June 27, 2008

Soul Food

Smells, odors, scents, go directly to the oldest part of the brain distinguishable from spinal cord, and from that place elicit memory and association. Images, sounds, tastes, emotions, all these are brought forth with a simple scent.

The scent of apples, particularly green ones, pierced or cut, overwhelms me with the presence of my 4th and 5th summers. I am there, completely.

I feel the sun and the dry itch of the dusty hillside with its abandoned orchard overlooking a long, long valley and the non-working farm where I was born. Green apples, many now brown, cover the hill, fallen from the scraggly, untended trees.

Find a switch, long, thin, flexible, and spear a smallish apple on the end of it. Hold the other end and fling the apple off the tip, high up, far, much farther than you could ever throw it alone, and then down and down, and frighten the rabbits by the stream so they scurry away to their holes and hideaways.

My first woomera, my throwing stick. It taught me parabolas, ballistics, timing, patience, the scientific method, and where the rabbits went. The reward was itself, and sometimes rabbit stew. Those two summers, ending forever with the news of Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki, shaped the rest of my life. But still the smell of fresh, green apples brings me back to the beginning of my life, when I first became a conscious participant and actor in the world.

First published in Tribe, November 29, 2005

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