The much needed rain I’ve had the past few days has released the scent of the forest so strongly that this morning it felt as though I was suddenly in some exotic and unknown landscape. Just walking from one end of the lane to the other brought me dozens of different scents, some identifiable, some not. In an instant the forest feels different from the one where I live every day.
Spring in the forest is such a heady smell, and each forest has its own notes. Each plant species, each tree species has its own distinctive scent. It is a lot more complicated than just a northern forest of conifers smelling differently than a southern forest. We are all aware of that distinction.
Within the same region, each patch of forest has its own tones. Even when an area has similar species, each patch will have more or fewer of some of its plant species. Just a short distance away, the mix may be slightly different. One forest area could be a little wetter, another a little higher, and each little change subtly affects the species and the numbers of those species that grow there. That change to the mix affects the scent that forest exudes.
It is times like this morning when I wish my sense of smell was as strong as a dog’s, so I could see if I could learn to pinpoint my location just by the mix of scents. How finely could I pinpoint it if I was dropped blindfolded in different parts of the woods? Could I tell the forest in my parents’ woods from the forest in front of the cabin? Could I tell the difference in the forest in front of my cabin from the forest on the other side of the new pond?
Since humans’ sense of smell is more limited than other animals, I am surprised that when I think of certain places, it is the scent of them that I remember most clearly. Sometimes, I will get a whiff of something and it will bring back some memory of something I’d thought I’d forgotten. And that memory will be so strong that for an instant it is as though I am back in that other place. For me, smells recreate the memory of other places and times more intensely than sights and sounds do, even though those senses are our more acute ones.
This morning, the scent of the spring forest is one that will stay with me.