Please contact E. B. Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for January include: (1/5) Jennifer J. Chow, (1/12) Amy Pershing, (1/19) Heather Weidner, (1/26) Marilyn Levinson.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
The Sense of Scents
Spring came a month early this year, and while most people enjoyed the warmer weather, it made me a little nervous. I wondered if the speeding up of nature's natural rhythem would cause a problem. I recently discovered one. The lilacs. Normally as I go down my brick walkway to and from my back door during May, I enjoy the sweet smell of lilacs. Now I'm missing the heavenly scent of lilacs in bloom because they budded out too soon this year, and were damaged by a killer freeze. All I have are some pathetic stunted ones up too high to bother with. It's a smell full of memories going back to the lilacs blooming by the house where I grew up and at my grandparents' farm across the road. It's the old-fashioned lilacs that have the very best smell, and I was fortunate when I bought my century farm house over twenty years ago because it came with old lilacs. They're so tall that I need a step ladder to pull down the higher branches to snip lilacs for bouquets. I never want to cut the lower ones because I like to smell those as I pass by. Hopefully soon I'll at least be enjoying the smell of roses. So far they don't seem to be damaged.
So many smells are tied to memories. The delicious smell of turkey roasting always brings memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both are special holidays filled with fun and laughter. Now in the dessert category there are too many to list them all. One is apple pie, apple crisp, or anything apple with cinnamon. Then there's pumpkin pie and everything chocolate. While I'm on food, bread baking in the oven is high on my list, and pizza, too. Pot roast brings back memories of Sunday dinner since it was served often on Sundays. My dad usually cooked on that day. Are you drooling yet? A visit to the county fair or any festival causes olfactory overload: hot sausage sandwiches next to elephant ears, corn dogs, french fries, lemonade stands, cotton candy, kettle corn, and the list goes on and on. As for deep fried Twinkies or Oreos, I'd never try them.
Other pleasant smells tied with memories are clothes dried on the line. Nothing is more pleasant than crawling between fresh sun dried sheets at night. Working in my herb garden is my favorite place to weed. There's the smell of fresh mown grass or new bales of hay in my barn. Add to the list campfires or bacon cooking, especially when camping, a walk in the woods under pine trees or scuffling through leaves in the fall. Another scent I like that is fast disappearing due to environmental concerns is autumn leaves burning in the fall. I love the smell of baby powder or the fresh smell of rain, but not the smell of earthworms washed out of their burrows.
Of course, there are many smells I don't like: the chemical smells of weed killers or insecticides in stores, anyone who puts on too much perfume or aftershave, cigars, bleach, litter boxes, wet dogs, mildew, fishy smells and skunks - but that is a story for another time.
As important as our sense of smell is, it's not included in books as much as visual descriptions or sounds. When pondering this, I decided it's because our visual sense is always active unless we're sleeping or it's dark. The same is true with our hearing. As I write this I'm listening to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" on the radio while a storm is rumbling outside and cars are swishing by on wet pavement. There's also the sound of dripping inside the wall reminding me I need to call somebody about repairing the chimney. But while I hear and see what's around me, I'm not aware of any smells since supper was some time ago, the dishes have been washed and because of the lilac problem, I have no fresh bouquets of lilacs in the house.
Although I try to include the sense of smell in my writing, I know it's not as much as it could be, or does it really need to be that much? I don't know if readers are especially aware of the inclusion of it or even the lack of it.
How much to you use smells in your writing?
What are your favorite smells especially those connected to memories.