September is a month of endings – and also new beginnings. It can offer a time for reflection as summer ends and the academic year starts again. This meditative piece invites you to look at what September means to you.
The smell of September is of cool air rippling over hot earth. It’s the smell of soil breathing a sigh for the end of summer and trees begining to weep for their fading youth.
And yet, it is also the smell of new beginnings. The suffocating heat of August gives way to fresh tingly air in my nose. When I first arrive in England in 1975, September is the smell of a cool morning as if they had air-conditioned the world, and the smell of jet fuel on the tarmac at Heathrow. It is the moment I step into my future – aged twelve, about to start boarding school, leaving behind my tropical self in the glaring heat of Malaysia.
September is the smell of the sea breeze mingling with lino polish and boiled potatoes in the canteen at school. Of stale sweat and old boots in the sports room where we waxed our lacrosse sticks. Of bleach and huge white bars of soap in the washrooms.
I remember the smell of mown grass in the last month before I have to go back to university, lying on a woven mat in the garden, reading Keats and Shelley and the young Romantics. It is the smell of missing Josh* and my circle of friends and impatient for term to start again. The smell of becoming as I grow up bit by bit over the years.
It is the smell of greasy chips in the basement cafe at Law College, wondering if I had made the right choice with my life, wondering if I would make friends in London. The smell of September is the smell of musty tube stations and bus fumes and the smell of Eternity as a friend walks beside me.
September is the smell of misty mornings on my commute to work, of muddiness in the air as I cross London Bridge. It’s the smell of one last barbeque in the back garden with Angie. And of the indominatable roses, blooming huge and pink in defiance of the changing season. September is the smell of twenty years together, of the familiar smell of her – of camomile and lemongrass soap and the natural scent of her skin – as we wash up after dinner in the early evening light.
What is the smell of your September?
*not his real name
Photo: collage of autumn colours to illustrate The Smell of September thanks to Robyn Jay on flickr.com