“I can’t name these colors accurately and it frustrates me,” I told him. For weeks I’d been trying to find the right words to describe the slate blues, charcoal grays, and sherbet oranges I’d been stalking during my sunset walkabouts around town. He offered words on the pastel spectrum, but like my admittedly limp offerings, none of them were quite right. When I sit down to write, this is one of the frustrating moments – the wanting to express something your mind can see, but the words won’t come out to play; they simply won’t cooperate. I know it’s my failing, not theirs.
We were facing Mt. Rainier, our 12 o’clock beacon and reference point to guide us home in the twilight hour. To call her our True North as we were heading due south would be not quite accurate. I stared ahead, achingly mindful of the jaw-dropping beauty of the moment and my good fortune to have a generous friend who offers friends the opportunity to join him, gratis, for his meditative flights above the Sound.
I thought about the ability to express sights and senses a day later as I sat reading a magazine in a bustling café on a sunny afternoon. “When we engage all the senses, we engage ourselves,” said Charlotte Moss, a famed interior designer. In the article she reminisced about visits to her grandmother’s home where flowers graced every room, Lily of the Valley soaps in seashell shapes were always at hand next to bathroom sinks, and her grandmother’s signature scent was everywhere.
My mind lazily meandered to the memory of my maternal grandparents and the smell of their home that I loved so much when I was a child. The house was old and humble, but it smelled delicious. Like the words of my sunset colors, I can’t quite identify the smell of their house. It was a cross between brewed coffee, an unknown spice, and wood. If a magical genie gave me three wishes in this life, to bottle the scent of their house and be able to pop a cap and smell it ‘til I expire would surely be one of them.
Over the years the scent of their home never changed, even after my grandfather passed away in their front room after battling cancer and attempting to die with dignity at home. When I learned my grandmother had decided to sell the place, two irreplaceable things would be forever lost: Grandpa and the scent of that house. What would remain were the memories. Long afternoons on Grandma’s “davenport” (as she called her sofa), watching inappropriate soap operas and staring at the incredibly high arch on her socked foot. The image of Grandpa with his paper in the morning, drinking his coffee out of a ’60s-style ceramic cup, and later, eating dinner in the same chair at 5:05 to the strains of the 5 o’clock news on KING5 playing ten feet away in the living room.
Writing all this, I realize it’s not really finding the “right” words that matter. It’s making the memories and remembering. The sunset flight; the sitting around the woodstove that gave off a house’s signature scent with two amazing grandparents who would forever shape my life; and the sheer good fortune to live a life worth waking up to every day and being present for the delight that continues to unfold.