If winter is about cold and dark, autumn is about color and summer is about sweat, then spring, at least to me, is about smells. It hits me just about every May, though the specific day varies from year to year depending on the weather, but there's no mistaking when it hits.
Stepping outside puts me in a sweet cloud of the flowers my wife, Anne, and I have planted outside our home. It's kind of strange: in our era, the easiest way for me to describe the smell is by comparing it to inexpensive perfume. It is very sweet, like inexpensive perfume, but if you could bottle it, it would be very expensive because, though the scent simply seems sweet on first sniff, it soon becomes clear it's a good deal more complicated. And it doesn't linger the way bottled fragrances do. It's no wonder way back when, people started trying to make perfume that smells like spring flowers.
Water's another scent that comes to the forefront in the springtime. Actually, it's more of a group of scents. Rain has a fresh smell. Small streams have the scent of damp wood and brick. The Susquehanna River has a mildly musty smell that gets stronger as the warm weather persists. By late summer, the scent of the Susquehanna is pretty strong. I like it, but it's kind of an acquired taste. Warm algae. This time of year, though, there's just a hint of it in the air.
Then there's the Chesapeake Bay. Out on the Susquehanna Flats, it smells like the river, but by the time you get down to the Bay Bridge and the salt is stronger, the scent of salt marsh is kind of a year-round thing. The polite description: rotten eggs. It isn't the only vaguely unpleasant smell of spring, but I'll be getting to those in a paragraph or two.
In the meantime, I'd like to talk about mint and honeysuckle. The subject of mint is a sensitive one in my household, so I'll keep this to a minimum. I like it a lot, but I also know it takes over if it's planted in an unrestricted area. I planted a sprig in a place surrounded by sidewalk and walls, and, as could have been predicted, it takes over the space when it's not thinned out regularly. Even so, other flowers and shrubs are able to survive and thrive in the spot. The scent of mint is a welcome one for me this time of year.
Honeysuckle is kind of an unnatural creature for these parts, on account of it was imported from another continent. I didn't learn this until relatively late in life and long had presumed the wild vines to be part of our natural environ. It's not, but it does so well in these parts that I'm often pleasantly surprised by the scent of honeysuckle in completely unexpected places. Notably, I've been commuting lately, and have been bumped into a pleasant mood by the smell of honeysuckle along some of the most rundown and rough-looking sections of Route 40. Small miracles are nice.
I'll take on two unpleasant smells of spring at the end not to leave on a sour note, but because, to my way of thinking, they help make possible the good smells. Those two pungent smells are mulch and manure. Both are being spread this time of year, and, depending on the day, one or the other can be expected to greet me in the morning. They're not my favorites, but they're worth tolerating because they often help the other, better, smells along.