Local Scents

I can’t locate myself by the scent of the place, but I can tell you who is doing what, which animals have been around, and wind direction. Come with me on an evening walk in a typical neighborhood during late December, around 1845 CST.

I set off southbound. The strong whiff of manure tells the world that the wind has switched to the south-west, bringing eau d’feedlot. It’s not so strong as to be unpleasant, and the wind has been fading anyway, so the scent will go away. A sharp whiff of smoke followed by the heavy scent of pitch warns of someone burning cheap pine wood, not the good stuff. That’s a little rough on the chimney, but some people like it. There’s a bit of humid floral scent, the universal perfume of a dryer. No matter what soap or dryer sheet (if any), all dryers smell the same from outside the house. That family does a lot of laundry, based on what I observe in the evenings.

At the end of the second block I turn east. The air is cool and crisp, dry. Crunching through leaves brings up some dust and leaf-smell. A diesel pickup chugs past, leaving exhaust in the air for several seconds. Diesel fumes always take me back to Europe, to London and even more to Vienna, because of being out and about during the wee hours of the morning, when deliveries are permitted in the central district of the city. Only workmen, me, and the truly devout are generally moving at those hours. After another few blocks I swing south. Moist dampness reveals someone watering grass. A rich, fatty smoke drifts down. Someone else has piñon in the fireplace. I stop to sniff appreciatively. The wood is rarely burned around here, now. Growing up, it was a common “luxury” wood around Christmas. Two houses pass. Another dryer.

Come the next block, I wrinkle my nose. Clackita clackita clackita hssss, and the sweet, too sweet, scent of a chemical. Not paint exactly, or solvent, but something too sweet and artificial. The wind paces me and the scent lingers for five houses before I escape and return to the usual night smells. Once I turn the corner, eastbound once more, sharp burning and scorch. I shake my head. Someone’s burger fell into the coals. No one is smoking meat tonight, alas, but several grill, mostly burgers.

A bit of dust comes through the air. Road construction has torn up several stretches of pave, and the dirt is departing, as it so often does around here. A sharp, bitter underscent cuts through everything else. The skunk has expressed unhappiness, and is sharing that distress with someone. Who will pass it along wherever he goes. Skunk fades and I catch a whiff of balsam. A new wreath on the Little Free Library adds scent to the air.

Cool, chilly night settles on the area. Stars have no scent, unless it is the clean, moist cold of snow after a storm that clears out the skies, revealing Orion, Taurus, and the Sisters in all their brilliant glory. I return home, exercised and entertained. Home smells of gingerbread and dust and a bit of tomato tartness from supper. Soon the spicy perfume of a winter tea will join the blend, held in chilly hands that ache oh so faintly from the cold.

3 thoughts on “Local Scents

  1. Very nice and different description of the neighborhood! Even though I’m half deaf, I tend toward identification of the various noises rather than scents.

Comments are closed.