New mown hay, manure on the fields, campfires, wet dogs, apple blossoms, forsythia, horses, goats, cows, chickens. We remember with our nose. It’s our most powerful and primitive sense, with more than 1,000 receptor types alerting us to chemicals in the air. What do they mean: safety? food? beauty? danger? The nose is tied to the “emotional brain” more than any of the other senses and creates quite a deep and lasting impression in memory and emotion. Isn’t the smell of fresh-turned soil “hopeful?”
You are invited to help make a profile of Orange County from its smells, odors, scents,
Right away, you’ll notice a very poor language or vocabulary for smells. We can describe what it’s like, or what produced it, but there are very few words for smells themselves.
Do our villages, towns and cities have distinct smell markers? Pine Island, at certain times of the year really does smell like onions; the scent of apple blossoms dot many areas of the county, as does that wincing smell of freshly spread manure. The malls have their smells and the home improvement stores and the car dealerships. The grocery stores are ripe with layers of scents colliding from aisle to aisle. The Newburgh waterfront and the shoreline of the Hudson has its smell: algae, fish, and a bit of sludge? So too does the creosote on the miles of railroad ties. And the farms and farm stands!
There are darker odors often tied to industry, like the skunk-like pyridine odors from the now closed Nepera Chemical Plant in Harriman. And what’s that perfume scent near the railroad tracks and the wetlands in the old section of the Chester Industrial Park? There are seasons when the insecticides and herbicides on farms and golf courses remind us where we live.
Post your thoughts at dirt-mag, click on special spots and then thin places, to keep this story going. The smells are all there tucked deep in our old brains. Are there some smells that are now gone? Where are there mystery smells? Like that cocoa scent that lingers at a pullover halfway up Hoyt Road in Warwick each summer. And the smells of each season? And holidays? Please share what you know about the smells of where we live. Daniel Mack