Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Power of Smell

"The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that had left the conscious mind." Anonymous

I know I just wrote an entry just yesterday but I was prompted to write again today. As with many entries, I got my inspiration for this one on my walk to my daughter´s daycare. There we were just walking along the sidewalk with the sun shining onto our faces and then I smelt something familiar. In an instant, through this simple inhalation, I was transported back to another time, another place. I was back in Vancouver and running along the trails in the Endowment lands as I had done many years ago inhaling the same familiar scent of spring flowers. It was intoxicatingly sweet and smelt like sunshine and warmth all rolled into one. Then I was suddenly with my father again and we were catching up over coffee as we used to do so often and again there was that familiar scent hanging in the air. Those same flowers were thriving around us and filling the air with their sweet nosegay. For a moment I felt like he was here again - all through the power of a simple breath.

That is the incredible intermingling power of smell and memory. They say it is one of the strongest senses we have and I often feel its pull. Maybe it is my sense of romanticism, or maybe it is just that I am simply an emotional creature but I often catch myself getting lost in a beautiful memory invoked by a certain smell. Some of my all time favorites:

The smell of my daughter´s skin during the first few months of her life. There really is nothing better on this earth is there? The pure sweetness of new life.

The smell of Coppertone suntan lotion. Just a whiff of it and I am back with my father who favored it as his moisturiser of choice. When I would reach up to hug him, I would smell that sunkissed scent and I instantly felt safe.

The smell of my husband´s lips. It isn´t always there, but when it is, I am back to our first kiss many years ago. My heart flutters for a few moments with the memory of new young love with all its promise and excitement.

Chlorine. Given the fact I spent half my life in the stuff, it is very nostalgic for me and evokes so many memories. When I inhale those familiar fumes, I am back to a time when things were simple. I would get up every morning at 5am and head to the pool. On especially cold days, the smell would be even stronger when you walked into the building. That smell reminds me of victories, of losses, the comfort of routine, of pushing through new limits, laughter amongst friends and the innocence and joy of youth.

Campfires. Now for those who know me you all know that camping is not my thing. However this wasn´t always the case. I spent many summers at camp outside montreal, canoe tripping and hiking all around. I also had many wonderful end of summer weeks at Camp Nominingue. When I am walking around town and inhale that smoky scent, I am a 12 year old girl again. Swimming the lake as many times as I can, singing songs around the fire, struggling through a canoe portage or simply watching the sun go down ever so slowly behind the mountains forming a beautiful crystal sheen across the lake. These are just some of the memories I live through again.

What are your favorite scent memories? Let your nose guide you to the places and people you have loved along the way.



  1. The smell right after a light spring rain. I call it fresh. Adam always laughs because he says I love the word fresh.

    Coconut sun tan oil from the BAD days when lathering up with oil was cool.

    The smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven because it reminds me so much of my childhood.

  2. Ah the gift of Smell!
    I am very partial to the scent of Linden trees in bloom. The scent is sweet and enticing; makes you stop and investigate: Where is this coming from? I have smelled it through my childhood in Budapest, in Montreal, on the West Coast... each time the scent find me, it a a delight

    The fragrance of sauteed garlic in olive oil ... mmm... promise of good things to come

    Coppertone lotion on sunkissed skin - amazing. Can conjure up a world of memories....

    Sea air...

    Our olfactory sense is the most ancient and primitive one of the 5 senses