November 20, 2002

Wandering the Olfactory Landscape

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth. ~Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

Our son is blessed with the questionable benefit of being able to remember the most tedious detail of his obsurd dreams. They are poignant and profound to him, and must be told scene by scene upon rising. We quietly indulge him by listening and trying to attend.

Perhaps it is this way with one's words about the perception of particular and personally important smells. They seem to carry such import and ineffible relevance to our lives, somehow, until we try to grasp it in words. How do I tell another what the smell of new-mown grass or bread baking does to me internally, where it takes me and why? Do I really understand where and why I have been touched by that scent of split oak or ozone? The memory of smell may be dreams told by an idiot, often a memory without words or even images, seen out of the corner of your nose, so to speak. But this experience, I think, is common and runs deep in all of us. It could be an interesting place to focus our thoughts and memories.

It has been a week of interesting aromas here on Goose Creek. I am not sure I am up to the challenge of telling about them, or should even attempt it, knowing the results may sound like our son's early morning accounts of his scrambled noctural ramblings through castles of blue pudding.

Posted by fred1st at November 20, 2002 06:40 AM

I have been rendered incapable of smelling diesel fumes without instantly being reminded of my three years in a drum and bugle corps, where we constantly traveled by bus. The early morning ritual of packing the bus and getting everybody on board to drive off to some parade or competition across the state is burned into my memory, along with the smell of diesel.

Posted by: Curt at November 20, 2002 12:53 PM

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