Smelling the Future

Spangled Grasses of Summer
Image by fred1st via Flickr

Herein lies the wonder and the terror of the Internet: I am working with some small degree of focus on a writing project this morning as I search in my saved links. Suddenly there I see something I bookmarked but didn’t read, and I’m off down that rabbit-trail to someplace I had not intended to go.

And it conjures a whole nuther line of thought: what will my morning distractions be like when the web gets a nose?

It’s just a matter of time until not only will I describe the *fragrance of our pasture trail–an effort to describe smells, an area where the English language is woefully inadequate–I will be able (with my smart phone perhaps) to copy and paste it to your computer and you can download and play it into the air of your office.

ReadWriteWeb has an interesting piece on the rising role of smell detection and applications already in use of just over the horizon.

Like any other technology, it will be two-edged. You can probably imagine your teenagers sharing all sorts of odiferous-auditory events via email, text message and such. Olfactory vandalism: can it be far off? I think I get a whiff of it already.

* Truth is, I really wish I could share what we smell in a summer-morning walk along the “new road” that follows our pasture back up towards the gorge. I am pretty certain that this year smells different from any we’ve experienced here. (This will be our 10th summer.) I used the term the other day that I used from a June essay (Summer Lightning) from 2002: “It is like midnight bread baking.”

There is that pleasing, polleniferous, mildly-sweet, lightly roasted smell to it–and an impulse embedded in it that makes one want to stand still, to breathe long and deep, with the eyes closed. Like so many smells in the out-of-doors, it sends the mind into the vault of memories–of fresh-cut grass and mother’s roses, lemonade and honeysuckle. Ahhh…

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. For the rare few that have been out to Fred’s place, you know what he’s talking about. For those that have not, you’re really missing something special. The “New Road” that borders the west side of the pasture, “The Ruins” and “The Gorge” are truly enchanted places.
    Many mornings, I’ve been there just at daybreak. It’s so easy to forget why I went and get lost in witnessing the development of the morning.

  2. “a whole nuther” – that sure takes me back to Alabama. Or is it generally Southern?

    As for the Web with a nose … God help us, it’s alluring and distracting enough without that! But by then we’d probably have to pay for that extra, which I’ll be too cheap to do.