I mowed the
grass yesterday. Over on the North side of the house. It was a bit soupy in
spots, but high and dry in others, and the little blade went round and round
and round and sent little grass pieces
all over the place. After I was done it looked neat and tidy and smooth. The
cut grass smell lingered, just about at nostril level. I imagined tiny bits of
chlorophyll hanging in the air. It lasted through dusk and into the frozen
darkness. I went out about midnight to check the greenhouse heaters, and the
smell was still there. It was still there this morning, also, when I went out
to shut off the heaters. It wrapped around me when I walked across the yard,
reminding me of spring.
My first real experience with the dirt
smell came about a week ago. I was patching part of a greenhouse wall, and
needed to move a rock, and then another, and then needed to pull up a clump of
grass. There it was. Rising from the ground like, oh, a groundhog looking for
its shadow. The smell of soil in spring. The smell is, not to spoil the image
too much, that of rotting micro-organisms, and, as if that were not enough,
micro-organism excrement. Be that as it may, it was a welcome smell, the first
of the year, signaling that the soil had warmed enough to promote activity amongst
the non-see-ables. It had warmed enough to make the soil microbes bounce around
and eat and have sex and die. I couldn’t see them, but they signal their
existence with their aroma.
We’re entering the rush of plant season.
The greenhouse is filling rapidly. Sunny days find a table set up in the yard,
and I start plants. I empty bags of potting soil into buckets, and fill little
pots and plug trays. The potting mix is peat and bark, ground up so much you
can’t recognize it. The potting mix smell is, to me, the greenhouse smell. I
know it doesn’t resemble a beat bog at all, but I like to think it does. It’s another smell of spring. It stays in
its plastic bag all winter, and you can open it up as soon as it starts to warm
and pour it into a pot.
It’s still too early for flowers, though
they’re on their way. But there is still plenty in the air to tell your nose
that spring is here.