Summer on Cape Cod has a plethora of scents: the sulfurous rotten egg scent of the salt marshes at low tide, the crisp, salty sea air, freshly cut grass from the multitude of landscaping companies, the smoky smell of beach bonfires on Nauset or Sandy Neck Beach, and if you’re in Hyannis behind the mall, the lovely aroma of the sewage treatment plant.
My favorite scent by far though, isn’t a Cape Cod smell. Depending on where you live, it isn’t a summer smell either. But since we often go from Winter directly to Summer, it can definitely be a summer scent: the smell of growth.
It’s that smell that permeates the air after the first few weeks of post-winter awakening, when the vegetation starts to greedily take and demand nutrients from the previous fall’s blanketing of dead leaves. After a long or active winter, it’s this smell that makes me just plain exuberant, one I long for after months of being cold.
The flip side to this scent is that it is also an end of summer smell. It’s the same smell that permeates the air when the trees begin to shed their leaves. It’s the smell of decomposing vegetation in the fall and it fills the crisp air, signaling the return of sweater weather, apple cider, pumpkin carving, and eyeing the overgrown turkey population for Thanksgiving dinner.
When I lived in North Dakota, my favorite smell was the smell of the fields after they’d just been plowed. It was the smell of earth. The smell of growth and decomposition here smells similar, but the commonality really is that these scents come from life.
I love the smell of living earth, of OUR living EARTH.