Petrichor….the smell of the rain. I learned that word recently. With the surfeit of rain we have had here in the northeast, it has become not only a frequent visitor, but evocative of one of those smells that lingers in my mind. I also think it is a lovely sounding word. It’s probably going to come up in the New York Times Sunday crossword at some point, so perhaps you’ll want to remember it as it rolls off your tongue.
My sense of smell is strong, both for the intensely foul things (think driving behind a garbage truck on a hot July day), as well as for smells such as pine trees in a forest, that you can smell as you step on the needles, and wander into the deepest parts of a wood, the dampness holds the scent close. The sad part of being able to smell all these scents, is that my FHB can’t smell them along with me. He apparently, somewhere along the way, lost his ability to smell anything. It seemed to fade away. I was baking something quite fragrant, perhaps cinnamon bread, and I was floating along with the smell as it wafted above me, I made a sound of contentment and delight. I was then asked, “What are you so happy about?” and I said “Inhale and take in the amazing smell!” It was then, that he turned and said “I don’t smell anything” and we were both confused. There are a lot of medical reasons he may have lost it, but it seems connected to an overuse of allergy medicine, which is not a very romantic explanation, but accurate. Smells are not able to be easily described to another person. It requires my being a bit less effusive because it is so powerful on my end, but just annoying on his.
Let’s talk about flowers and freshly baked bread, not simultaneously. There are some flowers, like delphinium, wisteria, and honeysuckle that make me feel nostalgic. Something in a deep part of my memory responds to those flowers and I have not determined where it may have started, perhaps in another life, because it envelops me with such intensity. It’s rather comical that most flowers make me sneeze since I stick my nose into the bloom, and yet, it makes me so happy in the moment. I love lilacs, and lilies, but the strong scent sends me running toward tissues and away from the flowers. I am highly allergic to bees, so that also creates another set of difficulties since the smell is better as you get closer.
Food is a marriage of taste and smell. I think coffee smells better as it is brewing than it actually tastes. Freshly baked bread is probably fifty percent smell and fifty percent taste. I am doing my research and will get back to you on that one. There was a Silvercup bread factory that was situated in Long Island City, Queens and was right next to the No. 7 elevated train that went from Flushing to Times Square. That was the train that we took into “the city” a.k.a. Manhattan. Silvercup was not a great bread. It was an enriched white bread that slathered with peanut butter and jelly did stick to the roof of your mouth every time. But in the smell department, as you rode by, it was memorable and we would inhale as the train took a curve heading into the tunnel. If I was transported back in time, it would be a smell that left a wonderful olfactory memory. It’s been out of business for a long time but it is something that folks that remember.
Smell is the sense that protects us by warning us of fire before we see it and food spoilage. When my FHB looks at the date on the milk, I am suddenly volunteered for sniff patrol. A blessing and a curse. It reminds me of the balance in the world of nature, which doesn’t seem to exist in the people run world. The recent rain gives us the water we need and the smell that reminds of the dust that settles after a period of dryness. Nature is so smart and is to be revered and respected. Less so the people in the moment.