I grew up close to Russian Jack Park.
I remember my dad making we walk on the inside of him along a trail next to a road. “Why?” I asked, and he told me it was to protect me, because he’d be hit first if something were to happen.
I remember cross country skiing there in there the winter. Struggling to sidestep up, what seemed to me, a massive hill, and then the reward of going down.
I remember being pulled behind my parents bike in a carrier as we stopped every so often to pick cranberries. The bags and buckets riding along with me. It’s the smell I remember most. The smell of Russian Jack Park. We didn’t pick cranberries every season. But every season I knew when they were ready. I could smell them.
I grew up next to Russian Jack Park hemmed in by the Chugach Mountain Range smelling cranberries and knew I was home.
May is coming to a close and I can now smell the Russian Olive Trees blooming. Are they blooming? Blooming or not, they smell. My middle child announces, “Not the stinky trees again!” as we drive past a certain stretch of highway.
It’s these increasingly warm days. The evenings where the sun starts setting later. The sky, a worn out and fading denim, burnt around the edges, that I think of when I smell the Russian Olive trees. Driving back to my parents. Windows down. Warm air rushing in. Bon Iver playing from my iPod.
We had just moved to this desert. Recent transplants to this foreign landscape. The sagebrush and tumbleweeds still baffled me. The dusty brown hues blurred in my vision making it all look exactly the same everywhere I turned.
But that night as I was driving home in the twinkling of evening, the music, the smell I didn’t even yet know was Russian Olive trees. It all comes back to me now that they are fragrant again. The start of something new, rightly so in blooming, in giving off the sweet smell of new life.
I grew up next to a park that smelled of cranberries. Now I live in a dessert that smells of Russian Olive Trees. And I know that I am home.