Friday, September 23, 2011

You’re a part-time lover


It’s fall here in the north woods, which means that the leaves are turning orange and falling. This season is when the leaf peepers and the partridge come out. I’m in a good mood, mainly because it got back up to 73 degrees again today. Maybe for the last time. But all the Mainers have been saying that for the last two months. I learn quick.

I’m not impersonating a peeper, but it is nice to appreciate the leaves as they turn. I understand why the Canadians chose the maple leaf—those suckers are red. The road itself seems to change color by the season—the black-and-white of winter, the green of spring and summer, and now a low-toned glowing yellow. I catch new colors every day, and I’ve never been one to celebrate the dying of a season.

There’s a smell that has meant the Maine woods for me since I finished hiking the Appalachian Trail—a deep, musky smell, slightly sweet, slightly smelling of garlic. I love the smell, and I can’t describe it. On the trail, I smelled it when we crossed high ridges, when the moss was thin on the rocks. Here, there’s one spot in the back of the land where I catch a whiff of it, just at the edge of the field.

I walked back there with a companion the other day, and I asked what the smell was. He said: It’s something dead.

The smell I love is the smell of death. A dense smell, combined with the smell of things growing from the earth, fungi, and weeds, and blackberry bramble. It smells so rich, and dark. Maybe it’s the same reason we celebrate the fall. The death, from which all life comes.

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