Aimee & Jasper in Pleiades and Stardust, ©Tony Hallas
Aimee is one of my very favorite former teachers. We met when she was a fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and her class was one that made me want to write for real, and she was--is--the kind of teacher who is still inspiring me ten years later. I credit her with supercharging my love for sensory details; in her classroom we honored and elevated the sensory. (I even wrote a (stinky) praise poem about an ex-boyfriend's aroma.) We sniffed and savored and touched and felt. Aimee's latest book of poems is Lucky Fish, and you can learn more about that collection and her other work on her web site.
What do you smell like?
I’m certain I smell different in different seasons, so today, on this summer day right in the middle of strawberry season here in western NY, I smell of cardinal song and a faint trace of potting soil with notes of cracked sidewalk chalk. I had a cherry Popsicle this afternoon and I love to gnaw on the finished popsicle stick so I probably have that on me too. My youngest son had Greek yogurt and blueberries for dessert so a bit of that is on my plaid, spaghetti-strapped summer dress I’m wearing right now, along with a trace of sunscreen.
When I leave the house, I usually wear this nifty little solid perfume (super nifty TSA-friendly too, for airports): Crazylibellule and the Poppies' Shanghaijava Blue Orchidee. I I know it sounds like some sort of joke, right? Like a J-pop all-girls’ band? But I should mention its top notes are bergamot, mandarin, orange; heart notes of jasmine, rose, ylang; and it has a base note of sandalwood. The packaging claims that Blue Orchidee is “a luck charm, an amulet, a love-reminder, a moment of poetry, a minute of grace, an outward sign of refinement, a garden in the pocket.” Yep, that sounds about right. Jeepers, I’m such a corn ball.
What do you like to smell?
My sons’ freshly towel-dried hair after their baths. Shaved gyro meat from one of those twirly-ma-bobs. The way ice smells after a good zamboni-ing. Strawberries picked from my garden. Sharp #2 pencils. A good lemon shandy. The gift of tomatoes freshly picked from my yard in October even when there should be no more fruit, just wind and corn husk and sweaters. And when I visit my relatives on the other side of the planet, there is a smell that also feels like home in the calm swell-surge of typhoon where baby octopus the size of rice first learn of wiggle and pulse-lights just under their supple skin. That would be my ideal way to signal good-bye at evening’s end: my skin would light up as I leave you. Curry powder. Bee balm. What construction paper smells like when you cut it. Honey beer. Orange blossoms from my parents’ yard in Florida. Jell-O. The air around the grill on an early summer evening when my husband, aka The Grill Master, works his magic on various cuts
of meat and peppers and pineapple. Oil of Olay and Wrigley’s spearmint gum--that combo always reminds me of my mom, Chicago, the 70s.