Smells like August


Erawan shrine, Bangkok

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our streams of thought could be fed into some amazing machine that would render them right here on the page?  Because then you’d be reading a post about one or more of the following: scent-memories; perfume and synesthesia; the smell of tomato plants; Stephane Humbert Lucas’ Mortal Skin; or a meditation on why Americans don’t have a word with the emotional equivalent of saudade or hiraeth, and what that might look like in perfumery.

Instead, each word drops off my fingers ungracefully, like gravel into a vat of glue.  Nothing I write here will please me.  Okay, fine — it’s August.  Lots of folks on vacation.  If you’re feeling it, tell me something.  If I were walking in your town or city or countryside today, what would I smell?  Or, tell me about a beloved connection between senses — like the taste/smell of a tomato, the smell/sound of crunchy fall leaves, the sight/smell/sound of fireworks.  What experience or object, for you, would never be described with only one sense?


  • Patricia Seybold says:

    I have a Russian olive outside my bathroom window….but in August it is the smell of the pinons and the pines after the monsoon rains….the dry sage baking in the hot August sun….and oh glorious….the smell everywhere just now of the roasting green chilies.
    Yup, March, I live in New Mexico 8000 feet above my beloved little city.

  • ElizabethC says:

    Today we got rain, thunder and lightening after more dry weather than I have ever seen in Seattle. I love the way the air smelled just before all the rain hit! On a side note, I am obsessed with how beautiful marigold garlands are. Trying to figure out where I could put one in our house 🙂

  • Dina C. says:

    Here in Virginia, we’re having daily thunderstorms to accompany our heat and humidity, so we’re indoors in the a/c. My DS is in the basement with his friends playing video games on laptops. Dear daughter is here in the dining room with her friends having a Japanese Lolita-style tea party with rose-scented votive candles (Pacifica Persian Rose), cucumber sandwiches, homemade donuts, and lots of other cute food. It’s a girlie wonderland. The contrast when the boys come upstairs for snacks and drinks is extreme. 😉

    Outdoors, I noticed that the hostas are in bloom, and their flowers look and smell vaguely like jasmine. My backyard garden is full of weeds and my rose bush needs to be deadheaded.

    • March says:

      Love your description of the party! We had a lot of those when the girls were younger. Girlie wonderland. Sigh. I confess I miss it. I have never smelled the hosta flowers! All mine are done, I think. But I’m going to check.

  • Sun Mi says:

    Oh August… August has done me in. I’m sick and I don’t smell anything. But August has ravaged my garden! The giant cattail weed things took over the watermelon box and killed them all. My zucchini plant died (at least after providing me with 10 years worth of zucchini). My squash plant died. Today I discovered the 1 plum we were waiting for all summer (all the rest fell off), on the ground, apparently overripe! So sad. But we still have some apples on the trees, so hopefully we’ll enjoy those yet. (Our fruit trees are still fairly young, hence the very small fruit loads!).

    • March says:

      Sorry to hear about your garden. We’ve had so much rain this summer that everything including the weeds grew like the dickens, and the tomato plants basically wilted and rotted before I got much from them. I am going to remind myself AGAIN next spring not to plant them; I’m just as happy with the ‘maters from the farmers market and there’s a lot less heartbreak.

  • Neyon says:

    More than for the rest of the year, when I stroll through my garden now I can’t resist rubbing a herb here or sniffing a flower there. We’re fully in bloom now and in particular the summer lavender is beautifully fresh and soft and evokes calm childhood memories for me; and the garden chamomile is just full of sweet, innocent apple-like goodness. I’ve also discovered that our lovely foamy white gourd flower smells softly of cucumber!
    Missing the lush honeysuckle bushes and the kaleidoscope of sweet-peas that finished blooming earlier in summer.

    • March says:

      I am still searching for the right spot for the lavender…. what an absolute delight that is. If it gets too wet it dies, and so much of my yard is kinda boggy. The cucumber-smelling gourd flower sounds fantastic.

      • Neyon says:

        That’s a shame, but lavender is really quite hardy and normally needs little maintenance, which is why it grows great here in cold England. If your soil’s not right why not just keep it in a tub of compost/manure? I think that should be ok as we have lots of pot lavender and it doesn’t really need planting out 🙂

  • Musette says:

    you weirdo. I love you. It’s like you are in my heart and head! I was just thinking about this yesterday, as we drove through fields of ripening corn. This August is strange, as it’s been such a weird, rainy Season. But even with that strangeness, there’s a pre-Autumnal tinge to the air. The sky is shifting from Summer Azure to Autumn Blue (with that odd orange underglow). Mornings are hazier. It’s starting to smell of woodsmoke. I am okay with it because it’s part and parcel of the Seasons…but it is a bit melancholic. I’m in vintage Ubar today, to mark the shift.


