Once Upon a Time in the West: the power of a flower

Please click the photo to go to “Caesara Botanical Consulting” the source for this lovely photograph of Cleveland Sage.

Once in my classroom in California I was given a special needs student for mainstreaming.  He was brilliant in math, and very quiet.  He used to follow me around when all the rest of the kids were on the playground and would be waiting for me each morning when I arrived.  Conversation was not his way, but he sure was an observer!

One day, towards the end of a particularly stressful week,  I brought in a long sprig of Cleveland Sage.  I thought it might help me by lifting my spirits if I kept it near to inhale its heady aroma.  Placing it onto my desk my little friend spoke… “Teacher, what’s that?”

I told him it was Cleveland Sage from my garden at home and that I loved to smell its fragrance because it made me smile.  I demonstrated the action and its effect for him.

“Can I smell it?”  he asked.

“Sure!”  I said, and handed it over to him.

He told me he liked it and I asked him if he would like to keep it in his pocket so he could enjoy it for the rest of the day.  He nodded his head and stuck it in his pocket.  Many times during the day I observed him take it out to give it a sniff.  Each time it produced a smile for him just as it had for me.

It was a beginning.  A way for me to see into the depths he kept locked into that quiet little face.

For the rest of that year I would bring in special things from my gardens and we would communicate through the scent of herbs and flowers.  If he liked it, it went into his pocket, and if he didn’t he would wrinkle his nose and hand it back.
By the end of the year we were having verbal conversations.  They were short ones, but those few words between us are a treasure I hold dear to my heart.

I often think of him and wonder if he remembers our herbal communications.  Did I plant a seed?  Does he still enjoy the scents of herbs and flowers even today?  By now I feel he is old enough to plant a garden of his own, and I like to think that if he does have a garden, that there is Cleveland sage growing somewhere in the midst of it.

You may call me a dreamer, but that was a special year, and I hope the seeds we planted were special ones… and that they bore fruit.


A special thank you to Lynda Phillips Kachurek, at Second Memory, for her post on Aromatherapy which inspired me today. 

26 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time in the West: the power of a flower

  1. shoreacres says:

    What a beautiful story! The smiles the sage brought to his face are wonderful, but equally noteworthy was his willingness to hand back what he didn’t like. There’s such freedom in that – far too many children (and maybe adults, too?) say they like everything, just to please those around them.

    And there’s no question you opened the door to words with your gestures. I’ve often thought that if I could start life over, I’d do it as a teacher. The few experiences of teaching I’ve had were special, and stories like yours warm my heart.

    Scents do have power. My favorite is lemon verbena, although clove and cinnamon get their turn in the fall and winter. My biggest surprise was planting a baby camphor tree and discovering one afternoon that, yes indeed, its crushed leaves smelled just like the Campho-Phenique my mother put on my “boo-boos” when I was a kid!

    • pixilated2 says:

      Thank you Linda. I have new gardens here, some of the scents from home were replanted, others, like the Cleavland sage, had to be left behind because they will not grow here. My gardens have to filled with olfactory, and tactile experience, as well as the obvious visual delights that so many lovely gardens aspire to.

      As for dirty hands, well you will often find me with dirt under my nails. It seems that even though I have gloves I chronically forget to put them on. It only takes a little weed to get me off onto a tangent of “tidying up,” and before I know it I have ruined my nails and roughened my hands beyond repair. 😉
      ~ L

  2. duck duck goose says:

    I think you must have been a great teacher. Especially to the introverted observers, like that little boy. They often get overlooked. While I think everyone must have a teacher they particularly loved, like this boy obviously did you… (you got his trust)… maybe not everyone does have that.

    I had a third grade teacher, Miss Cullins, who took that type of interest in me. She gave me total access to the library. She’d stop me to see how I was. She looked at me with kindness and had great patience with me.

    After my beloved Gramma died, who’d raised me with that same type of patient kindness, Miss Cullin quietly stepped into that void.

    My homelife was horrible and violent without my Gramma to protect me…. but that one teacher’s kindness is what I remember from that time.

    Never underestimate the impact you have in a child’s life. While you cant be sure exactly what that boy remembers of your relationship that year, he remembers something and it helped form him as an adult. Of that you can be sure.

