What About the Smell of the Moon?
A friend, high perfumer Christi Meshell, pointed out a note on the Fragrance of the Moon. That aligns with an earlier conversation we had about the smell of guns, firepower and gun powder. It’s like the smell of any explosive, the percussive molecular burst of sulphur, saltpeter and charcoal, that aligns — as certain kinds of black tea — deep, dark, devilish.
I know, I used to make it, then burn it, and watch it explode.
Turns out that the moon smells like gunpowder.
“All I can say is that everyone’s instant impression of the smell was that of spent gunpowder, not that it was ‘metallic’ or ‘acrid’. Spent gunpowder smell probably was much more implanted in our memories than other comparable odors,” said Apollo 17’s Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, a scientist-astronaut who walked the moon’s surface in December of 1972.
Schmitt said that he believed all the moonwalkers agreed and commented at the time that, when they took their helmets off, ‘fresh’ regolith (the scientific name for moon dirt) in the cabin air smelled like spent gunpowder.
It made me think about the scent of place.
When I think about places I’ve been and the scents revealed, I go off in the dream of places, scented.
Some that are tidal, like the perfume of the ocean that comes in off the early morning mists from Puget Sound.
And some linger in the evanescence of regulation — they vanish. The Ybor Cigar neighborhood of Tampa, FLA., from my college days, now disappearing forever — the waft of heated tropical rain, tobacco, steel and moistened bricks.
I go back to others:
The dzong and monasteries of the Himalaya.
The first-up steam and the scent of the darkest of days, Manhattan.
The dark forest freshly lit by morning sun, Decatur Island.
Rain, slicked, Atlanta, GA.
You could meditate for a personal moment, on the scent of place. What comes to mind?
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Throughout his life, my Sicilian grandfather kept a modest garden in his backyard in Staten Island. Lily of the valley, tea roses, and tomato plants bloomed in the early summer, and when they did, he would gather a small bouquet for me, wrapped up in wet newsprint. As a perfumer, I will forever be chasing the recreation of that time and place–the delicate sweetness of the lily, the warmth of the urban rose, the vegetal crispness of freshly picked tomato leaves–commingling with the scent of damp paper and ink. That’s what comes to mind when I think of the scent of Staten Island–and I imagine I’m probably the only one who doesn’t immediately think of garbage instead. 🙂
Beautiful meditations — thank you, Heather.