

Take a Walk, Awaken a Memory

Jacaranda Trees

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”

Those amazing words are not mine, they were written by poet T.S. Elliot, part of his work THE WASTELAND, in which he invokes that painful sweetness of once again being part of the open world, of wandering a path, of stopping to smell the roses.

Despite everything we have been experiencing, we deserve spring, sunshine, hope. It is why so many writers write about spring—the season of renewal, new birth, plans for change. Spring has it all over New Year’s day when many good citizens are hung-over from partying. And I never got the point of that!


Poets and others write about spring, about scents. In a past post related to Mother’s Day, I wrote: CAN A SCENT TAKE YOU BACK. In the gift of a bouquet I encountered the bloom stock, which carried me back to the florist shop owned by my maternal grandmother’s people. I was back in that shop with its rows of glass doors, behind which you could pick a rainbow of plants, roses and other flowers.

In Bill Bryson’s well-researched book, THE BODY he writes:  “…the olfactory cortex…is nestled close to the hippocampus, where memories are shaped, and it is thought by some neuroscientists that may explain why certain odors are so powerfully evocative of memories for us.”

Has that happened to you? Spring, memory, nostalgia. Writers feel it, write about it. Others go outdoors and walk, run; children skip (masks and all as it is 2021). And yes this spring it might be harder to enjoy those spring scents, but here’s a tip: step off the path, move your mask, get a good nose-full. After all, IT’S time for some re-birth.


I am back in Illinois, living a mile from the home where I was raised. We had a lilac tree in our side yard. We had a garden of peonies up and down our front walk. Spring! Scents!

I know as I walk this neighborhood of memories, there will be lilacs and peonies, roses and lily of the valley.

Pico Iyer, also a writer, was born in Oxford, England, but has the good fortune of traveling far and wide. Missing Southern California, wondering what was now in bloom (the poppies, the jacaranda tress?) I found this on my desk. I save lots of stuff!

“Learning to find wonder everywhere is a talent I can as easily develop—and deploy—close to home as I can in Tibet or Cuba.”

But these are the words I had to save, having lived & traveled to Santa Barbara in springtime:

“Golden poppies will fill the slopes of Santa Barbara this coming spring. From my mother’s home I can spend hours just beginning to count the constellations. Those of us used to the dramatic changes of seasons can see the same shifts play out…and look forward to the jacaranda flowering above the streets in May. (Please enjoy the photo above!)


So what is beginning to blossom and grow in your “neck of the woods.” Here, the grass is starting to green up and there are a few shoots pushing up from their garden beds.


Pico Iyer writes the following, which is TRUTH. Hold it close…

“To travel means, ultimately, nothing more than coming back home a slightly different person from the one who left. That’s as possible in 2021 as it was two years ago. The world is inexhaustible, if only we can open our eyes and look with more care at what we so often take for granted.”

Are you going on a walk today, in the future? Will your eyes well up with gratitude when we are once again blessed with greening and flowering? Mine will.

Viral Anxiety: Travel Plans? Reading?

Viral Anxiety: Travel Plans? Reading?

Right now life is all about questions–and finding answers is a challenge. It’s spring break time for many, but the break your students might be getting is to leave college, high school, even grade school and stay home. Travel is curtailed. Even a Staycation can be a disappointment as amusement parks, theaters and museums are closing.

THE CORONAVIRUS–It’s everywhere…

This is the result of the coronavirus entering the United States and spreading big time. Remember the photos of Wuhan, China? TIME magazine had a spread a few weeks back. But that’s thousands of miles away, I thought, feeling sorry for what these people were dealing with. But we are a global village. Now the virus is in Los Angeles, in New York City, in Washington DC. It’s here and soon it will be everywhere, unless we are careful.

I wrote to a friend in Des Moines. Is it there? She knew of three cases from people who had been on a cruise ship. And this virus lives in the droplets from coughs, lives on surfaces, can easily be inhaled and thus rapidly spreads. There’s no vaccine. And unlike China or South Korea, we don’t even have the number of test kits we need to plot how the virus will move. We need to find the people who are infected, because they become VECTORS.


In biology, a vector is an organism that does not cause disease itself, but which spreads infection by conveying pathogens from one host to another. Mosquitoes are vectors for malaria. Humans are vectors for Coronavirus. So we need to know who’s got it and where these people are. Testing can help communicate and calm fears, control the spread of the virus. That’s why South Korea has been testing testing. That’s why we need more test kits.

GO OR CANCEL: How to Decide

Catharine Hamm wrote a piece in the LA TIMES discussing the ins and outs of travel. Ask yourself these questions:

  • if you travel, are you willing to invest daily time researching the spread of the virus?
  • could you go another time? I know! We have an important wedding in May.
  • will you lose money? do you have cancellation insurance? You probably can’t get a policy now, plus you might need healthcare if you get ill while traveling.
  • and how old are you? how is your health? are you willing to wash your hands, not touch your face, wipe down the places you might be staying? control of your environment is very iffy at the present time.


In the area where we have lived for seven years, we’ve had fire scares and earthquake scares. But shopping yesterday was a brand new experience and I know many of you have now experienced it too: long lines! People loading up on food. And for some reason, many stacking their carts with bottled water and toilet paper. I get the toilet paper. I don’t get the water. But people will be people. And people get scared. So——-wash your hands frequently. Don’t touch your face. Read up on symptoms and stay home, work from home if you can. Call elderly relatives and check on them. Encourage your children to play board games, haul out legos and blocks, build a city; and of course there is always television.

Finally, check out your book shelves or your Kindles. READING is a great way to use your time wisely and there are so many good books to choose from. Here are a few recommendations:

KNOW MY NAME  Channel Miller (2019) The story of surviving a sexual assault that could have only been a memoir, but instead has been called a book written by one of the great writers and thinkers of our time. 

I’M STILL HERE Austin Channing Brown (2018) She has written a manifesto that has the power to break open hearts and minds. 

JUST MERCY Bryan Stevenson (2014) You might have seen the film of the same name. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice to defend the poor and unjustly accused. He and his colleagues are American heroes. 

EVERYTHING INSIDE: STORIES Edwidge Danticat (2019) Stories about people who are part of her Haitian heritage. Received the National Book Critics Circle Award.

THE YELLOW HOUSE Sarah M. Broom (2019) Story about the house she and her family lost because of Hurricane Katrina. She traces her family’s roots in New Orleans.

MY DARK VANESSA Kate Elizabeth Russell (2020) The novel anatomizes most sharply the rip in time that keeps women replaying and re-litigating their own culpability in their assaults, especially when those violations happened behind the walls of an institution that vows to protect them. 

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS Sue Monk Kidd (2020) A radical reimagining of the New Testament that reflects on women’s longing and silencing and awakening, is a true masterpiece. 

Oh and there is always THE BODY, by Bill Bryson. That’s what I’m reading now. A way for me to review the anatomy and physiology I learned in nursing school and to enjoy Bryson’s humor at the same time. 

ANY BOOK SUGGESTIONS? Please comment and post. We might be “staying home” for some time. 

Collage: The Guardian