nomads & their garlic-hands

I made dinner Sunday night and I had to chop garlic.

Anytime I do this, chop some fragrant spice for dinner, typically garlic or onions, the smell seems to leech into my fingers and can linger there for days. It’s not something overpowering, you wouldn’t turn your nose were I to walk by or anything, it’s just a subtle note of the aroma when you’re close.

For instance, if I put my hand to my chin to smooth my beard, as I often do at work subconsciously, despite the fact that my beard is cropped short enough that it hardly needs “smoothing,” I’ll catch the scent on my skin. I can even increase the potency and notability of the thing by warming my hand; seems to bring it out. I do this, too; I’ll make a little tunnel, fingertips to palm, and blow softly therein. The warm moist breath spikes the residual scent, bring it more to the fore. Or I’ll wring my hands together, letting friction warm my skin.

Sure it sounds odd, but I like the “primal” feeling I get when I note that my hands smell like spices. It’s the same kind of ancestral “connected pride” I feel when I labor with my hands and find them rough for a day (before they regain their cubicle-dweller suppleness); throughout time humans were rougher and smellier and more physically tied to the things they did.

Sure fifteenth century nomadic Frenchman’s hands smelled of garlic and rosemary and whatever else grew in the folds of earth he hunted and abided in. Men and women alike probably also carried a deal more unsavory odors along with them; blood and feces and age-old sweat and dirt all other manner of “down in it” things. They were surely also roughened with work and exposure, hardened, creased and maybe even often pained. Tirelessly rooted to the elements that both governed and sustained them.

Yes, when my hands smell like garlic, I think of nomadic hunter-gatherers of the middle-ages. Strange.


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