The Star-Herald

Smells that herald spring

I have written before about how different odors and scents will trigger memories.  I was up and around this morning before the dog was even awake. In fact he was still blissfully snoring when I arose. When I sat in my chair with my laptop to put this together, I opened the window next to me for some fresh air and to hear the birds singing outside.

When I opened  the window I caught the first smell of a lovely day. That smell was fresh, sweet and loaded with promise of things to come for the spring and summer. This brought me back to my school days and the mornings I used to wait for the prison wagon known as a school bus.

I remember standing in the mouth of our drive on the Mapleton Road and smelling the aroma of the new buds on the trees as they opened — and, yes, they do have a smell to them. That smell is a kind of sickly sweet/sour smell depending on the variety of tree. It wasn’t just the smell but the sight of the buds as they first appeared and as they gradually opened to reveal a new leaf. To put a science spin on it, that new leaf meant that if the tree were cut down and the stump was cut cleanly, you would count a new ring to see how old the tree was.

Has anyone ever noticed that even melting snow has an odor all its own? Even though the old snow looks dirty and grim, it smells almost as fresh as a new breeze with a noticeable aqua-scent to it. Of course the die-hard winter sports enthusiasts and snowmobile lovers really don’t like to see spring sprung. Me, I prefer warm to cold any day.

Here is the big kicker: when the farmer is able to hit the fields for the first time and turns that first furrow or harrows his first trip through what will soon be a crop, that newly turned soil has an odor all to itself. If you drive on a highway that borders a new field as the farmer plants it, the smell of the fresh earth can transport you to all kinds of memories of that nature.

Last but certainly not least in my thoughts about smells — newly mowed grass. Tuesday evening as we were coming home from church, we drove by a home that had a newly cut lawn. I think, other than the smell of an old potato house or the woods in fall time, newly cut grass has to be one of my all-time favorite smells. I can’t really explain why, but to my way of thinking it says “Summer is here.”

The only problem with cutting the grass in summer: if you cut it in the evening, the blackflies in northern Maine think someone has just rung the dinner bell and it is time to head out to the smorgasbord of human flesh.

Soon after these aromas come out, schools will let out and kids will be taking swimming lessons or biking or building treehouses, or just simply enjoying their parole from the prison of school that they just know the adults dreamed up to give them headaches and nightmares.

Actually, I do make fun, just a little, of school. But school isn’t all bad. And no matter how you slice it, it is a very real and important part of what we need to succeed in life as we know it. Personally, I have high school, my military schools in my job field and seven years of college under my belt. I am not bragging but just saying that school, like anything else, is what you make it.

I had a very nice E-mail from an individual who thanked me for this portion of the paper. Thank you so much to all of you for your kind words. They really do mean a lot to me.

After you read this, step outside and see if you don’t notice the different aromas and, as you do, see if you aren’t transported back to a time when life seemed much simpler.

As for me, I am going to sit with my window open and smell the new summer scents brought to us by nature, and Remember When . . .

Guy Woodworth, a Presque Isle native now living in Limestone, is a 1973 graduate of Presque Isle High School and a four-year Navy veteran. He and his wife Theresa have two grown sons and five grandchildren. He may be contacted at

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