My Youth in My Nose

I held my entire childhood in my nose yesterday.  I was in between teaching yoga classes at Ridge Street School (my elementary school!).  It was a very muggy day, and something about the humidity, the stickiness in the air, must activate the industrial blue paint on the walls.  I could smell the building. The layers of years of paint upon paint were shifting and sweating, and filling the air with their breath.  And I breathed it in.  And for just a fleeting flicker, it was 1979, I felt like I was 4 and a half feet tall, and as light as a feather.  It lasted for only a split second. I almost missed it. And then I exhaled myself back to the day.

I stopped dead in my tracks. Stood perfectly still in the middle of the hallway.  Still Life charcoal drawings on the wall next to me; a bowl of fruit, a chair, a stack of books.  I turned around to the wall behind. A Concrete Poetry display; butterflies, cars, houses.  I walked over to the wall of words to read them, but not really to read them.  They were a good excuse, a reason for me to linger in the hallway a little longer.

I breathed in the scent of the building again and again.  That flicker, an image, then another.  But with each exhale, they were gone.

I breathed in deeply, grabbing hold of the scent with my nose, bringing it to the place in the center of my forehead, just between my eyes and I held it there, trying to make the scent last longer than the inhale.  I exhaled, and then inhaled even more fully, bringing the scent to my forehead, swirling it around in a circle between my ears, filling my entire skull with the air, and trying to keep it there in my mind’s nose. I exhaled, and then inhaled again, this time bringing it to my lungs and letting it swirl softly around my heart, filling my body with the familiar feeling of this fragrance.

I wanted to sit down in the middle of the hallway, close my eyes, and just breathe.  I wanted to perform some sort of extended regressive aromatherapy meditation project right then and there.

I would sit in half lotus, hands on my knees, eyes closed, unmoving.  While the students and teachers moved in high speed around me. And suddenly they would reverse. Moving backwards. The sun would set and rise and set and rise, as I sat there in my changing shadow, a human sundial, while things moved in high speed reverse all around.  Then the children would suddenly look different, wearing the clothes of the 90’s then 80’s then 70s. Until familiar bodies and faces would be moving through the halls, and the voices in my head would be recognizable, and in the distance, the piano in the auditorium would be playing songs I know by heart, and the poetry on the walls would be mine.

I wanted to sit down, right there, right then.  But I didn’t want anyone to think that the Yoga Teacher Lady had finally gone over the deep end.

I took a step closer to the wall. I closed my eyes and inhaled one last time. Exhaling, I was on my way. With a smile on my face, and my youth in my nose.


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