The whiff of ocean on the southern breeze and the smell of burning asphalt brought back memories of summers past. It had seemed as though those sweet dreams of summer would last forever: the warmth of a girl’s skin, an old rock ‘n’ roll song, freshly washed button-down shirt, the odor of cigarette smoke in a pool changing room, a fleeting premonition. Then one summer (when had it been?) the dreams had vanished, never to return.
― Haruki Murakami, Hear the Wind Sing
Everything about the house was rich, and dense, and rooted. It was everything I wasn’t. Even the air, with its distinct smell of oak wood and sage, spoke to its identity and its history. I couldn’t help but feel small here. Overwhelmed. Incompatible.
I found one remaining box of comics which I had saved. When I opened it up and that smell came pouring out, that old paper smell, I was struck by a rush of memories, a sense of my childhood self that seemed to be contained in there.
Squeeze your eyes closed, as tight as you can, and think of all your favorite autumns, crisp and perfect, all bound up together like a stack of cards. That is what it is like, the awful, wonderful brightness of Fairy colors. Try to smell the hard, pale wood sending up sharp, green smoke into the afternoon. To feel the mellow, golden sun on your skin, more gentle and cozier and more golden than even the light of your favorite reading nook at the close of the day.
At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.
The author O. Henry taught me about the value of the unexpected. He once wrote about the noise of flowers and the smell of birds – the birds were chickens and the flowers dried sunflowers rattling against a wall.