What was it about this morning? Was it the fact that this body of mine has become delightfully adjusted to temperatures in the low 80’s, and so upon walking into the super-cooled Panera it felt like one of the two times Sarey has taken the Northern Hemisphere summer and spent it wintering in the Southern Hemisphere, where inevitably there was no central heat both times? (Okay, the first time in Paraguay, there simply was no heat. But given that, it also lacked centrality.)
Was it that when I walked back toward my table at Panera with my food, I could see a beautiful but slightly comic two feet worth of steam rising and wafting away from my hot coffee – and that it reminded me of my sister jumping out of bed early in the cold-no-heat morning to fix us both a steaming thermos and gourd of mate, where the steam would do the same exact thing in the chilled air? And the smell of that coffee suddenly didn’t remind me of any other moment of first smelling coffee around the world in Italy or Britain, or Seattle, or New Zealand, but of staying in the crocodile hotel in Asuncion (not it’s proper name, no, but that’s what los voluntarios de cuerpo de paz called it, and yes, of course, there were crocodiles), and of strong, sweet, and creamy coffee served with pastries, and out of a sort of coffee service I lusted over… and later received as a graduation present.
Or was it earlier? Was it while I was on the road, driving to this morning meeting (for which I am disgustingly early – I’d planned to read and sip coffee, but as it turns out, I’m bloggling)? Was it my inexplicable smile, my desire to have something a little gentler this morning than the NPR Morning Edition that I love, and so started with some gentle instrumental stuff, but then worked my way up to Jarabe de Palo’s ‘Bonito’ album? I decided then and there to add it to my mental playlist of good roadtrippy albums (joining such wonders as Rusted Root’s ‘When I Woke’ and The Killer’s ‘Day and Age’ and the Avon Christmas Album to name three). And even at the time my thoughts turned to all the sorts of souvenirs and remembrances I’ve collected throughout my travels, and the fact that the ones I’ve treasured most have inevitably been the music I’ve collected, and the kitchen wear. Art is nice, too, but I haven’t usually had the funds to buy much of it, and at present I don’t have a hell of a lot of room to display it. Granted, I’m not using most of my kitchen wear either…
But all of these things were ancillary, perhaps, or simply the product of the first, original moment this morning when I put my perfume on. I’ve read somewhere that scent is the strongest trigger for memory that humans have. I can certainly understand that from my own experience. Another place I’d read that if you really want to make the vacation/travel experience memorable, it’s not pictures that are going to bring everything back to you, it’s scent, so set yourself up for success; choose a new perfume or lotion and use it for the first time during these travels and then every time you use it, your memory will go back. Well, my middle sister and I have very similar body chemistry, and this is important because the perfume that smells good on her smells good on me. And when I spent a month with her in Paraguay, she was wearing something I hadn’t smelled on her before – the same perfume I put on this morning. For me, Clinique’s ‘Happy’ is the scent of Paraguay.
And beyond anything else, rather than making me dissatisfied with my present location or status, beyond than instilling perhaps the predictable wanderlust, it has all inspired in me a supreme rootedness and inexplicable joy. I was grinning like an idiot as I drove north on the I-190. But whatever, right? I’ll take my joy wherever I can get it.