The Short Walk Home...

March 14, 2008
By Blair Hartman, Chester, NJ

The short walk home from school is the longest part of the day. I guess it is because I’m too eager to get home, rest my bones, devour a snack, relax, whatever… but that small, two minute walk from bus-stop to door-stop seems to drain my energy every time.

The late winter of 2008 was as unpredictable as a teenager’s raging hormones; one day I could stumble around in three layers of woolen jackets, my hands shaking and numb from my irritating circulation problems, while the next I could step out of my garage before the sunrise and actually smell the earthy scent of warm dirt and grass – the scent of spring.

But nature can be a fickle thing, during the months of December and January, and those deceptive walks home tuned me into another side of nature that I had never seen, heard, nor smelt before. Staggering down my neighbor’s steep hill, the bottoms of my sneakers slick with mud and frozen grass, I caught a whiff of a familiar odor, one I had not noticed before.

It was the smell of nothing.

It occurred to me just then: each time the weather would change, I would be able to sense the frequent patterns not only with my eyes and ears, but with my nose!

I tripped to a halt, sliding on the icy sidewalk at the foot of the hill. I closed my eyes; felt my chest inflate with the arctic chill of the wind; noticed my fingers twist and twitch in their protective gloves, a normal reaction that I had picked up over the months. My mouth parted in a barren smile as I sipped the deliciously cool winter air, tasting nothing, yet feeling so much. My mind replayed flashbacks of November holidays in Paris, where the French snow became permanently embedded in my then-short hair and the flavor of my daily morning chocolat chaud still lingered on my palette. I remembered Christmases in New York, snowstorms in Massachusetts, sledding down a mile-long hill in Ohio.

Is it so crazy to remember so much, merely by sniffing a gust of wind that smelled like absolutely nothing at all?

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