The sharpness of the late summer
The soil in New Jersey has a specific smell in early September in the late summer— that time between the heat and humidity of August and the early morning frost of the soon-to-come Indian summer. I didn’t know about that particular smell until today. And I am not in New Jersey, not even in the same hemisphere. But this smell came to me from out of nowhere this afternoon. And in just a second I was taken back to a place where I hadn't been in more than ten years. A nondescript place, a small patch of grass behind the condominium building where I was living at the time. I felt physically there with all the sensory stimuli as well — there was a distinct hum of cars and trucks from Route 17 coming from the right direction and at the right volume as well. Exactly as I remembered it.
It lasted only a few seconds, but the tangibility of this experience left me with goosebumps and amazement in the depths of my remembering.
The thing is, I didn't know I remember it. It never came up in my memories and reminiscences until today. And I shouldn't be surprised by it — it was a nothing place, just some grass on the ridge above the expressway. But it was there for years and seasons, and I would go there for a cigarette, or to catch a breath after another row and arguments at home. That means I went there a lot. And it came to me today because of a smell. The smell of soil, with overgrown grass begging for mowing with the pungency of moisture that already keeps on the grass stalks and blades — no longer evaporating in the relentless sun of the summer months. The rich smell of a bloated pregnancy of the ongoing harvest for all the living things. The smell of satiety with just a slight nervousness of the upcoming cold days and the yearly phase of deep sleep.
Memories come up to me more and more frequently over recent days. Memories brought back by a smell or a few notes of a song from years ago or by a sentence I heard on the radio or by the angle of sun rays on my face. Memories of mostly insignificant places or situations or emotions. There is nothing deep or groundbreaking in those thoughts flooding back into my mind. Just a minute reminiscence of me being in a particular place at the long-gone time in my life. I don’t know the significance of those memories — why do I suddenly remember those places and those times? But I don’t really care to know. Not everything needs to have an answer and be analyzed in depth. Let them flow back, let me regain some history of my life, no matter how mundane.