Sensory memories in New Hampshire

This weekend, my family and I took a mini-vacation to New Hampshire. It’s not our usual bag; we tend to go more for the ocean/beach type and less for the hike/mountain type, but we’d already been down the Cape once this summer, and with activities limited due to The Plague COVID, all we’ve been doing is going to the beach by our house every weekend, so we felt like a change of scenery was in order.

So, we’re hiking through the woods on our first day. Amazingly, even the little one held out at least a mile and a half before starting to whine. Years’ worth of dried pine needless on the ground made the forest floor cushiony, like a yoga mat. Small twigs crunched under our feet as we walked. A creek (or was it a brook, and what is the difference, exactly?) babbled nearby. I was in the zone as I walked, trying to remember the types of forest we learned about in that second grade class called “Nature” we all had in Russia… Deciduous… and something else, the one with the needles.

And I picked up a pine cone, and my fingers got coated with sticky aromatic resin, which I inhaled, and it threw me back to when I was little, in Russia, and we used to foraging for berries in the endless woods. Early in the summer is when blueberries were in season, and I remembered how we’d go blueberry picking ostensibly to bring a basketful home, but really, to eat the tangy berries right off the bush, and come back with tongues and teeth colored black. I remembered, too, how went mushroom picking; how after it rains the лисички (chanterelles) come out and you can find a whole family of them if you burrow under the pine needles, and how you would bring home the harvest, and then the moms would fry them up with onions and potatoes, and how good that tasted after a day of frolicking out on the street. And then I remembered how we learned to tell which mushrooms are poisonous by pressing under the cap to see if they turned purple, in that same class called “Nature,” and reflected that some FSU people still forage for mushrooms and eat them, and that no one really died yet as far as I know, but that mushrooms can be poisonous and no matter what we learned in “Nature,” this is a different hemisphere.

And that’s when I thought about how this was a different hemisphere and all these beautiful sensory memories I have, all triggered by the sound of a babbling brook (or is it a creek?) and the smell of a pine cone, will never belong to my kids. We will never share these memories.

I tried to tell myself that they’ll have their own sensory memories for their little limbic systems to get all excited about, but it was no good, I was already sad.

And that’s on things changing, and something new for each generation.

I write more about my experiences in my book, here.

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