Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dirty Wool

We closed on our house this week in the Battlecreek community of St. Paul. I guess that technically we live in Maplewood, but I thinks its in BC. I like the house from the start, but a I really wasn't sure why.

If you have never smelled dirty wool I really think that you are missing out on some really great perspective on life. Smells are really powerful in that they can trigger memories in a much more realistic way than any other perception. If you have never owned a nice piece of woolen wear you are really missing out. Wool can be worn dozens of times before it really needs to be cleaned and does not stink when soiled like other technical fabrics. But that being said, it does collect faint bits of odors from different places its been. Its not a unpleasant smell, rather I find it very earthy and calming (not in a patchouli and incense sort of way). That mixed smell or other sensory perception reminds me of all the other places that I have smelled dirty wool or had dirty wool moments.
I guess the first real dirty wool smell That I can think of was being a little monster and going into the fairgrounds in Alleghany County, NC to help set up for the live stock show after the county had a the wool pool where anyone that had pasture maggots (sheep) would bring in wool so that it could be marketed collectively. The smells of fly strike, orvus soap, molasses sweet feed, and lanolin hang thick in the air.

New Zealand: there are a ton of dirty wool memories in NZ. There is also a part of my right index finger that is somewhere in NZ, but thats another story. There was the walk from my Farm Rd. flat at Lincoln University out to the University Dairy farm. Every morning I would walk out to my Ute and listen to the Ba-ing of the the "wee lambies", jump in a dumpy old Toyota Hi-Lux truck, and take in all the smells that are associated with animal agriculture in a arid coastal climate. Raw milk out of the bulk tank, vegemite and margarine spread on Weetabix (I never have quite figured out why they bought margarine when they had butter?) all at 4 am. The glow of one of my coworkers Benson and Hedges as she brought the mob of cows into the milking rotary.

Another dirty wool moment that was not so much smell associated, were the rural homes in NZ.
On the Canterbury Plains of the South Island, all the homes were built in the late 50's and early 60's, are sprawling ramblers, and are surrounded by hedges. The hedges are the bastard child of the Englishman's need to have a confined garden, and the plainsman's need to have a windbreak. Regardless, it results in homes that have a very distinctive appearance and feel. I can remember sleeping in the guest rooms of our farm stay hosts and thinking how pleasant and peculiar the dwellings were.

Our new house gave me dirty wool flashbacks, It has the same layout, the hedged windbreaks, and well kept appearance as the ramblers in NZ. The fact that its in MN makes it suitably foreign to me, having been accustomed to a certain level of disarray and squalor, being raised in the rural south. I could not quite put my finger on why I liked this house until this evening. I pulled a woolen jersey out of my commuting bag and smelled it. A veritable tidal wave of memories and thoughts hit me.

And to think I was going to put it in the laundry basket.
Home Sweet Home.

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