I remember the Hoh.

“Where the trees thicken into a wood, the fragrance of the wet earth and rotting leaves kicked up by the horses’ hoofs fills my soul with delight. I particularly love that smell, — it brings before me the entire benevolence of Nature, for ever working death and decay, so piteous in themselves, into the means of fresh life and glory, and sending up sweet odours as she works.”

―Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and Her German Garden

It was in the fall that my late husband and I once visited the Hoh Forest, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. That is where I took this picture, and where I obsessed about how to describe the fragrance that was of the same sort as what von Arnim loves. The climate is very different, between the Hoh and Germany, and no doubt every locale’s casserole of rotting things, combined with the humidity and who knows what else, makes for a sensory experience unique to each place. If a dog or a horse is alongside you or under you, kicking up the stuff, its scent would be included in the recipe. Though I typically have only my two feet to walk with through woodsy places, these thoughts and memories are making me look forward to some autumn outings.

7 thoughts on “I remember the Hoh.

  1. Beautifully expressed. That mixture of smells one gets in a forest where leaves are decaying underfoot and wood is gently rotting is a distinctive, yet difficult, one that is far from easy to describe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sometimes, it doesn’t even require a woodsy place. My memories of Iowa autumns include walks on wet, rainy nights after the leaves have fallen. They had a similar fragrance that occasionally wafts from past to presence if the photo or description is just right.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For me, the scent of home will always be the decaying coastal vegetation of Mendocino county – mostly blackberry leaves, redwood duff and plantain – all overlayed by everything that goes into the unmistakable scent of the cold ocean.


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