I was walking in the overgrown field not far from the river and a light rain had been falling only a little while. I noticed the smell – quite distinct yet hardly there. Not earthy, not a wet, rainy smell, just a subtle autumnal under-fragrance of dry vegetation, probably released by the rain. I even tried to sniff out a specific source – the many little white blown-out goldenrod flowers, the yellowing tall grass, the scrubby pines, the dry clusters of dark garnet sumac, glistening green-gold-red leaves of blackjack oak – it was everywhere and nowhere.
It stayed with me as I walked through the woods. Funny how smell as it passes through a person can recover fugitive memory – cat-tails and rushes at the edge of a familiar pond from long ago, near Manassas – and trigger unexpected imagery ...
A legion of Roman soldiers, having lost their way, is encamped in a field near a river. Somewhere near Lourdes they had snagged a sort of space-time tripwire, and now they’re bivouacked on the upper Mississippi. One day they were in Gaul, the next, near St. Paul. It’s as yet unnamed, of course, but one of the legionnaires, secretly a member of a persecuted sect, has in his possession a document that will one day become known as The First Letter of Paul to the Minnesotans. The legion wanders in the direction they think will bring them to Rome, and eventually makes it to the Atlantic coast, where they encounter Icelandic wayfarers who ferry them to their island home. Hence the name, the Minnesota Vikings.
Could be the makings of an 1100-page saga. In the sequel, the legionnaires in Iceland get geometaphysically flipped again, this time onto Easter Island.
And to think, I haven’t seen an episode of Lost in over a year ...
Finally, a little coda – I was listening to this during last night’s sunset. “Who Do You Love” ... Bo Diddley.
The night was dark but the sky was blue
Down the alley an ice wagon flew
Hit a bump and somebody screamed
You shoulda heard just what I seen.