I heard recently that the sense of smell is the sense most strongly related to memory. While I believe this because I experience it all the time, I wonder why it is sense and not sight or sound or even touch. Is it because scents are more defined because there are less of them surrounding us? Or we only notice the strongest of scents while we can’t help but see everything in front of us and most of the noises around us?
And scents don’t often evoke picture memories. Often it’s just an emotion, or a glimmer. There were a few days this summer, as we were rearranging the house for Gram’s arrival, that I would stumble downstairs and catch my breath only to be struck with a memory of my paternal grandparents’ house out east. I couldn’t explain it, and I couldn’t share it with my dad like a picture or a video. I couldn’t even tell you what the smell was.
It seems like oftentimes scents don’t stir up particular memories but objects and people. Mom found a certain scent of air freshener and a candle that both remind her of her daddy’s cologne. She always keeps one or the other close at hand and brings them out to ground her when she’s feeling anxious.
I’ve been pondering for two days what I was going to write, and this wasn’t it. But I brushed out my hair this morning and caught a whiff of campfire smoke and figured, why not? I have nothing better to write about.
My hair smells like open-air woodsmoke because I met with my Bible study group last night after church, but that isn’t the only thing that comes to mind when I turn my face toward my hair. It’s a muddy, gray autumn day at the Renaissance festival several years ago, when I borrowed a cloak from a friend who does reenactments. It’s all of the summer days, from May to September, spend camping with my family and coming home to bags full of a smell you never noticed while you were surrounded by it. And that’s a good memory, because family camping trips are always a highlight of my summer. We haven’t been able to spend even a weekend together like that in a few years.
Maybe it’s just me and my tendency toward melancholy and moody ponderings. Maybe people aren’t as stirred by scents as I am, because the things they breathed in all day long have never been good things. While I love a good sunrise or a forest at the height of autumn color; the sound of a waterfall or my favorite song; the feel of tangled horse manes and dirt under my nails; or the taste of warm apple pie or ham and bean soup; those are just beautiful things. They are like brushing a surface. What assures me that, yes, this beauty is my life is the smell of warm tomato plants and corn ripe for harvest, fresh homemade hot chocolate, the earth right after a summer rainstorm, my brother’s guinea pig as it squirms in my lap.
There I go being melancholy again. I finally had to force myself to just say something. I’ve felt blocked all week. I put down the new book I’ve been itching to devour; I kept hesitating and second-guessing myself on the painting I’m trying to finish; and I haven’t typed a word of a story since last Friday.
It’s probably just me trying to find a new rhythm. I ought to have spent my free week before Gram came to establish that rhythm as a sort of dry run, but I didn’t. Now she’s here and I’m struggling to adjust. I’m trying to keep a good attitude because I don’t want to be the person that freezes up at the first hint of conflict.
Hence this blog.
I’ll stop here for the day and probably come back tomorrow if I can. I have stuff I want to say, but putting it into words may take more time than I presently have. We shall see.
The goal is two posts a week minimum. I took down the few old posts I’d published on this blog and I’m starting fresh. Weird knowing my family won’t be reading this, at least for a while.
~ Phoebe Ava
P.S. I had a thought that didn’t fit well with the rest of the post but that I wanted to share. In A Wrinkle in Time (a favorite), Meg and her friends come upon a a planet whose inhabitants do not have eyes. Meg and Calvin spend several conversations trying to explain their story, relying on sight to describe Mrs. Which and Co. The creatures are confused by the humans’ reliance on such a sense to explain the essence of a person, when a person’s appearance is not who they are. Of course, they communicated with telepathy and empathy, so I doubt the sense they would have preferred was scent.
P.P.S. Yes, I am aware that I chose “Meg” and “Calvin” for my parents’ secret identities. It was not intentional, but once I realized what I had done I didn’t want to change it because it works just fine.