Friday, July 28, 2017

smelling mexico

I want a dog's nose.

Not that there is anything wrong with the one bequeathed by my parents. After all, the wise learn to settle for what they get. And I certainly do not want one of those comical pug schnozes.

What I want is a dog's ability to live life through his nose. Barco certainly had the knack. It must be incredible to learn so much about your world with just a deep sniff.

But, this is one of my fantastic wishes that I do not need to have fulfilled by my fairy godmother. As long as I live in tropical Mexico, I can live through my own puny human olfactory senses.

Last evening, I was test driving my newly-recovered mobility (slowly, mind you) by walking around my neighborhood. We have been having daytime temperatures in the mid-90s. When the sun sets, it drops into the 80s, but the humidity increases.

Something in that mix stirs up the scents of dusk. We have flowers here all year. But in the summer, their tropical perfume hangs in clouds. It is almost like being smothered in Carmen Miranda's bosom.

And it is not just the evening. While floating in the pool during the height of the day's heat, the scent of distant flowers often passes on the breeze.

Even though I wish all the smells were as pleasant as my grandmother's cachet drawer, they are not. Smells here are a constant reminder of the cycle of life.

Rotting fish. Burning plastic. Fresh-cut grass. Maggoty chicken bones. Garlic and onion frying in oil. All mixed in one giant olio. Subtlety is not in the Mexican air.

I shared my experience by email with my friend John in Salem. He wrote that when he was at Tulane, the New Orleans scents were "a very important part of one's being there. . . . 
A good part of my memory of New Orleans is the smell of the place -- the ozone from the streetcars, the smell of simmering sewerage coming up from the manholes, the sweet smell of certain flowers and trees, the smell of the Mississippi River."

My experience in the south was the same. Every few years the Ar Force required me to attend its law school on the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama. Always in August.

For an Oregonian boy weaned on the temperate summers of the Pacific Northwest, the summers in Alabama were always a jolt. But what I remember the most is the heady aroma of the evenings. Every tree and shrub seemed to be doing its best to attract errant pollinators. For that reason alone, the south will always be one of my fond memories.

And, I suppose I can say the same thing for Barra de Navidad. Now that my foot is back in walking order, I plan to slow down a bit and smell the occasional rose -- or plumeria.

And I won't need no stinkin' pug nose for that.

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