Life, Lavender, and Loving Without Expectation: A Summer Story

It’s often said that smell is the most powerful trigger for memories so perhaps that’s why the memory is especially vivid.

For me, the first image of summer that comes to mind is just beautiful fields of purple lavender. Every year in June, I pay a visit to the annual lavender festival at Tihany. It’s a beautiful spot on Lake Balaton in Hungary; a pretty church sits on top of a natural promontory overlooking the lake and the lower slopes are laid out with row upon row of beautiful purple lavender. The elevated position means there is a gentle breeze that, together with the warm sunshine, helps to carry the sublime fragrance to one’s nostrils. It’s often said that smell is the most powerful trigger for memories so perhaps that’s why the memory is especially vivid.

And there was one year, I was walking on that same hillside just after sunset, at which time the fragrance seemed even more powerful, when, perhaps as much from the intoxication of the senses as the fading light and uneven ground, I happened to slip and fall off the path – actually, there was a drop, and rocks lying around, and as I say, the light was bad so it could have been nasty – into the field below. So, I was falling blind, really, and I was extremely fortunate that my fall was broken by an especially luxuriant lavender bush. I stood up, fearing I must have injured myself and I was astonished and relieved to find that not only was I completely unhurt, but neither were my clothes marked or torn. I did, however, feel bad for the lavender bush, which was looking a little squashed and forlorn. I walked home, reeking of lavender, and promising to myself that I would return the following morning to repair any damage I had caused to this lavender bush that had ultimately saved me from injury.

I woke up and the hotel room was filled with the smell of lavender from the clothes I had worn the night before. I grabbed a quick coffee and went straight back to the hillside to fulfil my promise. I don’t know exactly what I thought I would do but it was on my mind and so I found the lavender bush and, sure enough, there it was below the path, noticeable for the man-sized dent in its side. I fiddled about with the squashed and broken parts, trying to fluff it up like a pillow but, obviously, there wasn’t anything I could do; it was still a healthy plant, but it would always have a dent in it as a result of its encounter with me.

So, I left a mark on the plant, but it also made an impression on me. I realised that, because this lavender bush had saved me from injury and itself become injured in the process, therefore I wanted to give something back. I felt like I owed the lavender bush, and it didn’t help that the smell of it was still clinging to me like my own shadow. But here’s the thing: there was no way of me paying the lavender bush back, even if I tried. And it got me thinking that it’s the same with people: if you see someone falling, you rush to help them and break their fall, not because you expect them to give you something back, but simply because you want to help them and you do it gladly. And if you happen to scratch or bruise yourself or get dirt on your clothes because you helped someone who fell, you don’t curse or demand that the person compensates you for the damage; you accept that true help sometimes costs you but it is worth the reward. The reward is that you increased the amount of goodness in the world.

Photo credit: Joseph Felfoldi

This post was previously published on Joseph Felfoldi and is republished here with permission from the author.

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