Wednesday, August 6, 2008
It was a Robert Duvall moment. You know -- that moment in "Apocalypse Now" when he steps out into the breaking dawn, takes a deep breath, and says, "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning ..."
I love the smell of horse barns in the morning. And the evening, and the afternoon.
Those of you who aren't "horse people" are all going, "like, eeeew, totally." Those of you who are horse people are just smiling and nodding because you know exactly what I'm talking about.
When we horse people talk about horse people, we don't just mean those megamillionaires who can actually afford their own horse barns. We mean people who just love horses -- the way they look, the way they move, and even the way they smell, like dusty sunshine. The owner who always has a hug for her horse, whether it wins or not -- that's a horse person. The groom who lingers a little longer than he has to just to give a favorite an extra treat or pat -- that's a horse person.
Isn't it wonderful how our love can override our senses? We love horses and the smell of manure is just part of the package. I'm not a fan of auto racing, so the idea of spending a weekend at Talladega and breathing in exhaust fumes and the smell of burning rubber is more than a little nauseating. For the NASCAR fans, though, that aroma is as exhilarating as, well, a horse barn first thing in the morning.
Can you imagine being a sushi chef if you couldn't stand the smell of raw fish? Or being an artist who hates the smell of oils, acrylics and linseed oil?
One of the things I've truly loved about being at the Times-Gazette is being back at a newspaper with its own press. There is something just right about the smell of fresh ink as it hits the newsprint, serenaded by the humming of the press.
(Another nice thing about being at the T-G is I'm with people who speak the horse language. One worked for a walking horse industry publication, several were born and raised here. At a previous job, the paper was headed by an urban metrosexual type who seemed vaguely surprised to find out that people still actually rode horses.)
I believe we are much more primitive than we want to believe, and our sense of smell is more acute than we've been told. A whiff of Old Spice can bring back memories of my father, 30 years after his death, as vividly as if I'd seen him this morning. My mother's scent was vanilla and almonds and Chanel No. 5.
I also don't believe it is a coincidence that one of the earliest insults kids learn is "you stink," a phrase that outlives every other childhood taunt and stays with us all our lives. How often have you said "that stinks" today?
My husband says it's the chicken and the egg situation. Which came first? Is the love of the hobby followed by the love of its attendant aromas? Or are we drawn to those hobbies because we already love the smell?
No, it's no chicken and egg situation -- I know exactly which one comes first and I use babies as my example. We love the babies, and while we never may come to love some of the aromas they bring along, we do learn to tolerate the stinky smells as much as we love the powder-fresh, just out of the bath smell.
Love overrides everything from a horse barn to a NASCAR pit crew.
Even a loaded diaper.