Opinion: Commentary: Get Out and Smell the Leaves

Opinion: Commentary: Get Out and Smell the Leaves

As we all know, fall arrives slowly here in Maryland. Just when you think the temperatures have cooled, they shoot up again along with the state’s oppressive humidity. Finally, though, there comes a morning when the air has turned crisp and the colors more vivid. That’s when I throw on a jacket and go outdoors to smell the leaves.

Aside from the beautiful show, I take pleasure in all the small details of the season: the delicate remains of the tooth-edged brown oak, the fiery red maple formed like a palm and the heart-shaped yellow linden. I love how the leaves float on the pungent air, fluttering down to weave crazy quilts on the still-warm soil. As they crackle beneath my feet, I savor their earthy aromas; fragrant cinnamon, orange spice and the powerful scent of dry foliage roasting in the autumn sun.

What is it about fall that summons up our deepest memories? How can one whiff of a decaying oak stir my reflection, catapulting me back into the giant leaf piles of my youth?

I think that the answer lies not only in fall’s colors, but also in something less tangible – its smell. Harder to pinpoint than hearing or seeing, the experience of smelling opens pathways to a deep-seated awareness that sleeps inside all of us. This awareness, once awakened, recalls the child we once used to be.

Floating upward through the annals of time, the distinctive aroma of autumn leaves reconnects us to this child, reminding us of our own colorful story, our unique pathway through life and our timeless link to the natural world.