The Smell of the Bulb (Day 272)

The smell of salt, minerally and sharp, is always there to welcome me when I arrive at the Albany Bulb. Sometimes it’s fishy and sometimes it’s not, but it’s always salty; the seaweed drying on the beach wafting up and reminding me where I am. 

The dusty smell of the sand when it’s hot was there this morning; sand that I always think should carry the scent of dog poop because there are so many frolicking along the shore; but it never does. It never smells like wet dog either. Sometimes it smells like sunblock, depending on who I’m swimming with, what time it is, and whether or not there is anyone lounging on the beach. Today I was swimming with Tiana and Angie and there was no hint of sunblock in the air, though I saw Tiana put some on.

I plunged in and started swimming out to the point, steady and focused. Smells retreated. When I lifted my head to breathe, the briny smell had become so familiar that I no longer noticed it. Sometimes when I’m out in the bay, I get the distinct whiff of bread baking—not your favorite bakery kind of aroma, but the smell of bread baking on an industrial scale. A Wonder Bread factory kind of smell. But not today. 

Today I swam and didn’t think about smell; focusing on my stroke and the feel of my body gliding through water. Then suddenly I was enveloped by the smell of fish. Not the bad smell of rotting fish, but the distinctly fishy smell of marine life. I was immediately frightened. I stopped swimming and looked around, expecting to see a seal, but also imagining whales and sharks. (If I’m being honest, the first wildly irrational thought I had was that I was going to look up and see a walrus). It was such a big smell it seemed it could only belong to an equally big creature. Then it was gone and I kept swimming.

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