THE SMELL OF HEAT
The smell of heat is not the same as the scent of summer. Heat is a summer condition.
The smell memories triggered by thoughts of summer are of cut grass, sunscreen, warmly salted sea air - which is different from crisp and cool salted sea air because it smells as though the salt particles are closer together than when they’re floating on a cool breeze. Heat is different to warmth.
Warmth smells like toast, the lingering scent of coffee, the slice of pavement lightly spread with the first rays of morning sunlight.
Heat is stifling to inhale. Heat exposes the hidden. The warmed up, deceased vermin tucked away inside the well trimmed hedge assaults the senses on your morning walk and you’re reminded that there is a dank and unforgiving side to life.
Skin becomes hot and small beads of sweat moisten the face, the aircon is not working, there is no aircon, heat starts to feel like it’s being generated from inside of the body, frustration leaks out, irritability is absorbed by the car door slammed, released with the impatient retort spewed. After a couple of days like this, one might start to explore a better way to be and live within heated conditions. Can we take better control of our sense responses if complaining and heatedly reacting to it doesn’t prove to bring sustainable physical or practical reprieve?
Heat is a condition of weather, and the rising temperatures, a consequence of the actions we perform on earth. Are we so comfortable with the technological advances of the day that discomfort brought on by the environment we find ourselves in, is perceived as a regressive circumstance, plunging us into a state of petulance? Does the heat expose our anger because it exposes the elements in our environment that point to a breakdown in infrastructure? Or because it increases the awareness of our own human activities as the root cause of climate change? The stench of overflowing bins, the inner city pollution hanging in the warmer pockets of air, sewage more visceral than we remember it being 5 years ago, load shedding drawing heavily on our tolerability reserves.
Smells do not deceive. They are information. If you smell your clothes at the end of a day, after having visited places outside of your home, you’ll recognise a scent from just about every place you visited, or every purposefully perfumed person you greeted with an embrace.
What information do our senses receive in the heat?
Blooming flowers perfume the air less in the heat because their fragrance oils dissipate. Perfumed skin exudes a deeper sensuality when it sweats, which awakens our primal instincts because sweat carries a natural animalic note and mixes together with the perceptible imperceptibility of pheromones (the presence of pheromones in humans is yet to be scientifically proven so it's a case of placebo effect vs 'knowing' what's there but goes undetected by the tech).
In the summer heat, cooking spices hang in the evening air a little more texturally; layers of cumin, coriander, turmeric and onion aromatically arouse the senses, momentarily unveiling the fantasy of travel to some exotic land.
Can we appreciate the stories the scented air tells? Stories of us, of people living together in community, or as strangers passing each other on the street, sharing the habits and necessities of eating, bathing, contributing to sewage pipe contents, consuming, disposing, celebrating. Can we respect the thread that connects us to each other; our human nature? And can we pay enough attention to want to adjust and restructure systems with this information being presented to us, in the air that we breathe;
The scent of it,
the temperature of it
and essentially, the intelligence in it.