Years ago, when I was living in Kansas, I fell in love with the library. Every week I went and checked out as many books as I could carry. Sometimes I finished them, sometimes not. I found the cooking section, the writing section, the Christian living section and of course worked my way through the fiction. Among the many treasures I found a book called A Writer's Book of Days. It's a book of writing prompts--one for each day. I loved it so much I found the book at a bookstore and bought it. I've had it ever since and have gone through periods of time where I faithfully write a page per day. Today's prompt was to write about a scent. The idea is to grab the first image that comes to you and just write without thinking too much. Eventually, what you want to say will turn up on the page.
The first image I had was very distinct. About a year after I had move to California, I'd been laid off of my horrible job and was working as a temp at a medical research facility. I was hoping they'd hire me so I worked my behind off (my first fundraising job). One of my duties was to walk from our building to the main campus building and pick up the mail. As I was leaving the mail building one day, I noticed a very strong smell. It was a clean smell--like laundry soap. I looked around for flowers or something but only the huge torrey pines grew tall around me. Those were horrible trees--they dropped this yellow pollen everywhere in the spring and didn't look like pine trees at all. More like a cruel mix of pine tree and oak tree.
But what was that smell? It took months to identify it--it was the ocean. Just across the street, I couldn't even see it from where I was. Those horrid trees blocked it's view (that and the country clubs) so that I could only smell what I could not see. It was the kind of smell that made me want to turn my nose into it and gulp in as much as possible--following it until I could find the source and then roll around in that smell so I could take it with me.
Years later I would find a pale blue candle in a Yankee Candle store labeled "Ocean Breeze". It was the very same smell--they had captured it in a jar and now I can smell it here--all the way across the country.
Nick said just yesterday how he missed the ocean--especially the beach. But we're so close! Let's go to the beach! They Jersey shore is just hours away if that. In nearly two years we haven't yet gone.
It's not the same, he says.
Well, why not? And by the way, how do you know? We've never gone.
Because, he says. The Beach Boys and the Jersey Boys are not the same.
Surely not. Perhaps next summer we'll venture to the eastern shore and I'll know if it has the same smell.