The first aerosol air fresheners appeared in stores after World War II. The technology had been used first for spray insecticides during the war. Some bright individual came up with the idea that spraying a fragrant aroma in an indoor space would make things better.
I guess he was right, because we sell an awful lot of the stuff.
For years, fragrance makers have been trying to capture the essence of the great outdoors, particularly spring and fall. Spring has always been the one to capture the most attention as folks tried to make their powder room smell like fresh spring flowers.
Some of these companies are trying to convince us events have a smell. I saw one the other day called “Moonlit Walk.” What does that smell like? If it is a moonlit walk on the shores of Lake Michigan, it might smell a little different than a moonlit walk at Myer’s Lake. You could, theoretically, take a moonlit walk near a garbage dump or a dock where they are bringing in fish. Yummy.
But the fragrance makers seem to be focused more on fall than ever before. We have some hand soap at our house that is supposed to smell like pumpkin pie. It certainly leaves a strong scent on your hands. My stepdog, Buttons, who is deaf and blind, seems to notice when I come into the room with fresh pumpkin hands.
Another fragrance that seems to be associated with fall is vanilla. There are all sorts of perfumes and sprays featuring vanilla. You might as well reach into the pantry and dab on a little vanilla extract.
There is a woman in the building where I work who wears some kind of vanilla potion. She doesn’t smell sexy; she smells like cookies. I enjoy cookies, but I don’t necessarily want to smell like them.
If we can’t get spring or fall, the companies offer us exotic places. I saw an air freshener called “Hawaiian Breeze.” I’ve never been to Hawaii, so I couldn’t tell you what a breeze there smells like. Some of the freshest air I’ve ever breathed was in Wyoming. Where’s the Wyoming breeze spray?
If someone really wanted to capture the essence of fall, it would be a compilation of all the smells of the season. It’s the smell of the morning, when there is the first hint of autumnal crispness and the grass is wet with dew. It is the smell of burning leaves, although most people don’t do that anymore. I still like it.
It is the smell of fall foods, like soups or stews that we only make at this time of year. It’s also the smell of a cast-iron skillet of cornbread coming hot out of the oven.
It is the smell of great fall fairs and festivals, where the aroma of popcorn cooked in coconut oil combines with barbecued chicken, funnel cakes and fried apple pies. It is the smell of hay bales and dried stalks of corn.
It is the smell of seasoned firewood burning in that first use of the fireplace, combined with the aroma of fresh, hot apple cider enjoyed in the glow of the embers.
That’s what fall should smell like. When somebody bottles that, be sure and let me know.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.