June 09, 2003

Sunday Matinee

What is that smell? As we walked down the road along the creek, it never changed, never stronger, never fainter. It is as if the air uniformly were filled with an atomized oily essence that is 'everywhere and nowhere present', as strong in the woods as along the edge of the pasture. Breathing normal shallow breaths, we weren't aware of it. We breathed more deeply as we walked, and the fragrance became impossible to ignore.

Sweet. It is a sweet, almost cloyingly sweet smell. Honey-like, but more like honey than honey. If it were a taste, a small bite would be exquisite, more than that nauseating. It is an aroma to which the nose does not habituate. The vast majority of the smells of humanity are of the awful variety which mankind, in our long and squalid pre-hygienic history, has been compelled to endure in homes and stockyards and marketplaces. It is a mercy, then, that usually, with prolonged exposure to a 'smellant', the nerve-endings of smell eventually tire out, and the stench of first encounter seems to disappear; we 'get used to' it. But this oily-sweet smell in our air does not seem to abate over time, adding to the impression that the mysterious smell borders on obnoxious. But then again, it is oddly pleasant.

My best guess is that we are smelling the copious pollen of pasture grasses, now weeks overdue to be cut for hay. The yellow powder coats every surface, and the cats paws leave little cloverleaf tracks where she pads across the porch. In literally thousands of acres in Southwest Virginia, pasture grasses have grown heavy with gray-green flowering tops going to seed. The tall grasses have been wet time after time in the every-other-day rains we've had since early April and now lay bent and matted in the fields. It all seems doomed to 'go to the bad', to be cut down eventually when we get a few dry days in a row, to be baled wet and spoilt or simply cut and dozed over to the edge of fields to decay. We'll hope for better fortune come time for the second cutting.

Our walk was cut short by unexpected thunder. As we hurried back in the direction of home, but not too much hurry, the sky took on that eerie orange glow that often presages or closely follows towering thunderheads. By the time we reached the house and stood together in the lazy rain on the front porch steps, a full 180 degree rainbow arched over our pasture, with one end cocked akimbo up on our ridge. Our day was ending with rains, a rainbow, and the inescapable saccharine perfume of early June. As the last page of a long hard week and beginning lines of another full of promise and new worlds of words, this all seems just about right. Just exactly right.

Posted by fred1st at June 9, 2003 06:39 AM | TrackBack

What you describe sounds (or should I say "smells"?) like honeysuckle.

Posted by: Jeff at June 9, 2003 07:57 AM

What you describe sounds (or should I say "smells"?) like honeysuckle.

Posted by: Jeff at June 9, 2003 07:57 AM

That's what I thought, too!

Posted by: Debi at June 10, 2003 07:25 AM

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