I guess I never really thought much about what the southwest would smell like. Certainly if asked prior to our time here, I would not have expected there to be a varied palate in that specific sense department. Pictures of dry arroyos, sun-baked adobe and gravel yards adorned with cacti did not prepare me for the exquisite experience of standing in a field of sage after a September thunderstorm. Or the almost boozy vanilla scent when you dare to put your nose to the bark of a ponderosa pine. The familiar Christmas smell of the spruce-fir forests higher up the mountains was really no surprise, but who knew spring in town would bring a sticky-sweet perfume as apricot trees bloomed ripened and dropped their fruit all along my bike route to work. And now as summer segues into fall, the smell of roasting chilis dominates. It is as exotic to me as my first whiff of fish sauce or sandalwood. A mixed smell of brushfire and grilled veg, it is a dark odor that nibbles the back of the throat.
Twenty-pound sacks of fresh green chilis are available at the grocery, and roasting vendors are set up in parking lots throughout the city. So much for the SW being barren.
Supposedly smell is the oldest sense and the one most likely to trigger memories. As we head east, away from Santa Fe, I’m happy to think back on the many unique and new smells here, and the memories waiting to be triggered.
Smell you later, Santa Fe.