The air smells like thaw, except it doesn’t.
Even for me, that’s more than usually confusing. There’s a smell, right? You get it when the snow melts in Minnesota–there’ll be a day that’s finally far enough above freezing, and the great gritty mountains that pile up along the edges of the sidewalk will crack open and little rivers will etch canyons between them. You can witness in a day the sort of processes that took millions of years to make the Grand Canyon, although the odds are pretty good you’ll get bored after about ten minutes and go play a computer game. And accompanying this event is a smell. It is a hard smell to describe. Snow smells like tin. This, however, does not smell like melting tin, or if it does, melting tin smells a lot different than I’d have guessed. It smells cold, but exciting. It doesn’t smell like spring, because nothing’s growing yet except a few psychotically optimistic crocuses (I cannot help but imagine that other bulbs despise crocuses, who are like the extreme sports enthusiasts of bulbs. “Hey, Bob! Wanna bet I can flower through two feet of snow? YEEEEHHA! Subzero temperatures, here we come! Look at the height I’m getting on those buds!”) It smells faintly organic, because there’s a lot of wet dirt and dead grass under the snow, but it hasn’t been warm enough to really rot, so it’s faint. It smells like thaw. It’s the warm bit on the wind that’s still bloody cold, but you’re so insane after a long winter that you throw open all the windows to air out the other smells, of three mammals in close quarters for six months.
Like rain on dry ground, you either know it immediately, or haven’t smelled it. It’s that smell.
It’s supposed to hit seventy-four degrees out today, and there’s not a scrap of snow in a fifty mile radius, unless somebody has a snowball in the freezer. But somehow, the last few days, there’s been something that isn’t quite the smell of thaw, but somehow like it. Maybe it’s the warm breeze hiding in the cold, or something. Maybe I’m crazy, which should not be ruled out as an option. It’s not as intense as the Minnesota thaw smell, which is as pervasive as having a knife shoved up your nose, but then again, there’s such a lot of snow to melt in Minnesota. This is different. But the thaw smell is the only comparison I can think of to make.
The thaw smell always makes me a little crazy. I’m never sure if I’m a thin skin of transparent cheerfullness stretched over an abyss of grief, or a slightly melancholy tinge on a crazy hysterical joy. I don’t know whether I want to laugh or cry or both. Large mammal seeing the end of winter. Deer and bears and for all I know, chickens and frogs probably do it too. It’s that sort of feeling. I feel restless, full of some powerful emotion, but either there isn’t a word for it, or there’s a perfectly good word that I just never thought to apply. And just as this isn’t quite the thaw smell, I don’t feel quite like that–but the smell brings back those memories of that weird feeling, a sort of reminder, enough to make me a little jittery and generally useless in the studio, unable to concentrate for long enough periods of time. It’ll probably pass in a few days, but for now, I’m full of false starts and nervous energy, until the thaw smell wears itself out again.
Like people didn’t think I was crazy already…