I walk to work each morning, an hour-long trek along the Charles River, over the BU Bridge, winding through the manicured lawns and vine-wrapped homes lining certain streets in Brookline. It has been a hot and humid summer. Prime time for smell. And as I walk, scents hit me—light but sharp, one at a time, pok pok pok, like ping pong balls. The cool river-scent of the Charles. The dark and earthy dank of bark mulch. Hot pavement. Car exhaust. Cigarette smoke twirling up into the air. I pass fellow pedestrians and, bam, deodorant. Perfume. Sweet, salty, sour sweat. There’s also grass, fresh cut. Coffee, fresh brewed. The promise of sun and sand.
The other night I had dinner with friends. I sat at their dining room table, close to 9pm, ready to eat: thick slices of heirloom tomatoes, roasted eggplant, anchovies, cheese, bread and wine. A veritable farmer’s market feast. Before we began to eat, the hostess walked over to her windowsill and plucked a few leaves off a small basil plant. The window was open, and right at the moment of plucking, there was a waft of warm wind. Some stray olfactory molecules hit my nose with the breeze—that fresh herbed scent. Such a familiar smell, but surprising nonetheless. It filled my mind with the color green, the lightness of summer.
On Thursday I read from Season to Taste at Porter Square Books. It was a wonderful evening, filled with friends and family and readers and writers and just a few people who wandered in to buy a magazine but stayed to listen and then chat. Afterward, I went out for drinks with a few folks, including one of my oldest friends, who lives across the country but just so happened to be in town for the week. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be here, in the present, in the moment, right now. I’m trying to pay more attention to the small things right in front of me. The tastes, the smells, the way it feels to laugh. But when my friend and I hugged for the first time in a long time, I inhaled, my nose right there by his head. And then there I was, immediately transported back. I no longer existed in that moment, but one far in my past.