Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Scent of a Woman

Scientists have spent time and resources to arrive at a conclusion that you and I already knew, that scent has dramatic and evocative powers.

For some people the smells of spring hold a special magic. Rich, damp loamy soil and spring blossoms combine in a distinctive brew. For me, fall has always held a special magic. The growing season has ended and the corn ceases it's climb upwards and stands still, waiting for the perfect conditions that will signal it's harvest. Corn shocks, which in times past covered the fields are now relegated to decorative purposes.


The smells of fall are bold and distinctive. Smoky piles of burning leaves fill the air and the local cider mill exudes it's mixture of sweet and tangy scent. Nothing says home to me like fall.


Occasionally the true power of scent is driven home in the most unusual ways. I walked through a local garden center one spring and came upon a long table covered with hyacinths. Immediately I was transported back to my childhood bedroom. I could picture the scene as if it was yesterday. The sun was streaming in through the second story window and my bed was pushed up against the far wall. My mother had just returned from a shopping trip and she'd brought me a hyacinth to place on my windowsill. There's no way my mother would ever remember that moment, after all it was over 50 years ago! But just a whiff of the flower sweet and heady scent brought the entire scene back to me as if it was yesterday.

Scent has the power to not only evoke memories, but floods of emotion.

I was not prepared for what happened to me one afternoon while shopping at a local home accessories shop. I walked among the beautiful objects, moving towards a display that included a sculpture of a small bird. On the table was a bowl filled with small sachet pillows scented with my grandmother's perfume. I froze in place and shut my eyes as emotions washed over me. I could literally feel her presence and the strongest feeling of love. With my eyes still closed I could feel her standing behind me, certain that if I opened my eyes the impossible would happen and she'd be standing there. In that fleeting moment nothing could have convinced me otherwise.

The store owner was stunned as I bolted for the door with tears welling up in my eyes. How could I possibly explain what had just happened?

A few days later my neighbor asked if I'd had a chance to visit the new store in town.

"Yes," I answered. "They carry emotionally charged sachets."

Writer Cindy LaFerle has written something quite poignant over at Fifty-Something Moms. Check it out. She's a terrific writer.


Donna said...

Scent is very powerful to me too, and I will associate it with something or some memory immediately. What a lovely post! Your photos are beautiful.

chocolatechic said...

My daughter got me a bar of hand made soap for my birthday,and it smelled of my dad's mom.

I sat there inhaling that bar of soap, with everyone looking at me like I had grown a third eye.

PS. Package received...yippie...and you have the most gorgeous hand writing.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Your writing is so descriptive and specific that I am able to experience what you experienced secondhand. That's a wonderful gift, Suzanne.

Aroma is provocative for me, too. It must be for everyone. It has to explain why so many of us enjoy the smell of must and old books. Nothing else could possibly explain it.

J'Ollie Primitives said...

Rose Milk hand lotion.
Wicker on a sun porch.
Those scents should be bottled.


Beef barley soup warming in an enamel pot. Tobacco and sawdust. Matches. Shortbread and apple pie. Tear.


I had the most real dream last night. You came to see me. I picked you up at the airport and we stayed at my Mother's home. I took you on a tour of the beach and the mountain and then you went for a walk in the valley. Then I woke up.

bj said...

Oh, yes...I am so aware of scents.
Just as your flower scent brought memories, rain, at night, does the same for me. It takes me back to the 50's when I was a teenager..I see my room, also, with my bed beside a large window. In the summer, with raised window, I slept with my head at the foot, so I would be cooler. When it rained, it splashed on my windowsill and sometimes, on my face. It was so heavenly and a memory etched so deeply that I will never, ever forget the feeling. Booo Hooo, now I am wanting my mom!!

lifeinredshoes said...

You're pretty terrific yourself!

StitchinByTheLake said...

For me it's Jergens Lotion Original Cherry scented - smells just like my grandmother. :) blessings, marlene

Design Gal said...

I love how smells evoke emotions and memories! Even songs bring back so many memories, but it's amazing how smell can suddenly bring back such strong feelings!

Thanks for sharing!

Mary said...

The scent of Tea Rose perfume will forever remind me of my mother. The smell of manure brings me back to my childhood. Leather, too. And the smell of fresh hay reminds me of my father.

A wonderful post, Suzanne!

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous post today, Suzanne! The music (as always) is perfect with your photography, and your writing is so evocative. I can almost smell the musty corn stalks and the fresh crop of apples. Tonight we're heading to Greenfield Village, an historic farm village in Dearborn, Michigan. We're doing the annual Halloween walk, which is always wonderful ... can't wait to see the Headless Horseman ride through village green. You've got me in the proper mood for this ...

Cindy H said...

Smells have that same effect on me, too. I walked into a Bed, Bath and Beyond recently and it smelled like strawberry incense. It reminded me of growing up in the late 60s-early 70s.

What a lovely way to remember your grandmother!

Louise said...

I think scent is my strongest sense for memory triggering. Living far away from where I grew up, it doesn't happen often, but when it does, it is powerful. I understand the reaction in the store, but had it been MY grandmother's perfume scenet, it would have ruined my day.