The Smell Of Smells by Christopher Morley

Story type: EssayI Smelt it this morning–I wonder if you know the smell I mean?It had rained hard during the night, and trees and bushes twinkled in the sharp early sunsh …

Story type: Essay

I Smelt it this morning–I wonder if you know the smell I mean?

It had rained hard during the night, and trees and bushes twinkled in the sharp early sunshine like ballroom chandeliers. As soon as I stepped out of doors I caught that faint but unmistakable musk in the air; that dim, warm sweetness. It was the smell of summer, so wholly different from the crisp tang of spring.

It is a drowsy, magical waft of warmth and fragrance. It comes only when the leaves and vegetation have grown to a certain fullness and juice, and when the sun bends in his orbit near enough to draw out all the subtle vapors of field and woodland. It is a smell that rarely if ever can be discerned in the city. It needs the wider air of the unhampered earth for its circulation and play.

I don’t know just why, but I associate that peculiar aroma of summer with woodpiles and barnyards. Perhaps because in the area of a farmyard the sunlight is caught and focused and glows with its fullest heat and radiance. And it is in the grasp of the relentless sun that growing things yield up their innermost vitality and emanate their fragrant essence. I have seen fields of tobacco under a hot sun that smelt as blithe as a room thick with blue Havana smoke. I remember a pile of birch logs, heaped up behind a barn in Pike County, where that mellow richness of summer flowed and quivered like a visible exhalation in the air. It is the goodly soul of earth, rendering her health and sweetness to her master, the sun.

Every one, I suppose, who is a fancier of smells, knows this blithe perfume of the summer air that is so pleasant to the nostril almost any fine forenoon from mid-June until August. It steals pungently through the blue sparkle of the morning, fading away toward noon when the moistness is dried out. But when one first issues from the house at breakfast time it is at its highest savor. Irresistibly it suggests worms and a tin can with the lid jaggedly bent back and a pitchfork turning up the earth behind the cow stable. Fishing was first invented when Adam smelt that odor in the air.

The first fishing morning–can’t you imagine it! Has no one ever celebrated it in verse or oils? The world all young and full of unmitigated sweetness; the Garden of Eden bespangled with the early dew; Adam scrabbling up a fistful of worm’s and hooking them on a bent thorn and a line of twisted pampas grass; hurrying down to the branch or the creek or the bayou or whatever it may have been; sitting down on a brand-new stump that the devil had put there to tempt him; throwing out his line; sitting there in the sun dreaming and brooding….

And then a tug, a twitch, a flurry in the clear water of Eden, a pull, a splash, and the First Fish lay on the grass at Adam’s foot. Can you imagine his sensations? How he yelled to Eve to come–look–see, and, how annoyed he was because she called out she was busy….

Probably it was in that moment that all the bickerings and back-talk of husbands and wives originated; when Adam called to Eve to come and look at his First Fish while it was still silver and vivid in its living colors; and Eve answered she was busy. In that moment were born the men’s clubs and the women’s clubs and the pinochle parties and being detained at the office and Kelly pool and all the other devices and stratagems that keep men and women from taking their amusements together.

Well, I didn’t mean to go back to the Garden of Eden; I just wanted to say that summer is here again, even though the almanac doesn’t vouch for it until the 21st. Those of you who are fond of smells, spread your nostrils about breakfast time tomorrow morning and see if you detect it.

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