At the height of summer, I could always smell the Queen Mary Rose Garden before I could actually see it.
I wasn’t really a serious runner during the four years my parents lived in London. I had started running in high school: just got up one morning around 5, put on shoes, and started jogging around the neighborhood. (This may have been the contributing factor to my being a morning person.) I kept it up sporadically while I was in college, mainly because I had been a chunky adolescent and I worried about the possibility of sliding back into that place of pudge. This is a battle I feel like I’m fighting in perpetuity.
I didn’t run very fast, and I didn’t run very far. It was probably so slow that I couldn’t even call it a run. Regardless, as often as I could—usually two or three times a week—I put on my shoes and left my parents’ flat on Harley Street, ran up to Marylebone Road, and crossed into Regent’s Park. Eventually, I let the smell of traffic behind and started to smell the rose garden.
Roses are my favorite flower. I love the different nuances of smell, from sweet or light to musky or powdery. We have two wonderful rose gardens at the botanical garden where I work, and juts recently we visited the rose garden in Portland, Oregon, which I hadn’t known is also known as the Rose City. Having seen how well they grow, I can understand why, though.
I don’t remember much about what the Queen Mary Rose Garden looks like—this was over 20 years ago, and I haven’t been back since—but I remember that smell, better than any fragrance you’d find at any department store perfume counter. It was a fleeting experience: round the corner, run through, out the other side, further into the park. Whenever I think about going back to London, though, I think about that smell.
I also think about going for a run.