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A True Florentine Smell and the Duck Pond

February 11, 2009

I walked out onto my front porch this morning and inhaled deeply. The unexpected warmth of the day before was lingering in the air and perfumed it with this smell that I cannot describe. In one split second, without even having to close my eyes, I wasn’t there anymore. My fickle mind had laughed and skipped off, leaving my body in Michigan and my mind in Italy.

I could smell that same early morning warmth in the air in Florence – not the hint of intense heat of the summer, but a gentle murmur that brushed across your arms and still gave you goosebumps. As my friend and I walked across the street one sleepy April morning to the pasticceria across from our hostel on a quiet side street behind the San Lorenzo market, that same scent hung in the air, mixed with that gentle fragrance that EM Forster described as a true Florentine smell. The cobblestones were still dark from the night’s street washing and we stretched out our arms, trying to envelope this air and hold it in our lungs so we might remember it forever. It was an imprint on my taste buds so that every time I inhale on a soft, early spring morning, I might go back there, to that quiet street, even if only in my mind.

(Good morning, dear streets — Italy, April 2006)

As I stepped off my front porch, fog hung thick in the warm air, like cream poured into a bowl of oatmeal. Its taste was surprisingly clean and crisp, so I left my window down while I drove to work, even though it left me shivering slightly. I don’t know what it is about these mornings but I can never stay in my own mind once that air hits me. Through the fog, in my mind’s eye, I was wandering through my campus in Ormskirk towards the duck pond, with a half-empty box of Frosties in my bag, with vague intentions of either sharing the wealth with my feathered friends or having a quick snack during my break from my creative writing class.

(Hello duck pond — Edge Hill College, February 2006)

This is more akin to what February in England is normally like – a bit chilly but brightened by a breeze that was mild enough that you don’t mind when it starts to move. I was swept up in memories of bike rides in the Lake District, wading in cold rivers with my jeans rolled up and laughing because it was so deliciously absurd. I could feel that intense, flowery scent of hyacinth stirring inside me, as they sat in baskets on the desks in the library. It was barely Valentine’s Day and the ground was already waking up and the green was growing as deep as emeralds. I think that’s what I loved about it; even in winter, it was so green.

(It wasn’t THAT cold — Lake District, February 2006)

The green faded quickly as I stepped through the melting snow and matted, muddy grass into the office, with all these words already rushing through me, dancing inside my mouth, urging me to get to a computer or a notepad fast and get them out. I don’t know what makes me so sentimental about those times and places. It’s like once I understood, once I was there, it settled inside me forever, manifesting itself in some kind of constant clutch in my chest or ache in the center of my stomach. I miss it all the time, but half of the time, I’m not even sure what I’m missing. I just know whatever it is, it’s there, waiting for me to come back again.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. James permalink
    February 11, 2009 10:07 am

    There you go =)

    “It’s like once I understood, once I was there, it settled inside me forever, manifesting itself in some kind of constant clutch in my chest or ache in the center of my stomach.”

    Perfect. I know exactly what you mean.

  2. Amanda permalink
    February 11, 2009 10:34 am

    oh WOW! If you move to Europe I cannot wait to plan my stay with you πŸ™‚

    And if you don’t….well I can’t wait for you to plan out trip there together!

    I love how you placed you pictures in this one, it really does make it much more personal. And thank you for reminding me to slow down a bit today and take in a big breath of air!


  3. Caroline permalink*
    February 11, 2009 11:52 am

    Thanks, both of you. πŸ™‚

    Amanda, you are welcome anytime if and when I get across the pond. Here’s to that!

  4. James permalink
    February 12, 2009 2:52 pm

    Also, I was considering starting up a blog once again, maybe once I get a little less busy. Sometimes I wish I never deleted my old one. But there seem to be 10,000 choices of sites to blog on… how do you like wordpress?

  5. Caroline permalink*
    February 12, 2009 4:57 pm

    I would LOVE it if you started a blog up again. I for one would read it. I really like WordPress…it’s easy to use and turns out looking very clean and classy. So far, it’s my favorite one…I briefly tried Blogspot and of course, LiveJournal I used for years.

    Bring back that irrepressible Dake flair.
    I can’t wait. πŸ™‚

  6. ratsekad permalink
    February 12, 2009 11:58 pm

    So… I started one up. I have no idea where I will go with it, or how often I’ll be able to post, but I think it will drive me to write more, which is always a good thing.

    Also, I noticed how you can make other users “contributers” to you blog. I’d be happy to add you if you would ever like to post things on mine as well.

    Cheers to writing!

  7. Aislyn permalink
    February 18, 2009 2:15 pm

    You’re right…it puts me right back there on our wonderfully crazy yet somehow peaceful journeys.

    You express these moments and feelings better than I will ever be able to. Everytime I read your writing, I’m placed right back in that exact moment of time. Thank you.

    I look forward to that manuscript. =)

  8. Caroline permalink*
    February 18, 2009 3:04 pm

    I’m so glad you liked it, Ais! Oh the stories we have. The manuscript is still pretty bare but once it starts getting meatier, I have a feeling that I will be recalling crazy things and just laughing at us. πŸ™‚

    Oh Florence.
    I can feel it in my chest.
    And I miss it.


  1. confessions of an anglophile « surprised by joy

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