It was on a cloudy day with little visibility. A rain, ice mix fell as we climbed up a mountain trail above 10,000 feet. The ground was cushiony soft with pine needles and moss and we were completely surrounded by tall, thick pine trees. I’m guessing more than fifty percent of the pine forest had been felled by timber cutter’s saws. Countless trees covered the forest floor making it impossible to walk off of the path because of the amount of downed timber. Despite this, a fair number of trees still stood and they were beautiful, tall and stately. The air was thick with the smell of pine. The scent seemed tangible, as though we could scoop it out of the air by the handful. The green color, cool air, and enveloping smell took us to a magical place. We sat on a log in silence, hoping to capture this time before heading back down the mountain.
It is well known that scent and memory are connected. I am grateful for this and enjoyed reliving the hike as we cut down our Christmas tree this year. Walking through the tree farm and smelling the familiar scent brightened our world on another rainy day. We look forward to choosing what we believe to be the perfect tree each year and enjoying its beauty and smell throughout the holidays.
Many conifers manufacture volatile compounds known as terpenes which have the characteristic smell so many of us enjoy. Terpenes are contained in resins and this sticky substance keeps plant wounds free of funguses and deters insects. Humans have been using this substance for years. Caulking on boats, waterproofing, drinks, insect repellants, varnishes, and adhesives are a few of the uses of conifers. Although, I think the first thought that comes to mind when we see or smell a conifer this time of year is that of a Christmas tree.
I hope you are all enjoying the sights and smells of the holidays. I hope your time is filled with family, friends and the creation of memories. Many blessings to all of you. I look forward to 2013.
By the way, the trees along the trail we were hiking had been cut down as a form of management for the mountain pine beetle affecting so many areas of the Rocky Mountains. Although hard to see so many felled trees, we appreciated the incredible effort to manage and save the forest. These felled trees added to the scent we were so blessed to enjoy.