Saturday, February 2, 2013

Scent of an Ocean

The scent - that ocean'y smell - was notably missing in this seaside city they called "January River (Rio)".   Perhaps it was the surrounding mountains, with all of 'em trees climbing about cliffs and hillsides alike, absorbing everything in the air into their thirsty and porous cells.  Perhaps it was the rain, warm, fat and urgent drops that patted our heads, massaged ocean's tired ripples into actual waves while washing out ancient pavements and the pungent smell of every colorful market stalls.  

In fact, we smelled nothing that brought onto memories of beaches back home. No overflowing sunscreen, seaweed or sand crabs, nor smoky scent of barbeques flowing from mobile vacation homes. The beach belonged to the playful youths, no matter their actual ages.  They flunted their sun drenched bodies in barely there bikinis or speedos, playing futvolley, soccer, beach balls or simply turning themselves over every 30 minutes.   Age or body types didn't matter, the rainbow arrays of shapes displayed on white sand beaches were a marvelous giant kanga of human dignity and loving acceptance of oneself.

Children who were old enough to swim gathered just before sunrise, when the beaches were still empty, their movements all dark, nimble and shiny against white surfs like seal pups chasing after tasty oceanic treats.  The sun would make her first yarn precisely at 6, blushing through layers of clouds and morning fog as you began to think you might have missed it.  You were almost ready to settle into simply admire different shades of cotton candies - purple, pink, blue, coral - weaved into an exploding show into the eastern sky.  Then that red, round, radiant face would leap up above the horizon line, first only a crescent, but rising and promising the rest glowingly and surely.  Your heart would leap then, too, along each step of that glorious morning's ascension. 
We spent our days sipping fresh Agua de Coco and beer.  Before sunset, we'd climb to the rooftop and watch the sun settle back down beneath the clouds' covers and eventually, behind the horizons' lines. The Favelas would light up all over the hills then, like misshapen pieces of quilting fabrics barely covering mountains' sides.  Tall, oppressing darkened shapes receded into the backgrounds then, an elusive and faint reminder of past misfortunes and violence, or perhaps so we wished.  


Of all these sights pressed into our minds rich in colors and sounds, I searched for that scent and found none.  Or perhaps Rio simply has its own signature scent of freshness, of youth and of rising hopes.

Sunrise over Copacabana Beach
Sunset on Ipanema


  1. As always a beautiful piece of writing, full of description, smells and sights. It's always a pleasure when I see that you have a new post and its never too often.

    1. Thank you Dicky. It is hard to sum up the city in a short piece but I figured I had to start somewhere. It is always great to see your stories and comments too.

  2. You're the 'description queen'. You always paint the perfect picture and I always feel as I'm right there next to you. This piece was no exception, perfect, as always.




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