Sunday, October 17, 2010

Magical Memory of Smell

Aromatic treasures gathered on the farm

'I remember plowing the fields and how, within one pass, I could smell the soil changing from swampy to clay to the dark loem.'

Dad and I are sitting up late Friday evening, drinking wine and talking about everything under the sun.  Somehow, we start reminiscing about the smells of the farm, and we stay on that topic for a long time.  

I ask him to describe the smell of his plowing experience in more detail, like an Ode (he follows my blog and immediately gets the concept).

'Well, the swampy area smells of dandelions, weeds, grass and thistles, but also floral and like...lettuce.'

He furrows his brow, thinking.  'Have you ever smelled rhubarb?' he asks.

'Yeah, sure,' I reply.

'Definitely rhubarb, too.'

'Plowing up the field,' he continues, 'I smell barley stubble with dew, which is a nutty, wet straw smell.  And clay, like a bag of cement before the gravel and water is added.'

I keep listening, quietly.

'The top of the field is the driest and it smells like a sandbox and pollen, but also licorice and molasses because of the dark soil.  Almost moldy.'

'But the best part,' Dad says, his face lighting up, 'is when the engine of the tractor heats to a certain temperature and the fuel exhaust changes to a smell that is sweet and leaded.  It only lasts a few minutes, but, blended with the freshly turned dirt, it's the best smell on earth.'

Wow.  Nice Ode.

Saturday morning, we head out to the farm to see my brother and his family, eat breakfast outside and take the 4-wheeler down into the field.

What a sight we must be.  

Riding through the farm, we stop often to test the smell of different plants.  Anything that is alive is of interest, as well as dried out cattails and flowers that once bloomed, but now crumble like dust when touched.  

We smell them all.

Dad gives me the plastic bag that holds his electrical tape and I begin collecting different items; barley stubble, sage, wild flowers and fuzzy weeds.  

I'm ten years old again.

We pull the stubble out of the ground at different points to smell the earth, noting its metallic, herbal and floral scent.  Dad can identify elements of the soil that escape me at first sniff.  

My nose is pretty damn good.  His is better.

Hanging out with another perfumista?  Great fun.

Spending time with my dad and honoring our history - and memory - through smell?

Simply magical.

Photo my own.

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