Mono Lake, nestled east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the eastern edge of California, feels less like a mountainous retreat and appears more like an aquatic dump. Its environment and habitat hide a wealth of diverse plant and animal life, but unable to drain into another water connection, the salt content exceeds levels in many western waterways. When I roll down my car window as I drive around its western edge, I expect an ocean aroma, but instead the fragrance baffles me with its sweetness. As I continue around its southern exposure, I expect perhaps a change in the wind direction might lift its salty residue into the air, and yet the smells bombarding my nose confuse me.
Sense of Sage
When it comes to clothes, I rarely shop on the Internet, in fact, I never shop on the Internet. If I received a one-hundred-percent assurance that my size would be reflected accurately in a single size that never changed from one style to another, if I knew with certainty that every designer used the exact same numbering system for my waist, bust, and hip sizes, if I could imagine effectively that the fabric would feel as soft, or sturdy, or smooth as I imagine it does on my screen, and if each item of clothes would appear as identically flattering when I lift it out of a cardboard box as it does on the web model, I might reconsider my choice to purchase every article of clothing I own only after evaluating its true appearance in a long mirror inside a dressing room previously occupied by equally intrepid online consumers. And, of course, if I had any idea what color “sage” really looked like in person, rather than the various shades it encompasses on the worldwide web, then I might, just maybe reconsider online shopping. But I doubt it.
Sage bumps into this same challenge in a variety of areas. If you wanted to paint a wall in the earthy tone of sage, what would that sample look like from brand to brand? If you added sage to a recipe, how much would you add, and would sage leaves taste different than ground sage. Is the sage fresh, or has it been in a spice rack since the 1970s? If you drive through the desert or cruise through the mountains, does sage even look like the same plant? Darn it, sage, you are just too challenging to nail down – I just don’t know where you stand in nature, in the hardware store, in my kitchen, or in my wardrobe.
Smell of Sage
When I finally pull off the road and take a closer look, or a deeper, unobstructed whiff, I find the culprit in this confusing sensual overload: sage. The desert plant, while not in bloom, covers the low, dry hillsides beyond the water’s edge and for miles into Nevada and onward toward the east. Nearly overpowering in its richness, the smell tantalizes me, and now that I am surrounded by the growth, I continue to breathe as deeply as possible, attempting to ingest as much of the aroma into my memory as into my lungs. And with much success, I continue to recognize the sweet smell of sage years into the future, despite its nuances from the Great Basin into the high ridges of the Rocky Mountains. Describing it in words, online, lacks the full enjoyment of its effects, the way it lifts above its stubby branches, the way it infuses the air and envelopes the wind, and the way it feels inside and around my being. Yes, you just cannot understand sage on the Internet; you have to experience it in person.