There’s a certain smell like dried cardboard or wet leaves. There’s a sound like crunching twigs and sticks. The wind rustling past the sleeping branches and newish buds. The distant woodpecker and the closer chirping squirrel. These are the sounds and smells of the woods behind my boyhood home. I squinted a bit to try and see it how it looked a handful of decades ago. The trail is a bit grown over and one of the two tall old trees that formed the gateway blew over in a storm ten years ago. But it is still there, that trail. We boys stomped leaves and weeds and pulled saplings and cut branches out of the way. We drove the lawn tractor through there. Picked the best route. Then rode bikes, hiked, fought acorn wars, and lazed away sleepy summer days on those trails.
The brown landscape and black marshy ground remind me of where I came from. It’s one of the few places in this world where I have no trouble remembering who I am. The smell of decaying leaves and wet wood take me back every time. It’s always a mixture of love, nostalgia, pain, regret, pride, tenacity, resignation, and peace.
And I guess that is what home is. Not necessarily a house or a group of people. But a feeling. A sense. No matter how crazy my world gets and no matter how far a cry I am from that little boy. Whenever I smell those leafy smells, I am home.