Sunday Opinion: Fragrance

My sense of smell is put to shame by my corgis.  These dogs know that someone will be walking by-5 minutes in advance of the event.  When they are shrieking and howling, I know something is about to happen.  Their noses warn me in advance. 

  My sense of smell is much more after the fact, and pedestrian.   The fragrance of Casa Blana lilies about flattens me-that odor is so sweet, and so strong.  The smell of ammonia makes my eyes water.  The smell of diesel fuel and exhaust makes me think of Buck, riding his Harley.  The smell of hyacinths makes me think about spring.  The smell of the lindens in bloom makes me think about England.  The fragrance of phlox, and petunias makes me think about summer.  The smell of roses-divine.  

Compost has a very distinctive fragrance.  How shall I describe it?  Earthy.  Musty.  Like mushrooms.  The smell of fresh mushrooms is as pleasurable as any fragrance it has ever been my privilege to experience.   The smell of fresh mown grass is indescribable-the fragrance that mulitple leaves give off when they are cut and threshed-delicious.  Cassia leaves when touched smell like popcorn.  Rosemary leaves have a distinctively acrid smell.  The smell of fresh basil makes my mouth water.  Lettuce has a watery fragrance.  Rain has a fresh fragrance.  Tomatoes smell warm.  It has to be 30 years ago that I dug into the side of a compost pile on a very cold fall day to make myself a warm place to have lunch-the memory is so much about the warm steamy fragrance of that compost.      

There are those fragrances that warn me that all is not well.  I know when I need to take a shower.  Plants rotted from too much water have a troublesome smell.  Decomposition in the absence of air has a foul odor.  There is no  mistaking the smell of an infuriated skunk.  An electrical short smells like a fire about to be.

 Some smells are attractive to some and not so much to others.  Buck would not touch a bunch of cilantro without gloves.  He insists he cannot wash away that smell.  Needless to say, he doesn’t eat cilantro either.  Dogs smell doggy.  Wet dog smell is pretty pungent.  I don’t mind either one.  The smell of boxwood-some like it, some don’t.  I never met a cheese that didn’t smell good to me.  I like the fragrance of Chanel #5 as it reminds me of a favorite Aunt who wore it every day.         

I have a childhood memory of eating cucumber salad in the summer. Buck has been trying to recreate that childhood cucumber salad for me the past few weeks.  My memory is about the smell, and the taste-I have no idea how it was made.  His current recipe-very very thin slices of cucumber are sprinkled with salt, and left to drain.  Later, he squeezes the water out, and dresses the the limp slices with sour cream.   The moment he skins and chops a cucumber, the kitchen is filled with its distinctive and fresh fragrance.  Could there possibly be any fragrance as beautiful as that generated by a cucumber?

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