Friday, October 02, 2009

The Power of Scent - a List

Inspired by my friend Mark's article "Scents My Sister Loved" in Sniffapalooza Magazine, I've made a list of my own evocative scents. For me, scent equals memory. I've always had a very strong sense of smell, which in some ways is a detriment, but mostly it's a gift. I get mocked for my descriptions of tastes because I correlate them to scent. The most recent instance of this was at a dinner with friends where I described the risotto as having a flavor "that reminds me of the smell of 1970's basement bar." No, this was not a good risotto, but I got to the heart of the flavor.

So here are some of the scents that resonate with me on many levels - some are universal in nature (like astrological "predictions" in StarScrolls at the supermarket), others are personal. This is the scent-stuff that tells my stories. I'll come back to this and add as I remember more. It's hard to make a finished, definitive list!

acid eaten paper of old books
pencil shavings
Country Cottage puffball curtains
lemon juice
driveway sealer
cat fur
a pile of fall leaves
chimney soot
pine tree sap
lychee fruit
olives and feta
basement mold
mint tea mist
toasty scent of a Carhart shirt
stuffed animals
warm baby skin, not baby powder
humid bathroom with hairspray
city street sewage sigh
wet sand
triple-layer college apartment carpet
first heat kicking in
rose oil
melting candle wax
acidic tomato vine
Sunday dinner Salisbury
birthday cake candle wish
snowman mittens
Grandmom & Pampal's attic warmth
onions frying in olive oil
Thanksgiving celery and onion
turpentine and oil paint
air right after rain
air right before snow
summer dusk air
envelope mint
the yellow center of a daisy
inside of a piano (felt, wood)


Mark David said...

Darling - it shouldn't surprise you that I buy the taste/smell parallel hook, line, and sinker.

Of course, we know they're connected - but did you know that the only organ in your body that comes into direct contact with the outside world is in your nose?

I love your list, especially the humid hairspray bathroom. This was usually all I got of my mother in the morning, she was usually gone right before I woke up, out the door and off to work. Redken Amino Pon. then they discontinued it. The replacement was more pleasant, but not as memorable. Then they discontinued the replacement. This was a pattern that continues to this day, my mother has never had luck with hairspray - they always discontinue the one she loves.

I want to add

the smell AFTER the snow falls, or during.
fresh Xerox copies

and there are more. Its just too early for me.

Thanks for writing this.

D. T. said...

Great list. It's amazing how smelling something brings back a memory, too. While I was working my the memoir during the MA program certain smells would remind me of something - toothpaste once reminded me of Girl Scout camp- and I'd go back and add that detail or memory to the book. With describing tastes with smells, I get you there. Those Necco wafer candies-- when I as little I always said the green ones taste like the smell of Pine-Sol.