“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”

Today feels as if I’m living in a new world. It is cool and pleasant with no humidity. Last night I didn’t even need the air-conditioner in my bedroom. The next few days will be the same. I’m thinking I’ll be living on the deck for a while, and I suspect tonight’s outside shower might be just a bit chilly.

We had our movie on the deck last night instead of Saturday. Continuing with our Boston film festival, it was The Departed. What was fun, and I’m not referring in any way to that movie, was recognizing scenes from our Boston movie tour last fall. The best one was where Matt Damon, after a rugby match, was sitting on a bench in the Common looking at the state house. In real life, a statue would have been in the way. That’s movie magic.

I’ve written the start of this paragraph three times and deleted each one. I just wasn’t interested in what I had to say. Twice I got up and did something in between. I cleaned the coffee pot and on my second run I moved around a few things I hide behind the TV set. One of those things was a diffuser, and it got me thinking about smells. I have a few favorites. Cookies baking is one of them. I think of my mother and sugar cookies and Christmas. She made them every year, even when we were adults. They were as much a part of Christmas as were our stockings. Turkey roasting is another smell I love. I can see my mother standing hunched over the turkey bulging out of its pan. It always just fit without any spare space. I remember the baster and how she’d use it to suck up the juice then baste all of the turkey. She used to steal a bit of the stuffing, the crusty part at the end. Burning wood is another favorite smell. It reminds me of Ghana. The Ghanaians used wood charcoal for cooking, and I could smell it all over town when I walked. At night, especially, the smell was pervasive. Women sitting along the side of the road cooked and sold food. I was a frequent visitor to the fried plantain aunty, a polite address for older Ghanaian women. From my deck, I can smell barbecue. It makes me want to invite myself to dinner. My dad is the one I associate with that smell.

If I get forgetful in my old age, I hope a smell will trigger a forgotten memory, especially a memory about someone I dearly loved.


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11 Comments on ““Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.””

  1. splendid Says:

    i once worked with an older lady who swore she had lost the ability to smell. i pitied her more than any other, i, like you kat, associate the greatest memories of my life with smells. i can smell the gulf of mexico three hours before i see it. campfires and roasting hotdogs & marshmallows take me back to the best evenings of my childhood, invoking memories of lightening bugs and hide and seek. hanging wash on the line only to return hours later and wrap myself in the scent of the clothes as they still hang there. the smell of rain, fresh coffee brewing, and the smell of a babies head, these are some of life’s greatest gifts! i love that BBQ reminds you of your father, i can almost feel my grandmothers touch when i smell Jergens lotion . xoxoxoxoxoxox

    • Kat Says:

      I can’t imagine not being able to smell. I read once that smell is the greatest memory trigger, and I believe it as I know you must from your own memories. Summer rain on the pavement has the most amazing smell, and I remember the mornings after a campfire when I could still smell the smoke from the fire the night before.

      I an smell a coming snowstorm, but smelling it again is a long way off in the far future.

  2. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    Smells are very evocative.
    I remember the smell of burning leaves in autumn. Once in a while I will burn a few just to bring that memory back.
    When I consider my childhood it brings up the memory of a smell that is a combination of old dusty sun-warmed wood and paper wasp nests. Sounds unpleasant but isn’t at all to me. One of our favorite places was the shed attic and that is how it smelled.
    Murphy’s Oil Soap. Love the smell of that stuff. It reminds me of my horse and all the good times we had as a team.
    Lots of good smells that conjure up good memories.
    It’s a lovely, cool day up here. It feels so good after all the heat. Enjoy your day.

    • Kat Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      I loved the smell of burning leaves and remember the smoke from all the piles along the street gutters and the fathers in the neighborhood standing by their fires with their rakes keeping watch.

      Cool day here too. It was great having the windows opened again to fresh air without humidity.

  3. olof1 Says:

    Cold over here today but I didn´t mind. First we, Nova and I, went to the vet because of hear troubling ear. It seems she has a fungus infection in there and the vet started with the heavy stuff directly, antibiotics and cortisone. After that I had to mow the lawn but the grass was to wet to be honest, Now I have big clumps of grass all over the garden and unfortunately my dogs loves to eat that 🙂 🙂

    The smell of cinnamon buns always reminds me of my friends grandmother 🙂 She lived next door to us and I think she baked every day 🙂 🙂 Earl grey tea reminds me of my best friends mother, we always had at least one cup of earl grey tea every time I went there and that was almost every day 🙂 and the smell of ocean always reminds me of their summer house where I spent most of my summers from the day I started to know them.

    Have a great day!

    • Kat Says:

      I can’t imagine the lure of eating cut grass. I know when my dogs have upset stomachs they chomp on grass. I’ve seen Gracie checking through my yard for tall grass.

      I love cinnamon buns, and I love the smell of bread baking. There used to be a bakery in the square of the town where I loved. When they were baking bread, you could smell it everyone. It was almost divine.

      • olof1 Says:

        I passed a big bakery on my way to work when I had a job in Gothenburg city and as You say it smelled divine, but unfortunately for me I knew how that bread tasted so it sort of dampened the experience 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. Zoey & Me Says:

    Another award winning post today Kat. I love the smell of bacon. It really gets my stomach juices flowing and if my wife gets up first and starts the coffee . . . well who can sleep anymore? Those two odors have held me together for years. We even have breakfast for dinner once a week including fresh french bread and lots of orange marmalade. My parents never did that. They were traditionalists and Mom had to put something substantial on the table for every dinner. She was a stay at home Mom, one of the dinasaurs although once we kids were out of the nest she took up work at our local hospital and loved it.

    • Kat Says:

      Thanks Z&Me,
      I forgot the smell of bacon-it is wonderfully distinctive.I won’t even get into how wonderful coffee smells in the morning as it brews.

      I often have breakfast for dinner though I suppose I’d have to call it dinner regardless.

      My mother also stayed at home. She didn’t learn to drive until she was nearly 40.

  5. Rick Oztown Says:

    I was really socked by old smells when I went back to the town 65 miles from where I lived in high school where I’d attended the first three years of school. I wandered around the old grade school, where the windows were open, as they’d been when I was there. I happened to be able to visit when school was on, so I caught the combination of chalk dust, crayon wax, and the evergreens we’d hide, run through and pretend in as small kids. They were forts and castles and pirate dens by turn. We called them cedars, but I think they were probably junipers. When all three of those smells hit me, I was transported back to those days…instantly.

    Also, being an avid ham operator (over 50 years) and electronics engineer, the smell of the rosin in molten solder brings back so many memories, too.

    Thanks for the post, Kat.

    • Kat Says:

      Your memories are vividly wonderful. You were transported a long way back! I can still remember the smell of chalk dust as the blackboards got erased. I even see it being done in my second grade classroom. I am waiting until next year when my grammar school turns100. I’m hoping they’ll open the doors for visiting.

      I’m more than happy to jog your memories!

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