Methow Valley peeps, I hate to break it to you, but we don’t smell so great.
Now folks, I mean no offense here. We bathe, we have a decent grasp of hygiene (for the most part, at least). But let’s face it — after living within a nearly perpetual cloud of smoke for a month, we stink.
I didn’t realize this until I spent time in the presence of people who haven’t been living in the inside of a Hibachi. I recently visited my parents in Wenatchee, a smoke-cation of sorts. After a morning run in the 23 AQI air, I walked a few laps around the parking lot to cool down. As I walked, I occasionally caught a whiff of smoke, but as I couldn’t see any plumes on the horizon, I assumed it was my imagination. And then it hit me; it wasn’t my imagination — it was my car, and everything in it.
I edged closer to the vehicle and then, real casual-like, hoovered in a deep, confirming breath of the scorch that has apparently saturated my seat cushions, carpet, filters, and the totes of clothing and sleeping bags I’d started hauling around when evacuation levels were rising.
Fellow residents, I hate to say it, but our smellers are out of whack. On one hand, a more finely honed crop of sniffers has rarely existed. “Ah yes,” we say, each tipping a schnoz skyward, swirling the smoky air in an imaginary nasal goblet. “Bouquet of Douglas fir with nuanced shrub-steppe.” Or “silky notes of balsamroot layered on a bold foundation of trail signs and split rail fencing.” It’s all “Eau de Cub Creek” this and “Parfum de Cedar Creek” that.
But when it comes to recognizing the signs of singe on ourselves, the snouts that stir us from a deep sleep in the middle of the night to shut the windows the moment the air quality gets above 100 are the same muzzles that betray us when it comes to our own — how shall we say — olfactory appropriateness.
Trust me, though, we smell like smoke. This isn’t your nostalgic “Mmmm, you smell like campfire” scent. It’s the reek of pure, unadulterated “Honey, I forgot to clean the grill.” It’s all acrid greasy undertones, grit on the tongue, don’t-blow-your-nose-in-a-white-hankie. It’s the in-your-face, blunt, unapologetic char of fatigue, of patience, and resolve.
That smoke, that petrichor, that freshly cut alfalfa, the vanilla of Ponderosa bark, Glover Street when Cinnamon Twisps are pulled from the oven, river water’s steely bite, old barn wood, line-dried sheets, the entire 98856 zip code when Blue Star is roasting, skunky whispers on a morning breeze, lavender fields and lupine meadows, the earthy tang of pig pens, fresh basil and garlic in the food processor, musky sheep farms, horses’ grassy comfort, tomato plants in the sun, honey oozing from the comb. All of that, it smells like home.