I spent the day on the Jiankou section of the Great Wall with an informal group of hiking enthusiasts. Jiankou is a steep, hilly, unrestored stretch about an hour and a half outside Beijing. Visibility was nil, fifty feet or so, but if you hiked fast and got out beyond the conversation of the main group, stopped, and listened, it was like being in the woods during a snowstorm. Eerie quiet, excepting birds and wind.
A dryer full of clothes and boots (yes boots)
And so were days on hills, miles walked.
And living room floors, carpeted in sleeping bags
Opening at dawn
To run up hills again, at 8.
Snow was joy, communal breakfast,
3 legged dogs.
What I remember most of snow
Is mom and pop, and a tireless refrain:
Of course everyone can stay again,
Enjoying just as much as us.
Olfactory inputs are capable of transporting a 27 year old to a two room shack in Maine waiting out its numbered days in an evergreen forest on a low lying bluff above a dark, tannin stained, mysterious river, shrouded by fir, colonized by mice, hiding a century of family history beneath moss and cracked pine shingles. I know that place, I cannot forget it. I can’t forget the smell of ancient tea, I can’t forget the smell of its moldering latrine (I was terrified to go out there at night when I was 5, and 8, and, in fact, until I was almost 18 years of age). When I forget my father buying oarlocks to take Jay and I fishing, when I forget my mother packing us lunch for day long canoe trips, when I forget a bunch of down east Mainers eating fish and laughing and celebrating each other in a place oozing the early history of half my family I’ll be dead.
This was inspired by the glorious, poly-aromatic smell of a kitchen cabinet I opened tonight.