The Scent of Life

Daily Post, 25 June 2014

S’mores, salty ocean breezes, veggie burgers on the grill, sweaty people on the bus — what’s the smell you associate the most with summer?

I’m heading from Eugene, Oregon to Reno, Nevada on a motorcycle – a new Goldwing. There is a choice of routes, Interstate 5 south to Shasta, or the less traveled US 97. I choose the latter. After descending from the high desert, I’m approaching the east shore of Klamath Lake. At the north end, the highway follows a narrow levy. On the west side is the water, on the east are a dozen odd-shaped hay fields, their boundaries determined by crowding rocky hills.

The May Flies are rising from the lake surface as the sun slides behind the western mountains. Each field speaks of alfalfa.The heavy scent is interrupted by sections of sage brush and the musky odor of fat horses. I’m bombarded over and over with waves of each, and I’m certain I shall hyperventilate, if this continues.

Then, with the abruptness of a summer thunder storm these smells are replaced by pines and junipers that alternate repeatedly with the undulations in the road I’m following.

By the time I reach Reno all the scents I’ve experienced, both pungent and faint, have given way to that of baked sand. And I wonder why I’m here.