Fragrant Quote for March 25th, 2012 from Afoot through the Kashmir valleys By Marion Doughty

Fragrant Quote for March 25th, 2012 from Afoot through the Kashmir valleys By Marion Doughty

From Vernag I determined to push on to Atchibal, in spite of the fact that I was hardly able to put my feet to the ground, the result of the rough, scorched tracks; in such a condition were they that they might have been correctly described " as blisters and a sandal." The sparkle in the air, however, and the early freshness, the soft green of the wayside trees, the tranquil beauty of the villages, set about with vast clumps of the great sweet-smelling iris, purple, mauve, and white, would have succeeded in putting heart of grace into a stone. I. was soon oblivious to all small discomforts, and as thoroughly at one with my surroundings as if my whole existence had been passed between a rose bush and an iris patch like the cheery little butterflies and twittering birds that kept up a continuous chorus of "good mornings" from the near bushes. What a world of colour it was! The sheer gaudiness would have frightened a painter, who would never have found spectators sufficiently credulous to put faith in his portrait. The sun poured threads of light into every purple bloom and glossy leaf, till they vied with the gold-shot robes of the saints in the early Italian pictures. Hillside, rushing stream, shady trees, all quivered with light and life; even the sad-featured labourers relaxed and stopped their work for a little talk, while their womenkind, usually so silent and reserved, questioned me as to my destination and doings, and held up pretty dimpled babies, clad in red caps and insufficient shirts, for me to praise and admire. A low range of hills had to be crossed, and the heat made the path slippery and tiring, but the descent was cheaply bought at the price of a little fatigue and some rough walking. In a few minutes I had passed from a gaudy flower carpet of crimson roses, yellow berberis, violet iris, to a world in white, Kashmir in her spring wedding garment, veiled in snowy blossoms, to a whiteness turned to silver by the sunny glow, a veritable Easter garden, full of sweet perfumes, an altogether unforgettable vision of loveliness. Hawthorns, a white viburnum, guelder roses, cluster roses, soft, loose peonies, spikes of eremurus, a small honeysuckle (Lonicera spinosa), and a drapery of clematis montana were answerable for the taller masses. Beneath, a carpet of tiny treasures, white arabis, strawberry flowers, shepherd's purse, and oxalis was spread out, while graceful Solomon's seals and a white comfrey filled all spaces between the upper and the lower ranks. With such a wealth of treasures it seemed ridiculous to attempt the carrying off of a few miserable specimens, so I sat still and tried to make notches in my memory, that at least their numbers and variety might remain with me when their perfume and freshness had passed out of mind with so many more lovely things. But my men collected a great garland. It was part of a system of bribery they had found to work admirably, for when my tent or room was wreathed with blossoms, it was an impossible deed to find any fault with the skilful decorators on other grounds. I do not know why that particular hillside was so consistent in its flower scheme; perhaps the long winter months, with their snow coverings, bleach the flowers; maybe the slopes, unaccustomed to all save white, refuse the gayer blooms. Whatever the cause, that descent mid the pale blossoms, with the mingled scent of honey and fresh spring growth, will remain as one of those visions which, years after, return amid widely different surroundings, bringing, with the vivid impression of colour and scent, a heartache akin to that felt on opening a letter written by a hand that never can hold pen again, or entering a room once inhabited by a dear presence since passed away.