    • March says:

      TOTALLY get the pre-autumnal tinge here! I like it. The plants/flowers have mostly gone kerflooey and we’re down to the seedheads. Yesterday it was cool and damp and yeah…. hint of woodsmoke. Melancholic but also beautiful.

  • Gwenyth says:

    Hi all….
    Since I live in the Rocky Mountains, most of my scent associations and memories have to do with being in the mountains during the heat of summer, crisp Autumn days, bitingly cold Winters and the rich loamy smell of spring.
    In August, the rains come only intermittently so the sun beats down on the trees, vegetation and the rocks, yielding some fascinating scents. There is the resinous aroma of the pine sap – sticky and richly golden. Dry and brittle grasses bring to mind the aroma of hay fields in the sun – and frequently there is the snap and rustle of fallen pine needles which are themselves dry and aromatic. Additionally, the rocks yield some interest scents as they heat and bake in the sun, smelling of hot pavement and dirt. Forests are not always cool and moist (but I ADORE those smells, too, and enjoy those scents during other seasons…)

    Scents I own which have the “summer in the mountains” qualities of dry grasses, resin/sap, pine and heat? These come to mind: Parfums de Nicolai Vie de Château Intense, Serge Lutens Chergui and Fille en Aiguilles, Cartier L`Heure Fougueuse IV, Christian Dior Dune, A. Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain and Sonoma Scent Studios Forest Walk and Incense Pure.

    • March says:

      Goodness, I miss those mountain/desert smells. I agree in particular about the Tauer… walking in the understory of a bunch of evergreens is one of the most fabulous smells ever.

  • eldarwen22 says:

    Since the kids in my area will be starting school on the 18th of this month, people are finishing up vacation and doing the back to school shopping. So I am smelling the last few backyard BBQ’s before summer hits. But nobody uses charcoal grills anymore. But after school starts, it will be clambake and bonfire season. L’Air du Desert Marocain is a perfect fall fit.

    • March says:

      I can’t wrap my mind around the kids going back to school so early…. where is this happening? MD is Labor Day, and VA is even later. Love that backyard bbq smell. Agree about Marocain!

  • cinnamon says:

    Warm today. While my immediate world usually smells of some mix of salt, cow, horse and flowers, today the morning smelled of woodsmoke — not a bad summer smell, as it sits on the air. Between that and the fact that my shed smells of creosote not bad at all. In fact, wonderful combo.

  • Portia says:

    Heya March,
    Today I rode my motor bike through snow. The first time snow has ever fallen on me in Australia. It smells like licking a spoon.
    I smell like Shalimar.
    Life is pretty good,
    Portia x

    • Queen Cupcake says:

      Oh what a sweet image, Portia! (I love snow, actually, and I love Shalimar.)
      Thanks for this! XOXOX

    • March says:

      “it smells like licking a spoon” what a perfect description. Life IS pretty good, isn’t it?

  • rosarita313 says:

    For me it’s peaches, they are the quintessential smell and taste of summer as you eat one over the kitchen sink, still warm from the sun, so fresh and juicy and aromatic. It’s colors are a summer sunrise.

    • March says:

      Peaches! My mother used to buy white Georgia peaches by the bushel, right off the back of a truck. They drove through the neighborhood, calling out a song … WHOA I can still smell and taste and hear it all at the same time.

  • caseymaureen says:

    This is a May experience rather than an August one (this year the main August smell is rain!). In May the shrub Eleagnus umbellatus flowers very discreetly, in the U.S. it can be a scrub plant but here it is cultivated. You don’t really get it’s scent up close it has to be born on the wind on a sunny day. I first smelled it in the gardens at Dartington Hall a magical combination of breeze on my face, long awaited sunshine on my back and an exquisite fragrance on the air. One of the gardeners showed me the bush which was about a hundred yards away and now I have one in my garden and wait every May for that sun and breeze and flower combination of conditions to make magic

    • March says:

      The first time I was near Russian olives (in New Mexico) was in May, they’re similar in smell. Yes, the flowers are tiny. I wandered around for almost an hour, randomly asking people WHAT IS THAT SMELL?!? Finally someone figured out it was the trees and told me. I can’t bring myself to plant one (they’re wildly invasive and the Park Service begs us not to plant) but man, I miss that smell.

  • KimB says:

    First rain after a long dry spell – the sound of the rain on the pavement and roof, the smell of the earth as the first rain hits it, the smell as more rain hits, the smell of the trees as the rain washes dust off the leaves. And if it is a thunderstorm, add the smell of lightning, the look of lightning, and the sound of thunder. The feel of the rain on your skin, and if you are really adventurous, the feel of the mud on your bare feet 🙂
    Definitely an August experience in my neck of the woods for most of my life. And what a wonderful sensory experience!

    • March says:

      That’s one of my favorite smell experiences! My family liked to sit out on the screened porch during thunderstorms. All that mist and noise and excitement. In our southern heat it’s a welcome break and a delight.