I knew someone in college who had no sense of smell (the condition is called anosmia), and hence no sense of taste either, since the two are intertwined. I can't imagine what that must be like. Some of our best memories are often tied up with scents (and tastes). I can't tell you how many times I've smelled something and it took me right back to my childhood. Maybe it was a whiff of perfume and cigarette smoke that reminded me of my Aunt Peggy, or the smell of the honeysuckle I mentioned a few days ago taking me back to my great-grandmother's porch.
Marcel Proust, in The Remembrance of Things Past, described what happened to him after drinking a spoonful of tea in which he had soaked a piece of madeleine: "No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses...with no suggestion of its origin..."
"Suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was of a little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings...my Aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea.... Immediately the old gray house on the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set...and the entire town, with its people and houses, gardens, church, and surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being from my cup of tea."
"When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered...the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls...bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory."
Some of my favorite smells:
• baking, especially fresh bread or anything with cinnamon
• the wet dirt smell right after it rains
• fresh-picked strawberries in summer
• the farm smell of vintage feedsacks that haven't been laundered yet
• sheets that have hung out on the line all day in the sunshine
• Coppertone suntan lotion at the beach
What are some of yours?