    • pixilated2 says:

      You make me blush! Thank you Connie, for your compliments, and thanks also for sharing with me. Even after all these years I helps on some level to know I wasn’t the only one who had it rough at home… ~ L

  3. magsx2 says:

    I loved the story, and I have no doubt that wherever he may be he remembers you and I also have no doubt that he has a garden as well. 🙂

  4. littlesundog says:

    What a wonderful story! I feel the sharing of scents will not be forgotten by either of you. Scents are something that may take us on a journey back in time… a special remembrance. My Grandmothers both loved roses, and I have many rose shrubs myself. Each time I smell them I think of my Grandma’s rose gardens.

    I remember a few special teachers in my life. People who took the time to encourage me and say something kind. I too, had a rough time at home. I remember with fondness, a few special teachers who seemed to understand and had a way of bringing me out of my protective shell. I have a feeling you were one of those special teachers who took an interest in those who needed you most.

    • pixilated2 says:

      Lori, I tried so hard, and often it worked! There is one smell that can yank me all the way back to my childhood. It is Jergen’s lotion. My Grandmother always smelled of it. 🙂 ~ L

  5. Steve Schwartzman says:

    That’s a nice intersection of the worlds of teaching and plants. I’ve read that scents activate a primordial part of our brain. I don’t know if that’s true, but I can say that there are times when I’ll open my door or step outside in Austin (Texas) and the smell of the morning will immediately take me back to the days half a century ago when I waited in my town on Long Island (New York) for the morning school bus to come.

    Steve Schwartzman

    • pixilated2 says:

      Steve, I viewed a science film as a teenager, and did you know that when certain parts of the brain are directly stimulated, that you can smell the memory of that scent that is stored there? (Did that make sense?) It works for sounds and other memories too. Very weird science, as they have to open your cranium to do it (and I wouldn’t want to be on the working end of that electrode) but amazing nonetheless. ~ L

    • pixilated2 says:

      Thank you! There were many frustrations in my years of teaching, mostly with the bureaucratic bits, but the parts while working with my students were a treasure!
      ~ L

  6. victoriaaphotography says:

    A beautiful post – uplifting, inspiring and very touching at the same time. As a trained Aromatherapist many years ago, I can attest to the power of the olfactory senses, As a carer of a couple of emotionally traumatised children many, many years ago, I can also suggest walks in gardens, parks, zoos and getting ‘up close and personal’ with Nature as a way of inspiring children to look around themselves and gain an understanding of the flora and fauna that we humans live with.
    Smelling the scent of pine trees reminds me of school holidays spent on my Grandmother’s farm.

    • pixilated2 says:

      Thank you for visiting and sharing Victoria! I agree, taking them out to enjoy nature is a wonderful thing. Too few parents and/or caregivers do that as often as they might. ~ Lynda

  7. Janis says:

    Your lovely story brought back wonderful memories of my own teaching and those treasured stories I have tucked away in my heart. I miss those special moments with kids, don’t you? Janis

    • pixilated2 says:

      Thank you Janis, and yes I do! I have slowly, bit by bit been going through my teacher things and letting them go, but it is HARD. I am pretty much down to the last of it, but there are still a few mementos and much loved children’s books that I can’t part with. Yes, I really do miss it. ~ Lynda

  8. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words says:

    I sit and watch and listen to the rain and the thunder as I read this, and i don’t have the sage, but i have a stem of rosemary that always makes me smile…
    what a beautiful story…
    He remembers you….

    Thank you for sharing…
    Take Care….
    You Matter….

    • pixilated2 says:

      Thank you for your vote of confidence Maryrose. Yes, rosemary always makes me smile too. I especially love the smell of it in a summer rain! A very cleansing scent! ~ L

  9. belocchio says:

    As you go through this life one has no idea how some small gesture can take on enormous importance to the person receiving it. It behooves us to think about this and the difference we might make in someones life. Virginia

    • pixilated2 says:

      I’m so glad you came today and hope you are enjoying your visit here…

      I have been peeking at your two blogs as well. Mmmm… so many good things, where shall I start?
      ~ L

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