Having spent a week in Texas under the sweltering humidity that only a Houston morning can present - the 8:00 a.m. full sweat in the 200 feet it takes to walk from the hotel lobby to the car - you'd think that the thought of a 90+ degree day would have me dreading a step outside of the air-conditioned sanctuary of Cubeville.
But it wasn't just any 90+ degree day. It was an Indian summer day in the climate-utopia we know as the Bay Area. Here, where humidity is as rare as the California Condor, and is a bare whisper of moisture on the few days where it creeps above the 0% mark, a 90 degree day is a treat, even when it comes at the far end of our real summer.
The perfect, moisture-less heat bakes the smells of the summer into the air itself. The air is light, and you can breath a lung full of the warmth, taking in the hints of pine and native flowers and juniper and eucalyptus topped with citrus like you're smelling the bouquet of a fine wine before you drink it. I found myself grateful that my car was at the far end of the corporate lot - more opportunities to sniff the air, waiting to catch another scent. Freshly sawed wood, heating in the sun, from a construction project abandoned when the clock hit dinner time. Bark mulch around freshly bedded plants. The last blossoms on the hedge surrounding the lot. Warm notes of some Baja cuisine drifting over from a nearby neighborhood. The warm air slips around you like a silky robe, encouraging you to shed some clothing and let it touch your skin.
I hopped in the car and did something completely out of my routine. I turned off the air conditioner in 90 degree heat, and rolled down the window. For the next two miles, until I pulled in my driveway, I paused at every stoplight to smell the Indian summer, smiling the whole way home.
When I walked in the door, I hugged my boys and couldn't resist taking a sniff of their hair, warmed by the last of the afternoon sun.
The smell of an Indian summer.