Bike and Smell the Flowers

[Canopy of lilacs.]
Spring in Minnesota is not subtle. It hits the landscape like a bowling ball, trees exploding with leaves, and all at once the sun feels legitimately hot on your skin. It stuns, a tingling numbness that makes springtime walking and bicycling a semi-euphoric Vitamin D contact high.

But there's an extra dimension to bicycling that is the cherry on the springtime Sunday, something that makes me feel actually sorry for all the people stuck speeding their cars around town. For the last two weeks, riding a bicycle around the Twin Cities has felt like having your face stuffed into a pillow of flowers.

The apple trees, the pink trees, the white trees, the other red trees, the lilacs, purple and white, stuff I don't even about or notice. Everywhere you go, gliding along city streets, flourishing flowers send amazing scents up your nose. Especially after months of being cooped up inside, it's a magnificent everyday drug.

[This is me right now.]
Scent is one of the dimensions of our cities that we lose behind the windshield. Cocooned in metal shells, we smell little more than our insulated world: fossil fuel, fast food, the old coffee in the cup holder, the detritus of domesticity. But outside on a bike, the air is alive with secret springtime signals tickling your nose, like the slight hint of rain or the tint of pungent mud. On a bike you can imagine what a dog must be thinking as it wanders up the block, led by its nose, looking for other dog butts or forgotten glorious dirt. And for humans, during two or three weeks each year the urban smellscape fills the air like a firework of invisible color.

You don't even have to stop and smell the flowers. They will surround you with their magic. Biking around the city, I feel like the 1960s cartoon of rascal cat led by the scent of the pie cooling on the windowsill. The flowers beckon me around the corner, lure me with sweet aroma, conjure my energy, suffocate my senses with a blanket of fresh life.

What ephemeral glory! Olfactory inertia. Get out there.

[Purple and red ones.]

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