Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Three Good Things

This time every May, three good things take form in front of my house.
Madison confederate jasmine

Clove pinks "baby carnations"

and Sweet Bay Magnolia blossoms.

All three have heavy perfumes that permeate the evening air.
Each has a different sweet scent.
The jasmine smells very sweet and honey-like,
the baby carnations smell spicy sweet like cloves,
and the sweet bay magnolia smells very creamy and lemony.
I call them my triad.
Triads, trinities, triquetras, 3's.
I've always liked the number 3. It always seemed like the perfect number to me.
So I thought I'd see how the number 3 figures in myth, culture and history.
I discovered quite a few threesomes, many religious in nature,
but I'll just discuss the three items that caught my attention.
The first interesting triad I discovered
was an Anglo Saxon unit of measure smaller than the inch.
According to the article "The World of Measurements" 
by H. Arthur Klein cited in,
in the year 1324 the legal definition of an inch was
"three grains of barley, dry and round, laid end to end, lengthwise";
this is similar to a definition noted early in the 10th century
in the Welsh laws of Hywel Dda:
"three lengths of a barleycorn is the inch"
(John Williams, cited in
According to a nonsensical website called,
the number 3 is associated with pale yellow or cream,
yellow roses, and the gem topaz.
I think sometimes these rather silly notions
that appear on the internet are just made up,
but since two of my three good smelling flowers of early May
are cream and yellow, I'll go along. 
The website also describes a few superstitions related to three:
 a 3-legged dog brings good luck
(I wonder for whom? Certainly not the dog)
marrying on May 3rd is unlucky
if a cat washes his ears three times good luck follows.
It doesn't say if the good luck is for the cat or the observer.
My mother used to tell stories about little gnomes and fairies
that lived in cottages under the grass, so
that's probably why I found this last item somewhat charming.
According to the book Walking the Faery Pathway, by Harmonia Saille,
(google books) when trees of oak, ash, and hawthorn
grow near one another, they form what is called a "fairy triad."
Saille says the grouping of these three trees 
creates a magical portal to the fairy kingdom.
I imagine this idea sprang from Rudyard Kipling's book
Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies
and the beginning stanza of his poem "A Tree Song":

Of all the trees that grow so fair
Old England to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the Sun,
than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn ...

So there we have it,
three bits of trivia, one for each of my 3 sweet-smelling flowers of May.
Three good things.

No comments: