No, Zombie Summer Road Trip is not the name of a new perfume, though it would be Faaabulous, wouldn’t it? Instead, Zombie Summer is a term I use to describe this time of the year, in the Midwest, where the light begins to glance, the grass begins to crunch and the days end juuuuuust a bit earlier. These late-Summer days are both constant and mutable (then again, isn’t every day?), with smells and light laying heavy, then flitting off in the nanosecond. Most of the Midwest is under heat advisory, nearly daily – and even when it isn’t it’s still HOT AF! Most of us just stumble along in a stupor, hoping we make it from the parking lot to the wherever without collapsing. And Road Trip? Well. Road Trip!
It sounds awful but, in truth, I love these days. I love them even more when I do a road trip along a river. Last week? I drove along TWO rivers! Coming back from Kansas (where I stayed in a friend’s glam-assed MidMod house, complete with Rat Pack Glamazon pool! – and, btw, is there anything more luxe than the smell of chlorine on a swimsuit, drying in 90F heat? I think not), I decided to make a stop in Louisiana MO, to visit Stark Bros, my fruit tree suppliers (I am that lunatic who loves driving to nurseries I’ve mail-ordered from! It’s a Thing.) and from there, I wended my way up the Mississippi and then over to the Illinois. Here’s the thing about river roads: they have a smell all their own. A bit of ‘eau du frog’ as March would say. This time of year, it’s accompanied by fresh-cut grass and ripening corn, without the anhydrous punch that permeates the early Spring air. And the little towns….most of them significantly diminished, which gives them a bit of a zombie quality – whenever I approach one of them I always turn my music off and open my windows so I can experience the sounds and smells the town has to offer. Most of them smell like dust, drying grass and dry, creaking wood . These aren’t tourist towns, so hardly anyone is out and about (especially at 3p on a hot July day); they’re stone-quiet and the buildings are empty-looking and blind. In Winter, those towns have a sad quality but in Summer…I dunno… Summer’s so stultifying that their abandonment doesn’t stand out so much, especially when you see a couple of little boys on bicycles, with fishing poles across their shoulders..heading to the river.
For me, these trips are best done solo. I am, by nature, a solo traveler, so these river drives offer succor rather than the stress that goes with “are we there yet?’ and (Floyd forbid) Interstate travel. On the river roads, if you slow down and just ‘be’, you can hear the cicadas sawing away and listen to a cardinal’s whistling tune. and it’s just you, so there’s no fear that your passengers will mutiny, toss you into the trunk and make a mad dash for I-74, so they can get home to binge-watch Justified.
Ann’s ‘Road Trip’ post got me thinking about scent for travel. To be honest, it was so stinkin’ hot (102F at one point) that any scent other than an attar would’ve just slithered right off my skin – and I didn’t have an attar, so I sprayed Trapp’s Tuberose Room Spray in the car, which was a lovely accompaniment. To be honest (again!), though, had it been cooler I would’ve had the windows open and just let the river valley smells be my co-pilot. 102? Not happenin’.
Seriously, though. 102? Who thought that was a good idea?
About 50 miles from home, something shifted in the weather and it actually became COOL! Well, cool-ish (amazing how the comparisons change – if it’s 102F at 3p, then 80F at 7p is nearly frigid!). I was thrilled to be able to drive with the windows down and smell the scents that appear in the evening (extreme heat bakes all but a hog or chicken farm out of the air – I’m not sure that anything on earth can clear the smell of hogs and chickens). At a stop sign, there was a stand of Casa Blanca lilies, just off to the right – it was every bit as narcotic as the ones in my garden. At 2p I wouldn’t be able to smell them. At 7, they perfumed the air for nearly half a mile. A dairy farmer was cutting grass for hay – is there any smell more Summer than cut grass? It has a riper, deeper note than Spring grass, less aquatic, more honeyed. There’s a Santa Maria Novella perfume, Fieno, that is the perfect embodiment of this time of year, with that touch of dryness that offsets the sweet aspect of hay. and I was checking Surrender to Chance to see what else is out there, hay-wise – and they have a Grass/Hay collection! One of the beauties of the Cartier Heures line is Fougeuse (which is in the StC collection) and I always forget that one – it’s GORGEOUS, with a bit of green – again, to offset the hay sweetness! Uncle Serge has Chergui, which is another one I forget – this is just ridiculous, as I LOVE the smell of hay! I need to get myself together and at least try to remember who’s done notes I adore. I blame the heat. It was 102~
Are any of you taking road trips this Summer? Do you Interstate it or take the Blue Highways? Windows down? Windows up? Hay? or Nay?