On the Sense of Smell

There is a certain temperature that, when reached just right, can bring a flood of memories back from every instance in which it’s been felt. It’s dependent on humidity, the angle of the sun, the brightness of the light, the amount of clouds that linger in the sky. A feeling that you have forgotten about entirely, right until it touches you once again and you feel moments from your past come rushing into clarity and then away again. One day at the pool when I was 8, another day at lacrosse practice in 8th grade. The smell of wet grass, the laughter of friends, all right at your fingertips as if you were living each of these moments again, simultaneously in a rush of flashing images.

In Seattle there is a distinct point where winter finally is cast off and the summer makes its introduction. For us, the spring is mainly a continuation of winter rains, with only slightly more sun and intermittent patches of “warmth”. Summer, however, is entirely different. Long weeks of sun where every day is the perfect temperature, with cool breezes that come off the mountains and refresh you just when you think it’s becoming a little too hot. It is on this definitive first summer day that you decide the Puget Sound is warm again, that the forest is explorable once more, that the park is finally a place to go relax. I can remember 10, maybe 15 of these days very specifically. Moments when I thought “yes, finally, summer.”
These days are so special due to the climate that consumes the Northwest for most of the year. 8 months or so are not cold relatively speaking, but still reasonably inhospitable. 42 degrees and raining. Tiny, consistent drops fall slowly over a period of hours or days without pause. Painfully consistent. It is peaceful, but because of that sensation one feels very content indoors and away from the relentless moisture outside. And when it is not raining the sky is gray and there is a bitter, nipping wind. These days are even less inviting.
There is that moment, however, that one day where the sky shows you how perfect a day can be. How sweet it smells finally breathing in the air and being outside. It smells so sweet that you never want to go back inside. You leave all the doors open in the house so you never have to stop smelling and you rarely even occupy the house itself because it makes you feel guilty for rejecting the gift the sun is giving you. And like this it stays, day after day until finally we are met with this perfect moment’s counterpart, the cold flash of the grayness returning again.
I woke up far away from my home today, in another home thousands of miles away. But I still felt that combination. The perfect breeze, the patches of clouds dotting the sky, the temperature that’s just right. All combining to create a smell that I have discovered must exist everywhere in the world when the skin experiences this divine mix of arbitrary sensations. Most likely it is a figment of my imagination, not even a smell at all. That doesn’t make it any less real.
Makes me want to go play with my dog.

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