The shade under the mulberry tree is now quite dense, and, the space around it also being screened from the south by tall bushes and from the east by the house, it makes a pleasant corner in which to indulge my summer languor. The cats enjoy it, too, though, for the time being, they are driven away by the blue jays who have nested in the bushes. So, I sit in the shade, under the watchful eyes of the birds, while the cats laze in smaller patches of shade on the other side of the yard. Eventually, one or the other of them will catch the birds napping and raid the nest. Then the jays will build a new nest somewhere else. This happens every year. The jays never seem to learn.
The gardenia in the front yard is now blooming, too. I don't mind the scent of jasmine drifting from behind the house, or the occasional whiff of Scottish broom from down the street, powerful though they are, but I find gardenia overpowering. I wonder sometimes if I didn't have a negative experience with something or someone smelling of gardenia when I was very young. I know that I enjoy certain smells that might be considered offensive by some people, and I dislike many scents that most people enjoy. I can't stand the smell of those fabric softeners such as Downey and Bounce. But I like the smell of oil and of diesel exhaust. There was an oil field not far from where I grew up, and sometimes I would catch a whiff of it when I was playing in my yard or walking around the neighborhood. There was the oil along the beach, too. Some of it was from ships which would flush out their tanks before entering the port. Some of it was from natural seepage that occurs from the oil-bearing strata under the sea along the coast of Southern California- rather like underwater equivalents of the La Brea Tar Pits. Whatever the source, the gobs of tar wash ashore at most of the beaches near Los Angeles, and their odor is an unmistakable part of the atmosphere there.
My enjoyment of diesel fuel is most likely the result of the trips we made downtown by bus when I was young. The big, red, smoking bus always meant adventure to me. There was almost always a bag of popcorn at the bus depot. There would be a visit to one or another of the dime stores, with the purchase of some sort of candy or roasted nuts. There was always lunch, at a cafeteria or a lunch counter, and, in the later case, a malted milk. And the afternoon would be topped off by a movie at one of the big theatres on Broadway or Hill Street. Then it would be back to the bus depot and the ride home on another big red bus. And, all day, the scent of diesel fumes would drift through the exciting streets. To this day, diesel remains one of my favorite smells.
Sometimes, when I'm sitting in my yard in this bucolic backwater, a lumber truck, or a diesel powered delivery van, or a fire engine will pass by along the nearby cross street, and I'll catch a whiff of the fumes, and find myself growing nostalgic for the noisy boulevards of Los Angeles. If it also covers up the smell of the gardenia, that's a bonus.