If my childhood could be boiled down to just one smell, it would be the smell of early summer mornings after a rainstorm. The tepid humidity, the wet gravel under your feet — the songbirds and the rising sun and the lazy, easy feeling. Like all that was good and innocent about being a kid reemerges at 7 am. The air is thick but welcoming. It’s enough to make you excited for the day and wish it will never fully start.
It’s a smell you can only truly duplicate in the heart of New England. Away from the seacoast. It’s a smell that reminds me of Freedom, NH — of freedom, in general. It’s a smell that reminds me of a now-defunct campground, of blackberry picking — of being blissfully unaware and of not recognizing that not all families behaved the way mine did.
If my parents are correct, my first steps were at a campground. I was toddling around the perimeter of my Pack-n-Play, my hands guiding the way and I practice step after step after step. At some point, I let go and started moving towards the center. Four or five steps in, I realized what I was doing and immediately fell back down. My body knew I was ready to let go the railing. My mind wasn’t ready to recognize that.
I was a dirty hippy before I knew what a dirty hippy was. I spent my summers running barefoot. As an adult, I’ll still sprint outside without shoes, using the excuse that it’s my property and I can do what I want. I would credit my tough feet on those summers, never having enough time to put on proper footwear. It was pure luck I never stepped in any poison ivy. These days, I get to use my status as a yoga instructor for my bare feet. Look, I have the mat, the mala, the, “Ohm, shanti,” to prove it. Just another dirty hippy yogi who prefers to drive barefoot.
Summer mornings mean I’m up even earlier than usual. Seasonal affective disorder is not always a bad thing. I sometimes see myself as a solar battery, only as powerful as the amount of sunlight I can get in. The cloud cover will keep me listless but I’ll be ready to move as soon as those first rays come in.
If the rising sun is any indication, it’s going to be a bit of a scorcher today, the kind that open windows and fans will eventually lose its battle with. We’re edging dangerously close to the time when we’ll shut the windows and put on the AC and go from one climate-controlled building to the other, holding our breath as we go outside and get blasted with the heat. It only makes these mornings even more special. Like childhood itself: precious, short, and incredibly fragile.