“What’s that smell?”
“Mmm. Roll down the windows… it’s the eucalyptus.”
Byron and I traveled down to the Bay area for a wedding this weekend, and let me tell you guys — the eucalyptus. There’s something intoxicating about that heady scent. And I mean “intoxicating” in the literal sense of the word — one whiff of those babies and I pretty much lose my senses. “THAT’S IT WE MUST MOVE TO CALIFORNIA TO LIVE WITH THESE DRUGGIE TREES.”
Since this trip was coastal, there were more crazy wind-swept cypress trees than eucalyptus (which, not a bad thing — those cypress got it goin’ on). But on the drive out, through the hills, we’d occasionally pass through a grove of eucalyptus — and that was all it took.
In the book I wrote for my senior thesis, one of the characters moves from Seattle to Santa Monica:
The thing Marian liked best about southern California was the trees. They were tall and graceful, oak and madrona and box elder with branches that spread out like upside down umbrellas. Compared to them, the evergreens of the Northwest looked like bottom-heavy children, wrapped up in too many winter coats. Cole had been right; the air smelled different here. That, she soon discovered, was largely due to the eucalyptus trees that spread everywhere. Their leaves, ranging from small, bluish-green circles to long silvery tendrils, smelt like some sort of exotic spice carried across by the ocean breeze. She loved walking through the park near their house, breathing in the intoxicating scent and listening to the wind rustling their dry leaves. Cole said they were no better than weeds, the way they sprang up everywhere. Marian paid him no heed; they were by far her favorite.
At this section, my thesis advisor wrote in the margin: Traitor. She meant it in jest, of course, but she was right — the character (and by extension, the author) had abandoned the oppressive grey gloom of the Northwest in favor of California.
And you know? I LOVE the Northwest. I think there’s no better place to be. But sometimes it’s hard to compare with this:
Everything down there just seems scented with a kind of forgetfulness — like there is nowhere else in the world to be, nowhere else in the world you should be.
And no — I am not packing up the new house and the new couch and the old cats and moving to California. But smell is a powerful thing — our most powerful sense, really. It wakes up different parts of the brain. It’s hard to resist its siren song.
I’m sure without even really knowing it, whatever I write next will be tinged with the scent of eucalyptus.