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Pay no attention to the number by the month.  Here's a good thought for the New Year.  Shannah Tovah. Ron                        ...

Tuesday, October 1, 1996

The Smells of Autumn

                                                                                                        October, 1996

Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:

I took a little walk today.  "So?" you might say.  Believe me, this was a
memorable walk.  When I get home from camp in the afternoon, I usually workout
on our treadmill and sometimes even hit the healthrider.  But today I wasn't
feeling so great; kind of tired, knocked out, maybe getting a cold.  So I
decided to skip the routine and just go for a stroll around the neighborhood. 
It's October and the trees are decked out in all of their splendor; the best
show nature has to offer.  And if my old neighborhood has anything, it's big,
old trees that can dazzle the eye during these couple of weeks of color.  So I
took a little walk.

So I'm strolling down the sidewalk trying to take in the orange and reds, the
dull browns, and fading greens.  I'm tired but feel that this is important
since I know that in a week or two all will be bare.  It's as if I need to
capture this technicolor spectacle so I can rewind to it when the cold winds
whip through the empty branches, when I need a reminder of the softness of
nature.  In other words, I'm trying to take in as much as I can with my eyes. 
It was just that kind of moment when my stroll transported me to other times
and other places.  I had been so concentrated on my seeing it all, that I
wasn't ready to be kidnapped by the smells of autumn.

I walked under a canopy of yellow when the first smell hit me.  It was sort of
dusty and pine-driven.  In two or three short steps I was taken away, all the
way to Jerusalem.  I was walking down Jabotinsky, coming home from HUC to our
apartment on Rachov Harlap, sitting on the Mirpeset with Juca, carrying flowers
for Shabbat.  It must have been that pine smell that reached out to me with a
25 year-old arm  and pulled me back all that way.  I followed my nose into a
personal twilight zone, transported to a time when all was beginning.  I hardly
even noticed the smells of Jerusalem back then, and certainly didn't realize at
that time that someday I would be remembering them with a warmth and a smile
and a, "Yeah, I remember that time - it was good."  When I got home I told Juca
that I had smelled it and that it had made me remember.  She understood exactly
and even described that very smell to me.  She knew.  That was my first smell
of the evening.

A little farther along my stroll a second olfactory sensation materialized. 
This second sniff-trip, wasn't nearly as esoteric as the first.  This was more
dry and dusty than piney.  It took me farther in years but not in miles.  I
must be strange, but in an instant I was back in high school struggling on a
dusty football field.  For me, football was more than sounds and movements. 
For four years the taste and smell of it filled me.  I lived for it and used it
to prove myself to myself.  Today my nose reminded me of that young time.  It
was a time of accomplishment and camaraderie, of controlled trials and tests of
the spirit and body.  In a flash I was back there, my father watching from the
sidelines, my mom, worried in the stands.  Playing football was one of the
hardest things I've ever done.  I was proud to have done it pretty well and am
often reminded of the challenge of those days.  Again, I had no idea that the
smell of the season would stay with me all of these years to carry me back
there today.

If I had to put more than just a nostalgic spin on today's trips, I would have
to say that these diverse memories symbolize my own makeup.  To combine in
one's nostalgia both locker rooms and the streets of Jerusalem, blends an
American childhood with an expanding Jewish identity.  I can hear the Twilight
Zone theme song ringing softly in my ears. 

It's funny, I just started out to take a little walk around the neighborhood, but ended up journeying to the far corners of my life.  When I returned home, I unpacked a few smiles I'd picked up along the way.