The Past Stinks

Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective,
and maybe objectivity.
~Robert Morgan

There was a strange smell outside the house this weekend…

I sat down on the side porch to wonder why the moon was hiding, and was hit with this smell stench. My first instinct was animal. Specifically, animal piss. *eww* (or *ewe* as some will giggle about). As the evening went, I started to believe it was human piss. *double eww* I looked around but couldn’t figure out what the smell was or where it was coming from. And when I went out the next time I decided it reminded me of something… something from my childhood.

Okay, so we all remember things from our childhood. Some good. Some bad. Some require therapy. It’s the way it is. Certain smells bring me right back to Texas, others to Nana’s kitchen. But this? I clearly remember all the therapy required portions of my childhood (though I skipped therapy and went straight to writing fiction and bleeding on the page =) Why in the hell would this remind me of my childhood? And what about my childhood have I blocked out? And why can no one else smell this?

Then it dawned on me, late last night…

Which is why you’re getting a blog on Tuesday rather than on Monday. Couldn’t blog. Couldn’t think. I’m beating myself up over the current novel, the muse is teasing me about the next, I’ve decided to sell my soul to pull off the novella in between and change it into something I’m hoping works, and this stench kept my free time firmly planted in “what the hell is that” mode. (end random sidebar rambling)

When I was a kid, my sister and I spent a lot of time at my Nana’s house. Nana let me watch Night Owl Theater, never forced me to eat the things my mother thought I should, and had a dessert cart—a whole cart! I heart my Nana. For a time, she lived in the country, about 1/2 mile from Pattison State Park, which spans quite a few miles on either side of Highway 35. On the left side of the highway was the lake I learned to swim in (thanks to mom—walking out past my head, dropping me in the deep water, and declaring “swim or sink”). On the right side were the ginormous water falls—beautiful, but I preferred to admire them from afar rather than from the little railed ledges hanging over them, that whole fear of heights thing somehow removed the desire for the “scenic” view. To get from the lake side to the falls side you didn’t even have to go across the highway if you didn’t want to—or weren’t allowed to because you were a kid.

You could go under.

Through a tunnel.

And my backyard, for about twenty-four hours, smelled exactly like that damn tunnel.

I don’t necessarily have a bad memory of that tunnel. But neither do I have any good ones. It was just there. Like so many other portions of my childhood landscape. As a kid, I was more interested in the water, the sand, and the dude selling bomb pops. As a teen, I added my name to both a tree and a wooden railing near the falls (separate occasions, different reasons) and walked the trails. I grew up, Nana moved, and I forgot about the park for the most part. The tunnel is unimportant. And while there was a mild creep factor (click the entrance picture above for a view of the inside), it was a fairly short tunnel and the light from the other side spilled in enough to keep the haunting shadows to the center of the unlit imagination machine.

But apparently, the tunnel had a stink worth remembering. Mom says musty, I still say human piss. Maybe a combination of both. Maybe bums lived in there. Maybe it was water run-off and rain puddles and bugs and dirt and normal smells of dark, damp nature… in purgatory. I’ve been in the woods. I’ve smelled nature’s version of musty, moldy and old… this smell is different. It’s stronger. And while the tunnel was unimportant, I spent several hours last night remembering all the other things in that park which were worth remembering.

All the things I had forgotten.

The human brain is a strange thing. It chooses to remember this and forget that. The conscious mind really doesn’t have a choice in it sometimes—for example, that test you couldn’t remember the answers for versus the lyrics of that song you hated. And for whatever reason, I get to remember the stink of that tunnel.

I wonder what I’ve forgotten to make room for that…

And I still wonder why the backyard smelled of it… only to me, only for a short time. As strange as the brain can be, the universe is even weirder some days.



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