Heaven Scent Balsam

Heaven Scent Balsam                                                                                                                        by     Lorraine Rose

The scent of a Balsam Fir reminds me of a day my sister Margaret and I spent together near her farmhouse in the Berkshires. A lovely day it was, cool autumn, vermilion leaves against a blue, cumulus sky. We drove down Connecticut Route 7, the two-lane country road that hosts quaint villages and myriad temptations to stop for lunch, check out independent bookstores, or do a little antiquing. A “crafts fair” sign in front of a high school beckoned to us. We wandered the halls lined with makeshift booths, cluttered with tempting hand-crafted products – needlepoint holiday ornaments, woven baskets, and shell necklaces.

People in light sweaters and jeans meandered from table to table “window shopping,” appraising and pricing the bounty. One table contained an unusual display of tiny pillows, bigger than dollhouse size, but too small to rest your head on. One lone pillow could fit in the palm of your hand. A Swedish craftsman had designed the fabric to resemble miniature patchwork quilts: Grassy green, crisscrossed with a darker forest tone, lilacs in squares with yellowish patches and red-checkered patterns.

And the blessing? Their scent. Each pillow, stuffed with balsam fir, emitted an exquisite fragrance, fresh from the forest, through its delicate cotton.

“Ahhhhh,” Margaret moaned as she held one to her nose, “this is scrumptious.” She rolled her eyes in aromatic ecstasy.

She picked up another one, patterned in deep purple and lavender, my colors, and pushed it in my face.

“Smell this, you’ll love it.”

“Ahhhhh,” my own moan echoing hers, “I’ve got to have this, but what do you do with it?” I am that practical!

“You just smell it and enjoy looking at it; put it in your bureau drawer with your bras, or on a table, so you can enjoy it any time.”

I purchased the little pillow for about $10, much more than I would normally splurge on something I considered frivolous. At first.

But let me tell you, that pillow more than paid for itself with its generous gift of Mother Nature.

That little pillow was never relegated to a drawer full of panties; it never sat on a table under a lamp. No, it had more impactful things to accomplish. It perched next to me on the armrest of my Acura so I could pick it up and deep-sniff it at stop lights. It joined the speedy ranks of my commuter exodus, passing wide stands of trees, down I 684 to offices in White Plains, our city thirty miles to the south. And each day, on its voyage from the forested region where I had fallen in love with the woods - that sachet pillow had become their ambassador.

Over time, the car became suffused with the scent of balsam, subtly powerful and natural - unlike those rearview-mirror car fresheners that last a month. We have not yet succeeded, have we, with our relentless competition with nature?

And here is the miracle. That divine little pillow occupied the armrest and sometimes graced the dashboard -- for eight sweet-smelling years! The Balsam Fir needles, for all that time, delivered a delicious earthy aroma. Eight years of balsam bliss, until at last, as with all things, its scent began to fade.

But the memory of its gifts did not. Even though my little pillow eventually lost its scent, I cherished its craftsmanship and enduring beauty. Each day, I observe the little pillow, retired now to a restful place under a lamp, reminding me of that day, when my beloved sister Margaret had shoved its exquisite scent in my face.

She knows me. She knew what I would love. And the impractical purchase of years ago had a very real purpose indeed.

And even though in today’s online marketplace, pillows of this type are easily purchased - now priced up to fifty dollars – I would say I got the real bargain, and so much more.

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