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Mountain Home Magazine

The Scent-sational Smell of the Seasons

Don’t you love the smells of summer? Sheets fresh off the line, a bouquet of dill or cilantro straight from the garden, newly mown hay, cool rain on hot pavement, Pine Creek on a hot August night, a berry patch on a sweltering afternoon. In the middle of the dry spell we were having I was noticing a different odor that seemed atypical of the fecundity associated with the season. It took me a while to identify it, but what it turned out to be was the giant ferns in our fern garden withering and dying prematurely. They don’t smell like this in the fall when their natural growing/dying cycle isn’t so influenced by an extreme lack of water.

The natural world is replete with a smorgasbord of smells, many of them unique to the seasons. When was the last time you stepped outside and really took a good whiff of what’s out there? As summer wanes we can take in the last of the garden fragrances as we’re canning and freezing the season’s bounty. I don’t know what makes leaves on the ground in the fall smell the way they do, but that, and the smell of them burning, has to be the most familiar fragrance of autumn. Big patches of goldenrod and wild asters also have a luscious and distinctive fall aroma.

As early winter creeps in, you might notice the air itself has a different smell, especially after the first hard frost. Then comes the forecast for a snowstorm and, yes, you can really smell snow in the air, just like you can smell a summer rainstorm in the offing. Sometimes it is a dampness telling you the flakes will be wet and heavy, or a kind of thinness that lets you know the snow will be dry.

One of my favorite outdoor smells comes on that first day in the spring when you can finally smell the earth again. There may still be a good deal of white stuff  hanging around, but even then the intoxicating promise of life wafts up from those damp, bare patches of ground.

Try imagining yourself as that happy dog we’ve all seen as we’re driving down the road—your head is out the open window, your ears are flying in the breeze (well, if your ears are small and close to your head they’re not, but, still...), images are flashing by so fast your eyes can hardly take them in, and your nose, ah, yes, your nose. It is in olfactory overload. Go ahead. Throw out your dryer sheets and ditch the Febreeze, open the windows, turn off  the AC, and go have a smell! 

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