A January Stroll

Driven out from my corner of the lounge by a grumpy, working husband, I decide to go for a short walk.
We haven’t been out much, as this part of Lugo province is famous for its wild boar and their hunters.
The weeks around Christmas and New Year and Three Kings (6th January) are hunting weeks, with few days for people to go out tramping through the woods without risk of being shot.
I walk out through the huge double doors and up the road to the huge 90-year-old Eucalyptus tree – no, they aren’t native to Galicia, but an import from the beginning of the twentieth century.
The odours of the woodlands and hedges hit me – first, the scent of Rocket (arrugula), which I have tried to find for years – but the scent is powerful and very pleasant.
As I pass the Eucalyptus tree, the scent became that of childhood – Olbas drops to help breathing and I collect some leaves to throw on the fire.
Rounding the bend, I passed a Bay tree and even that threw out a faint scent of mace, which is always a surprise that hits me when I break a leaf.
We used to collect nutmegs when we lived in Singapore. The nuts would fall and the outside husk would resemble a walnut casing, but the mace inside would be a revelation – reminiscent of a 16th century ornamental astrolabe.
Just past the small Bay tree, the Rocket takes over again, a tantalising smell of summer.

I walk on, past Pepe’s castañeiros (chestnut trees) and turn right, down a small pathway, which is now covered with fallen oak leaves, from the trees that line the chestnut grove.
I start to smell vanilla, the signature scent of oak trees. The leaves are some ten centimetres deeper than the last time I walked this route.
I turn right into an old chestnut grove, which is now abandoned. The leaves are very deep now, as they aren’t raked into heaps, in order to collect the chestnuts.
It’s an odd sensation, slightly bouncy with scents of fungi and rotting leaves and it’s very pleasant.
I’m hoping to find some Chantarelles, but there are no fungi lurking beneath the fallen leaves.
I can smell fungi from about ten metres away, especially the boletus family. I think it’s a middle-aged woman thing.
I have a theory that in Paleolithic times, the older women from a tribe were in charge of food preparation – they could tell if meat was ‘off’ and where the best seeds or fungi are. My sense of smell is very sensitive. I can smell clothes drying on a washing line, washed with modern detergents from nearly fifty metres away. Persil is not my friend.

As I walk home, I don’t notice the scents. My iPod has reached my favourite harpsichord movement and I’m walking fast. My knees are complaining, but my mood is light and my ears are full of J S Bach. Bliss.

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