As the last blog post demonstrates, Abby and I have begun thinking quite a bit about senses. We've been interviewing folks in every town we pass through about the most distinctive representation of each of the five senses from their home place. Focusing in on what our senses are experiencing is SO CENTERING. Travel has a tendency to uproot, shift one's gaze to the road ahead, distract from the present moment. This little project has really brought us back down to Earth, to really BE in the places we are so quickly passing through.
One of my Great Great (etc. etc.) Aunt Mae's many legacies is the word "Swellelegant". Well, sense we've been talking a good deal about SENSES this trip, I thought that "Smellelegant" is an appropriate word to add to the dictionary.
Because even if smells aren't too pleasant, even if they're rank and rotten and rancid (like our boots after a couple days of never drying out in the Pacific Northwest...) they are still ELEGANT, aren't they? They surround you, bathe you, wind their fine, invisible tendrils up your nose, and conjure up strong memories of places and times.
And yet, as is the case with all things elegant, scents are notoriously difficult to describe. While we have words specific to sights, sounds, feelings, and tastes, no such unique vocabulary exists for sound. We instead have to resort to feeble comparisons. "Smells like...(teen spirit?)"
UNTIL NOW! I, Carlisle Evans Peck, of not always sound mind and body, will now attempt to fabricate a vocabulary to capture the many sensuous scents that have wafted up our nostrils on this great journey. Let us begin with...
Alpenfroid - the sweet, minty, spicy, piney, frigid, oh so brisk you could ring it like a bell scent of a mountain. It's sky blue and rimmed with ice crystals and pine needles. There are many subvarieties of this smell, depending on the mountain range. Sweeter in Montana, dustier in Nevada, more cedar in the Cascades, spicier in Utah.
Putrimarine - refers to the rank, overwhelming seaweed + roadkill + rotting fish odor of a decomposing gray whale we found on the beach in Langlois, OR.
Saffrochine - little known fact: the inside of a rotting Limber Pine of Lake Tahoe looks like turmeric and smells like resin, citrus, cinnamon, cardamom, and sunlight.
That's all I got for now, but fear not! I'll have more terms to add to your olfactory dictionary soon enough.