Smells Like Home

Recently we remodeled the guest bathroom. It started out as quick fix to a leaking faucet, but as so often happens, the project expanded a bit in scope. Mission creep that ended up with new tile, vanity and bathroom fixtures. But I digress.

The new bathroom design took a decided turn towards modern farmhouse, but it did allow us to feature a couple of letterpress prints we had purchased years before on a vacation out west. Dutch Door printers had created an American states series, “Birds and Blooms of the 50 States”. Each print featured that state’s bird surrounded by the state flower. We purchased both a print of Virginia and of Nevada (my home state) but hadn’t displayed them before. The completed guest bath was perfect: lots of black, grey and white were the perfect backdrop for Virginia’s state bird—the cardinal, and dogwood blossoms.

Nevada was a bit harder to incorporate in our decor. How to feature the mountain bluebird and artemisia, known commonly as sagebrush? But when my niece sent me a cutting of sagebrush from Reno, we had everything we needed. When I opened the box, the aroma of desert sage was incredible.

There are other smells, scents that immediately remind me of home. The sharp aroma of pine trees or wood smoke draws me back to summer evenings and fire crackling in the wood stove in our cabin at Lake Tahoe. A newly mown lawn invariably reminds me of fields of alfalfa; my cousins and I are riding on a flatbed trailer wrestling with bales of hay. 

With all of their bittersweet memories, I suppose there is nothing to compare with the smell of morning coffee and the heavy presence of bacon frying, filling the house with the promise of fried eggs, toast and coffee for breakfast. My Dad always rose early, always made the coffee first, and loved his San Francisco sourdough bread. 

I suppose one could make an argument for fresh-from-the-oven apple pie, or even the sweet scent of chocolate chip cookies baking. The aromas of baking are captivating and stay with us for a lifetime. But for me they hardly compare with some of the pungent flavors of the desert. Even after years of living in another state, stepping off a plane after we had landed in Reno and walking across the tarmac to the main terminal (long before the modern passenger boarding bridge), the hot, dry wind always carried with it the smell of sagebrush. Home again. 

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