A few mornings ago, before I opened my eyes, I breathed in the smell of fall in Kentucky. Crunchy pin oak leaves mingle with newly cut grass; a cool, dry breeze dispels the summer humidity; wet saddle pads hang in the barn aisle to dry, releasing the sweet scent of leather and horse sweat. This is autumn for me.
I kept my eyes shut.
Breathing in deeply — and this time consciously — I nursed the memory hidden curiously in my nose. Fresh hay. Musty sweaters. Bonfires. S’mores. Dinners on the porch — sans mosquitoes. Sweet potato fries.
I thought of being little again and riding Entertain the Time, my big red horse, down into the woods with Ivan, our German Shepherd. It was like I was there. I could smell the wet ground under Timer’s hooves. I could see the steep trail Dad and Bryce had cleared — ten years ago?! — with chainsaw and “weed whip.” I could feel my hamstrings stretching, my heels sinking down in the stirrups, hugging my shiny chestnut as he descended the hill toward the creek.
Was it a flashback? Homesickness? Happiness? I’m not sure. But it’s been five years since I have been home for fall in Kentucky. For my birthday. For Dad’s annual pictures on the fence. For the smell that is so familiar I can almost bring it here, to my little studio in Dijon.
Now I know for certain — more than I ever did when I was in college — that no matter where I go, or how long I am there, there will never be any place as much like home to me as Kentucky. Especially in the fall.