Whiff

“Mmm, smell that?” asks Mikki as we walk together. Yeah, I got a whiff right at the same time she did. “I love our pine trees,” she declares.

There is nothing like the scent of warm sun hitting the bark of ponderosa pines. Some people say it smells like vanilla, but to my nose it does not. First of all, it’s sweet but hasn’t entirely given up its piney essence. Not really resinous or sharp, but not sugary either. It’s complex. The young trees don’t give off the aroma as well as the big old trees whose trunks have begun to sway and bow. The big pines self-prune, meaning that as they grow, the lower branches retreat further up the bole. So a person can walk right up and put her nose to the cinnamon-colored bark without getting poked by a limb. Sometimes it’s possible to find a solid chunk of cloudy amber pitch to take home and smell later.

Smell and memory are both processed in the deep limbic system of the brain. That’s why certain smells bring back memories so clearly. It sure worked for Mikki and me today, as we remembered being out on trails in the woods in the sun. It means summer is coming.

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