Sunday, November 15, 2020


Well now everything dies baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back

Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty

And meet me tonight in Atlantic City

        - Bruce Springsteen


I miss the smell of jasmine. That lilting fragrance that used to meet me at the end of my porch as I left for the day, and faithfully greeted me as I returned home after some time away. The unmistakable scent from those lovely white mini-petals that bloomed at regular intervals, I think, whenever they wanted.
I had this plush row of jasmine shrubs that decorated one part of my white picket fence, atop of the porch, near the number of my home address. Often I wouldn't even notice whether the shrubs were in bloom or not, but there would be that fragrance. It would bypass my conscious mind, as I walked by, and yet it would linger on ... until it would register in me. That scent. That white vine. That beauty.
It would remain. For a time.
I miss the smell of jasmine.
For the days would come, when droughts thrashed Southern California greenery and scenery, and governors mandated that the public "kill your lawn" for the higher good, and the water sprinklers broke down, and my own preoccupations distracted me towards other needs. Yes, my focus was pulled away from the garden. Away from my care-taking responsibilities. Away from the jasmine that used to welcome me.
A negligent guardian, a sloppy steward, I failed.
I let it go.
Not just the jasmine. Not just the lawn, but the roses and the passion flowers and the vines.
I let it die.
And I am so sorry.
When I first considered purchasing the property, one of the main selling points was the magic of the flowers, trees, shrubs and landscape out front. I remember the friend who joined me in my home search, stopped me at one point when I wasn't sold on the house and exclaimed, "Look at the garden!"
Over the years, every once in awhile a different flower would appear out of nowhere. And it would be beautiful and wondrous and magical. Hummingbirds would congregate to partake in the nectar and the magic. Butterflies would visit for a time as they saw fit. And nature spirits, fairies and gnomes must have loved this playground, full of vibrant life.
I miss the smell of jasmine.
As the regret turns to grief, and then to tears, and then to heartfelt apologies, I find myself taking a new view on this garden. This morning I chose to meditate out on the patio rather than in my bedroom. I've taken to more regularly watering the plants and palms and even calling for some expert help in ensuring their health. I have planned for a date with the wife so we can share a meal out on the patio, perhaps with a tiki torch or two.
I have reminded myself that the original magic of that garden was actually planted by another, by a former tenant, and not by me or my wife. I have dedicated time now, every other day, in tending to this garden, in clearing away any weeds and overgrowth, so that soil will be made ready again ... for another sowing of a new seed. It can be a home for a magic that we ourselves can plant and watch grow.
I have missed the smell of jasmine.
And yet, after the loss and the letting go, there comes a new day. The sun will rise, as will the opportunities. And there can be a return ... to a garden evergreen, to an effervescent scent of beauty and to the lingering memories of magic that will live forever more. 

James Anthony Ellis is a writer living in San Diego, and can be reached at




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