Sunday, September 07, 2008

An autobiography in aromas

Standing by the kitchen door last night, I was struck by the smell of the honeysuckle growing close by. The olfactory nerves seem to have a direct line to our memories, which other senses don't.

Honeysuckle transports me back to summer holidays in Tenby, South Wales, where the blossoms perfumed the air as we walked into town in the evenings.

I've already written about the instant time travel evoked by the aroma of lilac, but other plants have a similar effect. Marigolds remind me of crisp autumn Sundays, helping to pull up the spent plants from the front garden, and desperately trying to wash off their 'distinctive' smell. I could wallow in the scent of wallflowers forever, remembering times when I could spend all morning investigating their smell and their silken blooms between my fingers. Sweetpeas too - what is a better start to summer than inhaling their perfume until you can't breathe in any longer? Even daffodils feature heavily in my olfactory memories, reminding me of the woods of Wales, gonks, car sickness, and (many years later) meeting SomeBeans.

Dahlias will have a post of their own soon, but nothing smells more like childhood than their scent on my fingers after a few moments deadheading.

And at the moment, the not unpleasant odour of slowly decaying vegetation, signalling the changing of the seasons, which makes me remember returning to school after a long summer of freedom. Plus ├ža change...

11 comments:

Sunita said...

What a lovely post! Very evocative. I'm so glad you dropped by my blog today, which gave me the perfect excuse to browse through yours : )
For me in India, marigolds bring to mind weddings and festivals. Lot of happy noise and company.
Jasmine paints memories of childhood evenings spent collecting the buds and stringing them up into long chains to decorate our hair, hopefully so that it (our hair) would waft the borrowed perfume of the jasmine on the next day. It rarely did because we would forget to take it off at night and it would get smashed between head and pillow. So the next morn would see us with hair scented with the rather dubious, leafy stench... er, perfume of crushed jasmine!

Titania said...

This is such a interesting post and so true. When I read your scented memories mine come to mind way back. Now the Jacaranda leaves are falling and the scent of the yellow leaves bring me back to Grafton NSW. I smell fresh drying grass; haymaking in Switzerland.
Crushed Peppermint, as a child,weeding the peppermint my mother had planted for tea.
Thank you for that lovely post.

Connie said...

Well written. Every season has it's scents, that trigger some of those nostalgic feelings.

Reflection Through The Seasons said...

A thought provoking post......
It brought to mind a little verse I enjoy reading at this time of year, I hope you will enjoy it too......

September
The breezes taste of apple peel
The air is full of smells to feel -
Ripe fruit, old footballs, burning brush,
New books, erasers, chalk and such.
The bee, his hive, well-honeyed hum......
and Mother cuts chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean, with suds, the days -
are polished with a morning haze. John Updike

Have a good week and wherever you are in the UK..... I hope the sun shines for you. Marion

chaiselongue said...

A lovely post. You're right, you can catch just a suggestion of a scent and it will take you back years and years. Thyme, for me, takes me back to my childhood around the mediterranean, picnics in the hills. Tomato plants to my uncle's greenhouse in Wales ... and so on. That's one of the wonderful things about gardening. And yes, autumn still smells of going back to school!!

HappyMouffetard said...

It's great to hear about the nostalgic aromas of others.

Marion, I do like the poem. It sums September up.

Gail said...

fantastic! I am totally connected to the world through smell! It would be terrible to lose that sense, well, any sense would be a terrible loss. Fall odors transport me to college, autumn leaves to walks as a child and oranges to living in Florida as a youngster. there are of course many more! Thanks for a lovely visit.
Gail
clay and limestone

Arabella Sock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arabella Sock said...

Sorry - I deleted my comment by mistake! It was..

The smell of roses always propels me back to my childhood. We used to make scent from them by soaking the petals in boiling water in a bucket and then bottling it. We sold the "perfume" to our unsuspecting neighbours, kindly, child-loving people who were conned out of a few pence as they passed by our front garden. Little did they know that the roses had come from their own gardens which we had raided.

HappyMouffetard said...

Ha, Arabella, we did the rose petal perfume thing too. Never managed to sell any of the rancid water though.

Mother Nature said...

Thanks for the beautiful reminder of the important role of fragrance, memory, and emotion connection in our lives.