This afternoon, I did something a bit different as I enjoyed an afternoon walk through our neighborhood. Rather than using the walk to catch up on email and do a little reading on my iPhone, I put the device in its belt-clip and actually paid attention to the walk itself. Not with my eyes, however; instead, I closed my eyes for a few seconds at frequent intervals and enjoyed the varied scents of summer.
It's amazing how redolent the season's smells can be, and how little attention I normally give them. The heavy, loamy smell of wet earth following yesterday's rains, underscored by the subtleties of molds that accompany the wet soil and leaves and pine straw; the muskiness of the flowers and fragrant plants along the route, accented by the sweetness of recently-cut grass; the slight tang of the the light breeze wafting through the woodland area around the creek; the distinct woody smells of oak and poplar; the sharp scent of pine. And of course, there were the other smells--the colognes and/or soaps, floral and sweet, from the two women joggers who passed me heading in the opposite direction; the heavy, overhanging smell of diesel fumes from the truck that drove by on Gordy Parkway; the sulfurous smells of auto exhausts; the acrid odor of cigarette smoke that trailed from the window of a passing truck, hanging along the roadway for almost a hundred yards; the heavy smells of animal droppings from an area frequented by dog-walkers; the immediately identifiable odor of death from the roadway remains of a small animal (probably a squirrel) hit by a car a day or two earlier; the bouquet of fabric softener wafting from a house where someone was drying clothes; the distinctive smells of grilling hamburgers and grilling chicken from two different houses where lunch was obviously being prepared. I noticed that the air even smelled different in shady areas and in areas that had been in full sun for a while; it's difficult to define, but the smells were subtly distinct. All these scents, fragrances, and odors were there this afternoon, just as they probably are every day. The difference, of course, was that this day I paid attention to them, and I remembered what it was like when I was young, not so jaded, and these smells seemed such a vital part of being outdoors.