O is for Olfaction

Olfaction, noun

1. the sense of smell
2. the act of function of smelling

Smell can evoke long-lost memories, but certain smells in the village seem to go far beyond that, to a time I cannot possibly remember.

The smell of the first fires at the end of summer for instance, when temperatures drop in the evenings  and the villagers are lighting their cast iron wood burners.  Every year it stops me in my tracks, as if I’ve just arrived home, a strong sense of belonging.

In the heat of summer however, the smell of fire is a different story, it sets my adrenaline off.  Nothing brings out my inner Stone Age Woman more.  It’s possible for the smell of  forest fire smoke to descent from areas far away in the evenings,  causing me to run outside and scan my direct environment for signs of devastation.

Village smells which you only really notice strongly in the beginning are the Eucalyptus and pine trees.  After a while it blends into the landscape somehow, only getting a bit stronger again in Spring when the eucalyptus trees are flowering.

There are season related smells, the smell of mimosa being one of the most profound ones in late February, simply intoxicating, indicating Spring isn’t far off.

Summer has its own blend, hay being part of that, and in late summer the faint sweet smell of fruit which hasn’t been picked, rotting on the ground.

I shouldn’t forget the smell of the wine harvest. First the barrels which people roll outside and clean out,  the smell of old wet oak, followed by the  grapes themselves when they are being driven past in the carts, and in the end the smell of fermenting grapes.

Autumn is dominated by the smell of rot, I find it strange how essentially rotting  can smell so wonderful.  And the smell of mushrooms!  I went on a course once and we were encouraged to smell the different types, some smell of apple, others of creamy milk.

In winter, especially the beginning of December, there is the smell of burnt pig skin, which is part of slaughter and which actually clings to your nostrils so horrible, but it only lasts a short while. Later that month the entire village smells of chorizo. There is nothing like it.

In regards to foods, I used to hate the smell of boiled meat, especially the salted meat  variety which requires a substantial amount of boiling time, but now I love it, when it wafts through open windows I can already taste the comforting warm broth, the tender meat and can hear the crunch of freshly baked bread which I’d use to dip.

There’s only one  food smell I really don’t like. Boiled octopus. It is a depressing type of smell, especially when emitted from the stalls in the town market, worse during the rain season.

I have no problem whatsoever with the smell of innards, I can stand with my face above a steaming pile of pig guts and clean the lot. Even removing the contents of pig stomach before cleaning it leaves me relatively unfazed. My nose is always hyper alert during the precise job of separating the guts from membranes, you’d think  it smells of shit, but it actually doesn’t. The slightest whiff of shit means holes in the guts, holes in guts need prompt action, or it can spoil the lot if not fixed quickly.

All these smells…I’d like to bottle them, to somehow turn them into a library of village smells.

But for now, all I can do is write them down.

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One thought on “O is for Olfaction

  1. Pingback: S is for Sounds | CHICADEROCK

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