Gliding through valleys, around fields, up and down hills covered with wild flowers, I am engulfed in the scent of nature. When coffee trees bloom, their tangy smell overpowers me; when through strawberry fields I ride, the sweetness of the fruit penetrates to my very first memory of eating it. The salty sulfur of the shore, and slightly dank mist spraying from the distant waves, takes me again to the Black Sea and the languid, peaceful summers of youth. Farms – that unmistakable smell of hay and manure, brings a sense of home, regardless of where you grew up. Or the herbs along valley roads that remind me of my mother’s cooking. The freshness of passing by a river or a lake, the air slightly cooler… the refreshing cleanliness of earth after rain – I smell it all because I ride through it exposed, no roof or windows to bar my experience.
When I ride through a town I am made hungry by the smell of bread wafting from bakeries, and the succulent smell of meat being grilled on the corners and in the park. I don’t have to look at the trees of the forests through which I ride – I can smell them. And no matter where I am in the world when I smell pine I think of the north, of tramping through the woods and hiking up mountains. The sweltering tropics bring the sourness of sugarcane fermenting on the side of the road, and the lushness of jungles the overwhelming smell of a thousand different plants growing in a single acre. Then again I am so often chocked by the black plumes of diesel obscuring the sky and screening my way, by the brake dust of a million trucks struggling over endless mountain curves. Sometimes it is the rankness of factories that line the plains, or that are tucked in gorges, that make me reach for a mask and bandana. Sometimes it’s the putrid decomposition of dogs, horses, cows, snakes, iguanas on the road. Or the mixed feelings about the oddly sweet pepper smell of garbage or grass burning on the side of the road. All these burn into my memory, and I can lay in a hammock thousands of miles, and many years, away from those moments, close my eyes, and again find myself flying on my steed and experiencing those places anew.
But every now and then my heart skips a beat because it is the scent of a woman that embraces me as I rush along the world – and time slows to a crawl. Sometimes she just washed her long, luscious, black hair, and the smell of citrus and flowers flows behind the car she’s in. Sometimes it’s her perfume, freshly dabbed on her neck that I sense as she walks out of her house. I never stop, my momentum carries me forward even though I’ve long since released the throttle, and the scent of her passes and I awake again in the rushing world. But like the strawberry fields, like the lilac of parks, or the wild herbs along a canopied alley, her scent lingers in my mind and I forget in which country I am, I forget why I’ve ridden so long and so far, and I can only remember the love I have left behind, and the joy of burying my face in her neck – knowing that sweetness is all mine, and there is nowhere any momentum can take me.