SUSAN ZELOUF takes you to Funkytown
During my daily walk down the boreen towards the canal, I put my galoshes to good use sloshing through slurry, muddy puddles of pungent piss and manure and decomposing hay. Flanked by fields of grazing cows, beyond the hedges flourishing on ditch water, I nose the air as I pass Mark’s farmyard, pronounced Mark’sez here in the Irish midlands. The smell of silage and molasses and shite, which, by rights ought to repulse, is kind of moreish: sickly sweet, acrid, complex, funky.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines funky as “having an offensive odour”, entering the English language in 1623, from the French word funkière, meaning smoke, used for centuries to describe the smell of strong cheese and rank body odour; as a musical genre, funk’s style and feel and rhythmic elements are rooted in the Blues, an earthy and deeply felt musical response to oppression characterised by syncopated, repetitive bass lines; funky can mean unconventionally stylish and hip, also used as a moniker for a foul mood, the blue cheese of moods, its whiffiness a result of Brevibacterium linens, flourishing in both the blue veins of a ripe wedge of Cashel Blue and stinky feet.
January, the first month in the Julian and Gregorian calendars is, on average, the coldest month within most of the northern hemisphere, the month during which, if you are light-starved and prone to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) you may fall into a funk as dank and dark as Mark’sez slurry pit, treatable by light therapy lamps, mid-winter breaks in Marbs, and/or listening to Spotify’s Funk Outta Here playlist on repeat until the swallows return. In an article in Psychology Today, DB Dillard-Wright offers practical suggestions on How to Get Out of a Funk, from spending time outside in the fresh air, to shaking your booty, seeking therapy, setting achievable goals, moderating addictions, meditating, cleaning, joining a community, making friends, even adopting a dog or cat; watching adorable animal videos with morning coffee followed by ablutions performed to Chaka Khan rocking Prince’s I Feel for You is one funk-busting January script I’d highly recommend, though you may want to consult your GP first (re the caffeine).
In Tending Soil, an essay and podcast by Emma Marris featured in www.emergencemagazine.org, environmentalist Marris digs through her pungent compost heap bare-handed, inhaling the wondrous complexity of earth’s geosmin, the organic compound produced by soil’s microbes, giving it its rich, earthy scent: “musky, metallic, fresh-blood-and-old-leaves smell of beets and potatoes and root cellars – the smell of fertility, possibility.” Even the perpetually plugged-in among us are sensitive to the smell, detecting it in minute concentrations of ten parts per trillion, with women and fruit flies more attuned than men to geosmin’s musty, mouldy scent, acting as a kind of alarm, warning against potentially lethal spoiled food and, in lower concentrations a beacon, flagging the presence of water in fertile soil, emitting petrichor after rain, “an electrifying scent” as promising as any pheromone to ancestors in search of lush lands with the ability to sustain. “Soil is the womb and the tomb, the stuff of life and death, in which death is transformed into life,” writes Marris. If dogs, with their heightened sense of smell, are being studied for their claimed olfactory ability to sniff out certain cancers emitted by malignant tumours in urine or breath, then it makes sense that dirt, as heady and intoxicating as it is repulsive, from which we spring and where we will eventually return to, guides us to buried treasure. January, the month named after Janus, the god with two faces, embraces endings and beginnings, burials and plantings. This month, won’t you take me to Funkytown, as sacred as it is profane? Smells like a plan.
This month’s Moodboard
1. I’m following @joannehynes for first dibs on limited edition pieces at Dunnes Stores, with funky details like these hand-embroidered sleeves.
2. I’m trendwatching via photographer Akiko Kondoh’s street-style picks during NYFW. www.lemilemagazine.com.
3. I’m curating my ear story in a black opal and gold spike clicker at the Maria Tash Piercing Room, Brown Thomas.
4. I’m playing with Moschino-inspired hair and make-up.
5. I’m reading Prince’s unfinished memoir The Beautiful Ones for an intimate, illuminating portrait of the late artist.
6. I’m pumping up the volume in Stella McCartney’s Loop Lace-up sneakers, made from recycled plastic waste.
7. I’m tiptoeing around 2020 shoe trends featuring tactile textiles, from Balenciaga to Dries Van Noten.
8. I’m pointing a finger at Selena Gomez for her trending teal manicure. Try Butter London Nail Polish in Slapper.
9. I’m throwing shade in crystal-studded black acetate frames from Gucci’s Dapper Dan collection.
10. I’m shaking my booty to Funkadelic’s 1970 album Free Your Mind, preferably on vinyl.