float up our nose
buzz our brain
land safely in our hearts
on wings of air.
An Air Sign, I find myself easily caught up by a wisp of scent. I rise on redolent updrafts, suspended in time and place by the seasons’ smells.
A child, I got feverishly drunk on spring’s lily of the valley.
I languished in summer’s saddle soap and suntan oil.
Reawakened by fall opening a new box of crayons—
I was ultimately seduced with cinnamon and sage.
And in winter, I rose,
refreshed by the cleansing absence of odor.
Winter was a white blanket that muted musky leaves.
Winter was a freshness masking the perfume of rot.
Winter was breezes of blinding snow that snuffed out my sense of smell . . .
Until . . . days leading up to the holidays . . . as though sneaking down the chimney . . . entered the sharpest, most vital bouquet of all . . .
smoldering oak . . . Ivory soap steam baths . . . clove spiked orange . . . damp wool socks . . . foam of hot chocolate . . . pocketed spruce needles . . . oil drenched latkes . . . moth ball blankets . . . garlic studded roasts . . . aunt Helen’s Tabu . . .
It is said the Inuit language has, what, 47 names for snow?
English falls short in so many ways, but none more so than in
giving words to smells. To smelling. To experience.
As much as the recordable sight of a returning robin or sound of a perennial bell-ringing Santa, it was a season’s scents that oriented me. Yet, while I can relate what fills rooms, streets and yards, I fail at describing what lives in mind and soul. Neither the attars of scent, nor the extracts of experience can be satisfied by words, for those temporal yet enduring imprints live on air—intangible, meta physical.
Sense memories of the December holidays are familial. They are personal. Even private. Mine are uninterrupted ruches of ribbon candy and endless layers of petit fours. They are as sweet as simmered apple sauce and as tart as cold sour cream. They are awakening and soporific, comforting and melancholy. The balm of cedar . . . my father’s Royall Lyme . . . smoked white fish . . . menthol . . . mulled wine . . . cigar . . . my mother’s Bal a Versailles all mixed up together like a heady cocktail. They can be named, but their effect on me will always remain indescribable.
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