smelly goodness

Was walking to catch the bus yesterday morning, a surprising chilly morning. With all the delicious smells in the air -- earth, forest, fern, wet and wood smoke-- I got to thinking about this particular sense. I wonder if smells are as sharp and tangible to others? I can't think of another sense that can transport me so quickly through time, to a particular person, or give such raw, childish joy.

I did grow up "smelling things": my family could identify the owner of an article of clothing left behind at our house simply by smelling it. "Oh, this jacket belongs to that family." Strange, but very practical skill. Even today people's homes carry an identifiable smell that, if I have known them for some time, I recognize. Even if they have moved to a new country, they still smell the same! (But, when I married and we had our own place, my brother pointed out that I no longer smelled like a Busenius, but that we now had our own "Aspegren" smell.)

The smell of nasturtiums always makes me think of crouching over my mom's flower bed as a child, diligently picking orange blossoms. Rice pudding and fresh bread, of my mom. The wet forest smell that comes here in Holsbybrunn always transports me to the hidden jewel of the British Columbia leg of the Trans-Canada Highway, The Enchanted Forest. Without fail that wet forest makes me think, "enchanted forest." The scented skin of a plum or an apple, freshly picked, I associate with my grandfather. Cut grass of summer evenings going to bed too early while my parents finished up the yard work. The first tinges of wood smoke in the air always make me think of Bosnia and El Salvador and cooking fires. Comfort clothing softener instantly reminds of the deliciousness of Martin's smell when we were dating. (He still smells good, for the record, but different.)

I suppose it can be like this for most people, the richness of smell, but it seems we've forgotten how to breathe deeply and slowly. Something about being adults and busy and such, maybe we forget to enjoy breathing.


the olden days

Recently my neighbors took me out to an "old church day" in the neighboring village, Alseda. Alseda is a small collection of old houses, a tea house, classic white-washed stone church, and farms, cut straight through the middle by the two-lane highway that has grown uncomfortably busy with DHL trucks and longhauls coming from the east coast. The church, a beautiful bright-white structure built in the 1700s, (so newish, relatively speaking) has green wooden pews and the most incredible acoustics. One can whisper on the far side of the dome, and another can hear that whisper bouncing up and dropping down like a ghost's or something from a psychotic episode. The all-seeing eye is painted in gold about the alter.

On this particular day, people were coming to church by horse and buggy, just as in the old days. Most of the folks driving buggies and wagons were as old as the contraptions they steered. Gaunt, bowed men in frock coats and bowlers, ladies in skirts and veiled hats. Most of the wagons had rubber tires, and they slowed traffic to a jam on the highway before they pulled into the church stable yard.

The yard was full of nostalgia. A regiment of the Swedish mounted calvary rode in, and everyone was busy unsaddling horses and unhitching wagons and getting the horses settled in the stable. The stable itself, my neighbor estimated, was about 200 years old, and entertaining to watch people do as others had done hundreds of years before.

The church bells began pealing before all the unsaddling and rubbing down was finished, everyone rushing to leave the horses stamping in their stalls and find a seat before the droning, calming voice of the Lutheran priest began. A very interesting morning.