14 February 2008

Smells and Memory

NY Times article about the perfume market and the move away from artificial scents, scent fatigue and going scentless. An interesting article that made me think about how smells and scents can trigger memories.

Today is pretty damn cold, not like a couple weeks ago, but cold nevertheless. I woke up after a dream of walking down a hot road, smelling the heat rising off of the paved surface. Ringo Starr was at our house in the dream. Abelisto was discussing photography with him.

The smell of hot road tar takes me back to the summer that I was 10. My grandmother had a cabin at a resort at Dietz lake in Clay county in Indiana for a few summers and that year we spent almost the entire summer at the lake. At some point during the summer they tarred the gravel road that ran in front (and in back) of our cabin - I am guessing it was to keep the dust down, or something. Anyway, it meant that our cars got tar speckled, our bikes got gummed up with it, and our bare feet were black-bottomed since the southern Indiana summer heat kept the tar hovering in that magical state somewhere between a liquid and a solid.

Dietz Lake Resort, somewhere in Clay county, Indiana

I do not remember how many summers we owned the cabin. Before those summers we had usually rented a cabin, so all the years sort of run together. The years we rented we would just go for two or three weeks sometime during the summer. In July, I think. The years that we owned the cabin we would start going as soon as the nights became warm enough to sleep without heat. We would usually go to the cabin sometime in late March or early April to check out how well the cabin had faired over the winter. We would get the water turned back on and give the cabin a great scrub down. My mother would plant new annual flowers around the doorway and trim back the perennials. My father and I would clean the outdoor fire pit, cut back the weeds and trim the tree. Once my mother tried to pour gasoline on a smoldering fire in the pit and rather than igniting the trash and yarn trimmings in the pit, the flames followed the stream of gasoline up to the can in her hand. We were lucky. All she ended up with were minor burns and singed eyebrows and hair.

The spot where Grandma's cabin was inside the loop, just
below the large, dark-roofed cabin. It does not seem to
be there any longer - unless of course, my memories are wrong
and the large dark-roofed cabin is the one that was ours.

I think the cabin was maybe 24 x 30 feet in dimension. I cannot really remember. Next time I go to Indiana I need to see if any other photos exist in the family albums of the cabin or the lake.

I seem to remember (and the one photograph I have confirms this) that the cabin had windows all the way around the perimeter of the structure. I think it had a great room, a bedroom or two and a kitchen. It did not have bathing or toilet facilities. There was a central, permanent outhouse just down the road. The main beach house had showers, but who needed them when there was a gorgeous lake to swim in everyday.

Dad & Grandma Emy (his mom) at Grandma Johnston's Dietz Lake cabin.

As soon as school ended for the year we would pack up our summer clothes, fishing gear, bicycles, the two dogs, the cat and a whole bunch of food and stuffed it all in the VW van and head off to Dietz Lake. It always seemed like it took hours to get there, but I think it was really not all that far from our home.

We would spend the summer fishing and swimming and riding our bicycles around the lake. There does not seem to be one now, but there was a pedestrian bridge over the stream at the north end of the lake when we went there. You could ride all the way around the lake if you wanted to. It took about an hour and a half to make the circuit.

Sometimes it was just my immediate family that stayed there - minus of course my dad, he had to work and would come there on the weekends to be with us - but most often it was my grandmother, my family and my aunt Rosie's family. That made for 3 adults and 6 kids between the ages of 6 months and 12 years old.

We caught fish, well, we fed hooked worms to fish. Our parents would not let us use barbed hooks for fear that we would hook each other in the eye... I suppose that could possibly have happened without the ban on barbed hooks, given the fact that someone hooked my cousin Edward in the back one day, which caused a big enough row that two of us ended up knocking each other off of the dock and into the water, which was slimy and nasty anywhere in the lake where they had not laid out a sand bottom... After that we could not have barbed hooks and the fish usually got a free dinner from us from that point on. The only exception was my cousin Greg, who was twelve and already a master fisherman. He was allowed to use barbed hooks if he was fishing alone since there was little chance of him hooking himself. He would get up at the crack of dawn and head down to the dock we were granted with the cabin.

The rest of us were more interested in swimming anyway. The beach opened at 10 am or so, I think. It would be open until noon when it shut down for two hours - one for eating and one for digesting, no cramps for us. That was what the adults all told us - swimming without waiting an hour would lead to "cramps" which would make you sink to the bottom of the lake and drown.

There used to be a foot bridge across the stream that fed the lake. It was connected to the main park road on either side of the lake by a gravel path. That meant we could ride all the way around the lake. The round trip took about 2 hours I think. I do not think the lake was all that big - I am sure that a good part of those hours were spent in the general store at the beach.

The store was a bit spooky and a bit interesting.

more later...



Anonymous said...

I was googling Dietz Lake and came across your blog. We must have vacationed there at the same time. Your memories are duplicates of mine. Thank you for the mental photograph.

Anonymous said...

My family as well had many great weekends at the lake from 1972 - 1979. Peace!