I am taking an online course through my regional library on aromatherapy and the use of essential oils. The main reason I am taking the course is to try out the virtual classroom software on something fun and easy before I take a “serious” course like business or accounting. In this online course, we must submit assignments just like a real classroom. My first assignment is write about the memories evoked by specific smells. I thought I would draft my assignments here before I submit them to the instructor and to use them as a bit of writing practice. So here goes….
I had to think about this for a few minutes. The sense of smell is often overlooked when one is discussing lifetime memories. One usually remembers things seen or heard, not what one has smelled. Actually, it is the unpleasant smells that evoke the most potent memories: my first trip to a non-first world country where my olfactory center was overwhelmed by the smell burning garbage, bad sewage system, and offal boiling in a sidewalk cauldron. Similarly, some of the saddest memories come from the smell of urine and disinfectant from hospital visits.
There are some smells that in themselves are bad but they actually bring back fun memories. I remember those road trips as a child through the smell of diesel fuel, hot rubber tires on sizzling cement, and the smell of lingering cigarette smoke from previous occupants in motel rooms.
Obviously, my favorite memories are associated with the loveliest of scents: the sweet, exotic fragrance of plumeria as I stepped off a plane in Honolulu, the warm, resinous smell of pine needles and cedar bark on a hot summer day in Yosemite, and the ragged scent of saltwater and seaweed on Cannery Row in Monterey.
It is interesting that I most vividly remember these smells of childhood travel. I guess we take for granted the smells of everyday experience. But here are some I do enjoy: frying bacon, baking bread, the smell of cinnamon and hot sugar from the bakery down the street. And coffee. Oh, the wonderful, mellow richness of fresh brewed coffee.
Scents are more powerful than image and sound, it would seem.
Miss Pelican (c) 2012