Scent of Travel


I’ve traveled a fair amount across the states, and kept journals along the way for the most part.  In talking with a friend last night, I realized again how short these journals can come to the real experience.  He used to film a lot of his trips and adventures, putting together edited versions complete with soundtracks. (What I wouldn’t give to see some of those films… but that’s another story…) It was sort of funny to be talking about these records of life, but only in a secondary way.  We couldn’t share my journals or his videos.

Sometimes the remove of text frustrates me.  It’s almost there, but not quite.  The reader has to work to experience what the writer intends.  Sometimes this work is the most exciting part.  It’s give and take.  I lent a friend Forrest Gander’s Torn Awake and we both agreed that they aren’t easy poems.  Still, you want to come back to them, to understand them.  I want to.

Then there is work that text is just incapable of.  I have yet to find a way of recounting a scent accurately.  I can approximate the flood of memory as I turn a corner and run into the scent of my kitchen after returning from vacation, or the strange fruity and heady scent of Teen Spirit that brings me right back into the locker room in 8th grade and all of the awkwardness of adolescence.  I can try to capture the sum of the scent, but I don’t think I can pinpoint exactly what it is.

This morning, riding the escalator towards the first of many gates, it smelled of travel.  There’s something metallic about travel. Weary and coffee stained, even in the morning.  Right now it seems like airports could be anywhere.  The views out the glass windows may change, the artwork along the moving sidewalk may change, but they are essentially the same.  Airports feel surreal- a bit slanted off of how things are outside the walls.  People forced beside each other, everyone shifting and moving and wanting to be Somewhere Else.

Today I can’t help but giggle at it all.  I’m tired and weary, but I keep hearing laughter and I keep hearing the way people hold different words in their mouths.  I am paying attention to accents quite intensely now- rolling the difference between –aught and –ought through my mouth; between Scotland the way I say it and Scotland the way it’s said “properly.”  Is it affecting an accent if I try to mimic the vowels, or is it pronouncing the place correctly?  It’s making me giggle, stumbling over the vowels as though learning to read again.  It’s exhilarating.