This also opens the car, and me, up to the many variations of morning smells along my route in: something blooming fragrantly here, mulching lawn clippings there, diesel exhaust from a ponderously large truck some distance in front of me, a fried breakfast (?) as I pass these houses, the trailing fumes of a cigarette from someone who passes in front of me in a crosswalk as I wait at a light. This is high season for lavender, a spicy-floral scent that pops up more than once along my way. Our own yard is currently abloom with lavender, and it's passing scent conjures a vivid mental picture.
My commute takes me past woods and wetlands, suburban neighborhoods, and through concrete-intense intersections and overpasses. I think, as I move through each distinct zone, I would be able to spot my place on my morning commute just by the subtle (mostly) nuances of each area's scent. It would be an interesting test, at any rate.
Of the many ways we know our slice of the world, traveling by car is usually the least informative. We see, but usually stay well isolated from smell and sound. The car is a controlled space, sealed up and personally defined.
On early mornings when I can have the top down I sometimes go without music altogether. When I do have music on I keep the volume down very low. Partly out of courtesy to the homes I pass, many with windows open and people still sleeping, but partly because I don't want to drown out the exterior soundtrack of the morning commute. As much as I like to entertain the idea that I can identify my commute location by smell alone, I am even more certain I would know my location by its sounds.
Writers and poets (if there is even a distinction) commonly refer to scent and sound when they write of places and journeys, and for good reason.
Scott Cairns, in his poem Another Road Home, writes:
before our mountain, above our mountain tea
suggests in its late, cypress-scented air
a pressing density, a wine-like, whelming
cup, ksinómavro—deep and dark, substantial.
And the road? Meandering, manifestly
inconclusive, and for that reason not
so likely to ferment blithe disregard.
Robert Burns, in Afton Water:
Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,and...
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.
Thou stock-dove, whose echo resounds thro' the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear,
I charge you disturb not my slumbering fair.
How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow;
There oft, as mild Ev'ning sweeps over the lea,
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.
Or Bruce Cockburn, in his song My Beat:
Past the derelict mattress
and the overgrown pavement
over the tracks
and through the hole in the fence
Past graffiti-bright buildings
and the junkyard alarm bell
and the screaming police cars
and it's all present tense
It's my beat
In my new town
Past the drunk woman reeling
with her bag of provisions
Down through the tunnel
with the stink-fuming bus
On to the bike path
where it's something like freedom
and the wind in my earring whispers
Trust what you must
It's my beat
In my new town
We know our world by our passing through it, and we know most when that passing has intention and attention.
Today's full playlist (volume – pianissimo):
- The Guggenheim Grotto: The Universe Is Laughing
- Franco DeVita: Si Tú No Estas (Live)
- The Killers: Mr. Brightsides
- Posted via Hermes.