I inhale the wood stove’s output and I’m home, not a masked and gloved guest inside the father’s home of a student I support. The father speaks of backdrafts and I’m back with mother after my own father’s death — no smell then, but the effects of carbon monoxide from the wood stove permeated. Here and now only cold infuses the air. Both times overpowering.

I wrinkle nose and sniffle, try to keep so much in, so much to myself, as I witness their exchange. Tension radiates. I take a deep breath. Get another whiff, and whoosh I’m wandering the campsite at Stillwater surrounded by the Adirondacks.

Breathe in: focus flows out, like the startup smoke; backdraft, backwater. Frustrated father: calm waters. And I’m thinking about the piece I’ve been drafting since that first return to the boat launch after my father launched into the afterlife. Still Water in Storm. Spirit of peace settles within me.

No need for mediation, as the men present with me now have turned to silence, each fuming. Neither feeling heard. I too remain silent. Done with explanation, with small talk, with efforts. I launch a new exploration, within my mind, now that my body’s quieted. Wonder awakened with the embers of fire.

After life do we smell of dirt or worms? Grass or a favorite flower? What surrounds and accompanies us?

After the fire has taken to his liking, the dad decides he’s ready to go; charges the son with keeping fire alive. He’s ready to shrug off that he’s tasked. I encourage him to honor father.

Further away, my mind floats while he focuses on work. I prompted him. Now I am prompted. Thoughts circle and a clear memory emerges.

The campfire is the source. It’s light draws us. It’s warmth keeps us. But it’s the scent that lingers, that reminds.

The student starts to speak to me of how the fire clings to one’s clothes. He calls it a side effect. Now I muse on markings.

What if thoughts had a scent? What if intentions were infused into the air, as if essential oils? Does our sweat really exude our composition?

Toxins are drawn out, sweated out. So are we drawn, like moth to flame, to the people toxic to us? Flavor it as pheromones? Perchance a whiff of warning. The light we must approach?

I inhale deeply. Consider that drawn out. Consider light. Consider darkness. Consider night and day. Consider much, so much musing, as I munch meagerly on masses of impressed ideas. The power of suggestion, of associated meaning, of context, of human nature and nature itself.

It’s been hours, I’m hungry. Somehow we’re talking about ice cream. But you don’t scream; I don’t scream. We’ve been about our work, silent for the most part; focused. My mind’s eye centers on the boy consuming chocolate.

Break me off a piece of that kitkat bar. Mmmm. I have a title now for another piece, the one in which we sample each other and decide we’d like a taste of what each is about. (It was inspired by a coworker.) And I have a hankering for ice cream:

Mint chocolate chip flavor; dad’s favorite, and the only ice cream I’ve ever smelled. I’ve tasted plenty. I’ve seen tempting samples. But I savor that colorfully floating upon my memory. Green; symbolic of new life, and sprinkled with Black Death.

It’s capital to say so now, in these covid times. We avoid and create a void. I’m avoiding being present in a situation where I’d rather not be placed. Where my help is welcomed, and then I’m blamed. Where accountability is shifted, and I’m accountable for productive use of time.

Time keeps on slipping into the future. It’s as if today is an ode to one’s relationship with their father. The father and son are avoiding a conversation that needs to be had, again, for I’ve mediated one before. Before, and after; moments of meaning echo, resound, in this moment.

The centrifuge of smoke and ice cream has marked all my Mays. This one might be shifting. “Come what May,” I announce to my mother when we talk on the phone that night. A new term to consider. Positively framed perspective. Then June attune. And Knowvember as I begin another year. And March forward again.

Rising, as smoke always does.

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