Thursday, May 13, 2010

Smells of Spring

They say April showers bring May flowers. Around here, the seasons and the months aren't quite so clear cut, and this year it seems to be going backwards. We had April flowers first, and now we have May showers. Still, Spring has sprung, and aside from the usual harbringers of the season, I can tell it's here because of the way it smells.

All seasons have certain smells associated with them, of course, but I have found that Fall and Spring tend to be the two where the aroma of the season is most easily detected out of doors. The kinds of things you can have waft into your nostrils just walking around town. Winter is more indoor smells, such as fireplaces and the smells of the holidays. Summer is more localized, as for me at least nothing says Summer like the smell of the beach or the pool. In small town where I make my home, those smells aren't likely to be just wafting my way unless I hop in the car and do some driving.

Spring smells are sidewalk smells, and not really those of most flowers. There are exceptions, as some blooms are either close enough to the sidewalk or in a big enough bush that you catch them when the breeze is right, but for the most part you have to get your nose down into the flowers if you're going to smell them. (I was taken off guard by one such flower the other day, but that's another entry.)

Grass is different. Even when it isn't being mowed for the first time, the smell of it changes when it starts to grow, especially after it rains. That may sound crazy, but having lived most of my life in a place where we cycle through all four seasons, the Spring grass smells differently, even from that of a Summer lawn. It's slightly more earthy, in part I think because you also get the smell of the ground coming out from the Winter freeze. There's also the added smell from people putting down mulch and other fertilizer around their plants, which adds to it rather pleasantly, I think.

There's also something in the way the air itself smells just after a Spring shower. Rain has a scent. Yes, it's more accurate to say that the weather patterns that come before and after a rain storm alter our ability to detect certain smells... but this is one of those times where even though I'm a science geek, I'm going to take poetry over science and just say it has a scent all it's own. A thunderstorm in summer smells different, starting with the heavier ozone, and one in Fall carries different odors, too. Spring showers have a unique smell.

(Probably why shampoo manufacturers turn to that season when they market things. I have seen shampoo and body soap scents labeled "Spring Shower" but never one that said "Autumn Shower." Might also be the visual of showering in the cold as opposed to the warmer temperatures that supposedly go with Spring.)

It may also be that I am more apt to notice the smells of the outdoors in the Spring, especially when all Winter I've been most indoors. Even when I venture outdoors in the Winter, my nose is usually covered, and snow doesn't have a smell to it that I've ever noticed. Not clean snow, anyway. So Spring represents the first time the windows have been opened in months, the first time breathing outside air on a regular basis, even when inside the house. I think that circulation has as much to do with the association as anything tangible in the air. (All smells are based on particulates. It's really best if you don't think too hard about that.)

Whatever the reasons, Spring is firmly here, and aside from the dandelions and the little daisies, I intend to enjoy all the olfactory options the season has to offer.

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