Friday, April 29, 2011

A change in olfactory seasons

I've been told that autumn's first killing frost is when bird dogs start getting serious about hunting.  Up until that time, according to legend, there are too many distractions for a nose with superpowers to sift the good stuff out reliably.  There's a brief period right after that first hard frost where all the vegetation's dying, which I imagine is something like the overpowering stench of sargassum washed up onshore in the Keys, and they struggle a bit until that passes.  Fortunately it doesn't have the staying power of sargassum and in a few days the dogs are in business.  In fall and winter and a dog's nose has one focus:  game.

Spring rolls around, however, and another legend has it that gamebirds stop giving off much scent, something to do with protection during the nesting season.  An idle nose is the Scent Devil's playground.  Bugs and snakes and frogs and the other critters that hole up in the winter come out to play.  Weeds and flowers and seeds hang in the air.  And food on the table, my oh my, how the interest in that rises through no apparent coincidence.  The rest of the earth comes back to life.  Even a lowly sniffer like mine gets drunk on the smell of honeysuckle and lilac.

A wet, pink nose is born again with a new purpose, millions of new smells to sample, savor and catalog.  Moving from one end of the yard to the other can take an hour or more in what must be akin to wandering the aisles of a really, really fine market and being allowed to taste every single thing on the shelf.  These must be the rewards for having to sleep on the floor and eat the same thing at every meal.

What I can't figure out (among other things) is how a nose that sensitive isn't completely pillaged by pollen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Somebody give me another push

Hard to complain about a warm Easter Sunday without a cloud in the sky.  Got the yardwork done yesterday so I'd have the afternoon to pursue less punishing activities.  I settled into the hammock with a copy of The Sound and The Fury and minutes slid into hours.

The call of a pissed off squirrel is unmistakable, a muted screech lacking rhythm but not persistence (sorry for the derailment of any train of thought, but did I mention I was reading Faulkner?).  I peered through the branches of a sweetgum next to the tree that anchored the hammock until I saw a bushy tail waving like an old woman's handkerchief.  He was sitting on the lowest branch, cursing and taunting my dog lying on the ground fifteen feet away.  For some reason the dog only lifted his head to watch this rodent's rant.

Eventually the squirrel made his way into the maple at the foot of the hammock and through the leaves I saw something red in his mouth.  A flower?  Nothing red in bloom in our yard right now.  A strawberry?  Maybe, but where would he have gotten it?  One of the kids' toys?  Possibly, but why would he want that?  As he scrambled overhead I could make out red holly berries still attached to a branch with glossy green leaves.  This looked like something stolen off of the mantel at Christmas.  And he was still screeching.  And by now the dog had pressed his jaw back down to the ground, eyes closed as if these last few minutes never happened.

The prey tormenting the predator, a token from a different season in his mouth, the predator indifferent to his attempts. Had I fallen asleep and become suddenly conscious in the middle of a dream?  Somehow it really didn't seem out of place with a critically acclaimed novel that the author is still chuckling about in his grave, knowing another poor soul is trying to figure out just what the hell he's talking about.  I suppose life is like that some days.