It was Thanksgiving, the end of November. I was twenty-eight or twenty-nine. I went back to the place where my life began. A visit to the south. Georgia to be exact. Two aunts, an uncle and my grandmother still lived there. A handful of cousins as well. So I went back to visit.
The crisp fall weather was in the air. Sweatshirt weather to be sure. The barometer fell during my visit and the rains came and the freezing and the ice storms.
I remember the smells from that trip. My grandmother’s little apartment that is a part of / but separated from one of my aunt’s house smelled like Hazelnut coffee. The screened in porch of my grandmother’s apartment let in the smells of autumn, which in Lawrenceville Georgia, smell of earthy red clay and wet leaves. Her porch had good lighting, two wicker chairs and a wicker love seat, all with bright, overstuffed, floral cushions.
And my aunt had book cases of books I hadn’t read.
So of course, I spent my free time reading on that little porch in the dusty gray Georgia afternoons. Slight breezes that whispered the coming cold rain knocked on the flimsy porch door. I was asked more than once if I was warm enough, and even though I answered in the affirmative, my grandmother put another pot of coffee on. The sweet, nutty hazelnut smell intensifying.
And I floated in another world. A world created by a word smith that had me sighing with her imagery. Had me smiling at the kindred soul I found in the stories she told. And because I read her words in that November location, the smells of a Georgia fall will forever be associated with my introduction to Ursula K. Le Guin and her Hotel of Saints.
On January 22, Ms. Le Guin passed away. Authors around the globe took to memorializing her. There are far better stories, better writers putting her work and life into perspective. But it did get me thinking about how people effect our lives and how the circumstances, the weather, the scents in the air, affect how others imprint on us.
“The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.”
(Staying Awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading, Harper’s Magazine, February 2008)”
― Ursula K. Le Guin