They’re smells, but also so much more. There is research that says smell is the strongest of the senses in retrieving memories. With such power, smell and its connections to our mind are worth exploring. If, in your writing, you can evoke someone’s memories by describing a smell, you engage them more than if you said, “Oh, there are cookies.” Below, I’ve chosen four common smells and attempted to describe the smells themselves and the memories or feelings they evoke for me. Take a look and choose a few smells to describe yourself.
For many, including myself, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies conjure up memories of home, of growing up, of standing on a chair next to their moms in the kitchen. The cookies smell sweet and warm. When you catch the first whiff you lift up your head and breathe deeply. It’s a classic smell, one that most know and love. When you open the oven to take out the first batch, you again breathe deeply, already tasting the gooey center, the crisp edges, and the rich chocolate that consumes your mouth and your nose.
My parents have a very large rosemary bush in their backyard, much larger than my baby potted rosemary. Rosemary clings to you, literally. Fresh rosemary has a sticky residue that lingers long after you’ve touched it. It smells sweet and spicy with a hint of pine and a bit of lemon.
It clings to the inside of your nose and mouth, like a black film coating everything as you breathe it in. There is a phrase, “black as tar,” and if the color black had a smell, it would be tar. Tar has a hot, chemical smell that makes your head ache. It makes your nose and throat constrict as if your whole body is trying to get away from it.
Whenever it rains I poke my head out the door; I close my eyes and take it in. Rain, water, earth, life, it’s all connected. Nothing grows without water. When you smell rain in the desert, it’s the smell of life. It’s cold, refreshing, sweet, and awakens the scent of dirt as it hits the ground. As you leave in the morning after a good rain, everything is moist and fresh and bright.
By Melissa Blakely