The power of a smell: the memories that can be dredged up, the emotions that can be stirred all by a smell.
Some friends came over on Sunday night and very kindly brought me roses, the smell in the house at the moment is divine.
Out riding this morning the smell of elderflowers and honeysuckle on the damp warm breeze, suddenly I was back at school with the smell of beeswax in the library, the doors open and the smell of honeysuckle drifting through the windows while studying for my final secondary school exams; next thing I am transported to the fields at home when I was a child and the sweet smell of the elderflowers all creamy fluffy and lacy. All of a sudden that trigger of beeswax, which I had not smelt but was a smell association, has taken me from a really happy relaxed childhood memory to one of fear and trepidation of my first night at boarding school when I was eight years old. Then Wham! Philadelphus wafts through the air and I am back at my childhood home again.
That sense of smell is so powerful with so many associations that for no apparent reason at all our emotions can end up being tossed like a dingy in a sudden squall. Every day there are thousands of triggers and not all of them cause a reaction that we are aware of consciously but the body may have subtle reactions that we are not aware of at the time. It is only later maybe hours or days later that the 'symptom' materialises but our association of the smell that triggered is long forgotten.
Sometimes we have words that trigger an association with smells - this morning I had the radio on in the kitchen while I was pottering about; Eritrea was mentioned and the border war there at the end of the 1990s. I was in Eritrea working in 1997 for some reason I could suddenly smell the dust and the heat, next came the cardamon tea and a memory of a small boy aged somewhere between 6-8 who wanted to study, he was living with his grandmother at the time. I think my boss bought him some copy books and pencils as well as a basket of fruit. Now twenty years later (well it will be in July) I wonder what happened to that boy, is he in Eritrea, was he forced to immigrate or was he killed during the bombing of Asmara in 1998.
We touch indirectly so many people in our lives and sometimes the power of a simple smell can take us off down rabbit holes that we never even thought of.
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