"Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth." Diane Ackerman
Not long ago, my mom shared an experience she had when she was cleaning out my grandmother's basement. She came across a bag of glass baby bottles and supplies. Upon opening it, a scent came tumbling out that instantly reawakened memories long ago forgotten. The combination of scents mashed together to send her flying into a foggy bank of memories she had long since lost.
It got me to thinking about all the scents, unique to a time and place, many of which I cannot even name, that still hold power over me when I come across them again.
A unique mash of smells harness themselves to my other senses and bring to mind a time, a moment, a period in my life that usually lies dormant.
Recently, I went into a Sunday school room in a church that I had not been in since I was my daughter's age and the mound of crayons and books rubbed against my senses releasing a torrent of watery memory over husks of moments that had been dehydrated for a long time.
I have done a lot of travelling in the fall. Falls in my teens and twenties were periods of travel for me . Now each and every fall when the cooling air hits the smoke coming out of the chimneys and mingles with car exhaust, I start to return to a back stoop of a hostel in Paris eating bread and cheese or a campfire next to the Danube. The scent fills me with a longing.
So many of these evocative smells do not have a name and they are just out of reach. When I go to grab for them they dissipate. Here are a few of my favourites.
fruit and wood smoke and car exhaust
My first baby
breast milk and her mixed together (haven't smelled it since, well, almost once, but then it filtered away)
Red and White store in Eureka
creosote and..., and...something that I only smell in convenience stores.
concrete basement smell, moth balls and sweet soap
rotting leaves and crayons and pencil cases (they still smell like that)
How about you?