list 2: on scent and memories
Oh! My ears and whiskers! Has Thursday come and gone already? Am I late for my weekly list a mere two weeks in? Would it make a difference if I said that it feels like Thursday today? Hmmm.
I thought this week I would share with you some of my favorite smells. I recently started reading Perfume and have since had scent on my mind (like, obsessed with it). Ah! The glorious sense of smell, this conjurer of vivid memories, the only sense that brings you so close to a place that for a fleeting moment, you travel back in time. A smell leaps to greet you then lingers like a ghost, for hours and forever… stored in the cerebral cortex until it is triggered, like a trip wire, sending back a flood of memories as fresh as the day they were created. That’s what I find fascinating about the olfactory system. As well as the fact that while some aromas appeal to certain people, the very same ones repel others. And I wonder if it perhaps has something to do with the memories associated with them? For instance, I can’t stand the smell of lilies because they remind me of funeral homes but I oddly rather enjoy the smell of tar, because it brings me back to my grade school playground, the year they repaved the court yard (or maybe it was the roof)?
And so, for this week’s list, favorite scents and associated memories:
- nutmeg and cinnamon and cloves: the smells of christmas.
- fish and chips: the coast, in general. the first time i went to the maritimes, in particular.
- scotch: smells like caramel boiled over a peat bog fire. makes me think of first kisses and montreal rooftops (though not together).
- sautéd garlic and mushrooms: sunny autumn day in my apartment in hamilton, ontario. k and i had just returned from collecting wild mushrooms with a funghi expert. we fried them in butter with garlic and put them on toasted bread, fresh from the market. i still remember the quality of the light pouring into the kitchen window.
- the way my skin smells after swimming in a lake and laying under the sun: summer’s signature scent.
- clean sheets, left out to dry on the line and the way they smell like a field of grass. also makes me think of summer.
- olive oil, tomato, garlic and basil will forever equal italy to me.
- jasmine: a night in negril, after drinking daiquiris on the beach with a reggae band playing in the background.
- nag champa incense: the yoga aroma, hence the sense of peace i feel when i smell it.
- old books: my aunt carol’s bedroom on karl street in detroit.
- my dog’s paws used to smell of popcorn and freshly mowed grass, which reminds me of all that is good in this world.
- freshly ground coffee requires no explanation. it is the scent that has been greeting me each morning for a decade.
- chlorine: swim meets in hamilton, when I was doing triathlon training. and my friend’s pool, where i spent my entire summers all through high school.
- snow: you might think snow doesn’t have a scent but I assure you, it smells like nelson, BC. cold marble and ice and wet mittens.
- october: the last warm winds rising from the fields carry my favorite scents… a mix of hot tomatoes on dry vines and sweet apples.
- cilantro: i think this one might be from my past life as a mexican senorita.
- rain, before it falls: no memory in particular. it’s just one of those smells that makes me take deep breaths. it is a strange mixture of serenity and excitement.
- rain, while it is falling: smells like spring and my childhood.
- patchouli: either you love it or hate it. patchouli will forever remind me of paris. the same way i wear angel when i want to be transported back to rome.
- dirt: gardening. i am at my happiest with my hands in the soil.
- ocean salt and seaweed: the first time i ever saw the ocean when i was 21. maine. raining hard. k parked the car and i ran out and stared at it forever.
- autumn leaves: the smell of an earlier time… the 70’s comes to mind.
- orange blossoms: spain’s warm nights.
- pencil shavings: the first day of school.
- campfires: each and everyone of my road trips in canada and the united states. from east to west and up and down both coasts.
- red wine: napa valley, california (best road trip, ever)
What are some of your favorite smells?