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Kiriaki Orfanos

I wish I could convey the hot, dry smell of Thyme

I wish I could convey to you the hot, sweet smell of Thyme. I wish you could read the scent of it and want hold it in your breath.
I can show you the shape of the landscape and its detail and its colours. I can show you its age and how harsh it can look, or how voluptuous, or how delicate. I can put those images in your head. That’s easy. And anyway, here are the photos. But I can’t give you the smell. And the words I have available to me to describe it, well, they’re not enough.
It’s a smell that swirls around you, scorching your nostrils and setting up currents in the air and in your mind, so that your thoughts pulse to its heat. It burns the air and seeps into your skin. You see things differently too. Different colours, reds, yellows, purples, begin to emerge in the grass, on the shape – and in the bulk – of the mountains, or running down into the gorges and the ravines. They stand out more starkly against a fresher green.
It’s a textured smell, almost pixilated, it attacks the nasal senses in short, percussive bursts. It’s a little bit dusty. A little bit dry. It comes and goes with varying intensity and you find yourself breathing shallowly in order to keep it for as long as you can.
You need to crush the leaves of Thyme in order to release it in its full pungency, like when you notice a feature of the landscape that you want to photograph, so you drive on the verge of the road, bringing the full weight of the car to bear on the plant and it in turn, fills your car with its fragrant protest. However, you don’t need to damage it to feel its softness in the air. Then, it’s almost an ambush. First the smell isn’t there, and then you think it is, and then it is. And the more aware of it you become, the stronger it becomes.
Among the many smells of Kythera in the summer, this is the aroma that defines it most. It is the scent of its summer essence.

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