how could today be any more like ireland? if ever i wanted to feel like i was back there — and i have, i do — today’s the day. the weather is exacting. to the drop, today’s rain is an irish rain. the temperature, the same. the wind, the sky, the muddy soups in cracked sidewalks: all irish. so why can’t i FEEL like i’m there?
i’m having one of those days - nothing major on the schedule and yet i feel like i want to do something - anything really, but something different, something productive, maybe. wanderlust. so i wandered around campus for a while - a good half hour of just roaming. i was thinking about ireland then. i had this question of why, oh why can’t i decieve myself into thinking i was in ireland. i looked straight up, through the trees and into the monochrome gray clouds: the kind of clouds that if you’d never seen a blue sky, you’d think it was always gray - no texture, no motion, just gray. that’s ireland. ireland is a stranger to lighting. thunderstorms are nearly as rare as snow, there. i looked down - bright green grass, despite the biting cold, wet cheap sidewalks specked with gum, cigarette butts and leaves. that’s ireland.
the more i wandered through this irish rain, the more my body felt like my irish body did. my nose and ears and fingers disappeared into frigid numbness. minute beads of rain welled up on my eyelashes and spashed away in the blink of an eye.
i couldnt figure it out. so i started into it methodically: i listed the five senses and tackled each one, one by one. sight: if i ignored the monstrous size of our cars and the spaces between houses and the houses themselves and the clear complexion of the passers-by, i was left with a fair image of ireland. touch: like i said, the weather and its effects were exacting. sound: cars tend to sound the same. no one was talking, else that would be a dead giveaway. smell: aha! yes! my sister beth had sent me a note while i was in ireland - she claimed to be living vicariously through me - but she advised me very specifically to memorize the smells: “memorize the smells,” she said. i did. i tried. every day. smells are not easily memorizable. with images, you can close your eyes and project a mental image onto the fleshy side of your eyelids and almost actually SEE it. we are not equipped with any such mechanism with smell. you can’t close your nose and conjure up memories of smells and almost actually SMELL them. you can’t. you can’t.
that’s not to say you can’t remember smells. indeed smell is often credited as the most powerful sense in recalling memories. i suppose this little ramblings is a testament to that: that’s my precise point. so. i did memorize smells. they’re in my repetoire somewhere - i just dont have the ability to summon them on request. i can’t block out what i’m smelling and pretend to smell something else.
ireland has a much deeper smell. a musty thick perfume of steamy grass and stout beer. it sounds funny, but beer is a vital ingredient in the smell of ireland - certainly the urban areas, at least. and i’m not just saying that because i lived with a window open for 9 months, just a river’s width away from a brewery. that surely helped in memorizing the smell, but it’s definitely not a smell isolated to the small areas around breweries. it’s a smell that comes from every third or fourth building in an irish town: the pubs. its a smell that’s spilt on every square inch of the sidewalks.
i’m not a smoker and i know very little about cigarettes, but there comes a time, something like every thousandth smoker i pass, that i smell one of those cigarettes. one whose smoke i don’t abhor and i actually tilt my head back, slow my steps, turn my head as the cloud of smoke drifts away. i smell ireland in that brief puff of smoke. on the right day - a day like today - that could easily finish off the five senses of ireland and i’m there.