A sommelier once told me: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you smell. If you smell blackberries and burnt rubber, then that’s what you smell.”* That’s good because my sense of smell is not as honed as some. When I take in that bouquet from a glass of wine, I know that I have smelled a particular aroma before but usually find it had to place. Grapefruit, tobacco, cut grass are some that I can identify—and in the case of some Sauvignon Blancs—cat pee—or ammonia if that is more appealing sounding.
So, if I was a dog or cat with a sense of smell, I wouldn’t last long…
Where is this going? Well, I was walking along a river trail. It was a warm day, and the sun was playing hide-and-seek behind the scattered clouds. I could smell something, and I knew it was one of my favorite smells. The leaves were just coming out, and it smelled green and moist, with a hint of dusty dryness. I could smell the meandering water slowly flowing along the marshy banks. I felt at peace. The dog that I was walking was a bonus, adding to the therapeutic experience.
Certain smells do trigger vivid memories and feelings:
- The smell of sawdust is my father and so is chainsaw exhaust
- Jack pine on a hot windless day is my grandparent’s farm
- Baking bread is my mom
- An outdoor wood fire is time camping with friends. That jacket sure holds onto that odor—and I don’t want to wash it.
- Cigar smoke reminds me of a friend that I miss
- Coffee tells me the day has just begun
- My high school crush wore a perfume that I catch a whiff of from a passing stranger every so often
- Old wood timbers take me back to the university building with the creaky stairs
- Book pages—well, they just smell nice
- Does rain have a smell? It sure does. It smells like rain**
I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but they will come back to me when the wind is just right.
Do you have a favorite smell? Where does it take you?
*He also said that the only person who can tell you if a wine is good or not is you.
**I love the smell of rain, don’t get me wrong, but when it rains, the world kinda smells like worms.
Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.