Scent of Home
The air is like no other. As I reach the edge of San Pedro after years away, a perfume yet to be named thrills my nose, an eclectic brew of aluminum and salt, tar and eucalyptus. My response is automatic, layers of memory connecting with a long-gone day, making me want to grab my books and charge through the door of
I drive a little farther into town. My nose shrieks, " Spearmint gum baking on the dashboard! Seaweed on sand, split loquats, potato pancakes, anchovy pizza, gasoline fumes at Chuck's Shell Station!" Sense-syllables rattle through my nose and come out a hole in time, pulling me backward with a force as powerful as any atom bomb. I have read that the salmon's spine encases a magnetic homing device that turns him into this river and that stream, until he reaches the place of his origin. Humans must have a similar sense that operates through the nose, bringing us back to first things.
Have you had the experience of scent-homing? An exile is required, staying away from your hometown for a long enough stretch that scent- and sense-memories become an almost tactile assault.
Of course, the San Pedro of my youth is gone. Every town moves on, faster and faster these days. The tar they use on the streets, the whole tuna fishing industry, even the ocean has changed in those forty years. In a sense – in my senses -- the San Pedro I know lives only in me.
This is what San Pedro used to smell like:
A salt tang dominates. The town sits on a thumb of land pointing into the
When the air reached
I grew up with ocean-buffeted senses, in a
[More from Rocket Lessons next week. ]