When Adelaide was born, my olfactory awareness disappeared. It may have been a survival tactic my brain imposed upon me to endure the assault of babymade odors. At a certain point, I began to crave synthetic fragrance – a perfume that would rattle the doors to a shuttered library of scents.
Then in December of 2019, the whole family had a bad cold (my lungs rattled and popped for weeks) and my demured sense of smell stormed off.
The separation of sense kind of killed my ability to write about wine, or botanicals, or food, or life.
Earlier this winter, it returned.
The library flung open its doors and the repository began to leak like a spring of new ideas.
Suddenly, my daughter smells distinctly girlish. The new cat smells meaty – like sweaty flesh exposed under castoff sheets. Food has become unappealing and the house is always stuffy. Rose Otto has taken on the bitter scent of a joss stick burning urgent with midday prayers.
Yesterday, I smelled the stress and disappointment of a thousand dance partners over a thousand years: smokey linen, sweat stained silk, hot, wet wool, overpressed fabric blends melted under a hurried, hot iron mixed with the odorless air of breathless realization.
A thousand men held by the understanding that they’d lost their chance for another dance. That there would be no future, no matter what they did. Without knowing it, they’d said too much of the wrong thing. What were you trying to accomplish with all those words, boys?
This morning’s scent is different. Calm. Unhurried. Relaxed.
What am I smelling? It’s the collar of a boat shirt. It’s clean skin. It’s contentment.