Scents and memories are lovers that never part. We can be interested in perfumes or not, enjoy or even notice the smells in a kitchen or not – but we can never free ourselves from the psychological effects of scent impressions. Which is such a good reason to embrace that and really indulge in our own private scent stories, adding olfactory details to important experiences etc. This summer I wrote about weddings and scents, how a symbolic scent will add sensual pleasure to such an occasion but also help you return emotionally to it in the future. I know I am not the only one with olfactory childhood memories, like in my case for example this and this one… we all have them, some good and some bad – so if you are a parent think about how you can give your child future treasures in the form of scents that will bring back precious memories to their adult self. If you want some ideas or suggestions on this, you’re welcome to contact me. I remember when Swedish newspaper DN featured an article about my blog this spring I received a letter from a woman asking how I thought she could help her daughter develop her scent awareness and what they could do together, like olfactory adventures. I loved that e-mail.
Scent and memories are like the air and the wind, and they clothe the bond between the present and the past of the senses like few other impressions can. Maybe even erase it. The mind reacts to the scent of an absent person’s sweater or scarf to a large extent in the same way that it would if the person was there. For someone like me who has an ambiguous feeling towards time as a concept, this is fascinating.
Two weeks ago I was going through my storage. I have a Dad-box. My father died six years ago, exactly six years ago. On the 16th of September, it was a Saturday that year. He died in an accident. Suddenly he was gone. I have lost other people that I loved, like my grandparents, but then their things and worlds also disappeared, much more than in my father’s case. I thought it was extremely bizarre and painful the way he was suddenly so very gone but all the things and scents and smells – that I had never previously even been aware of – were left with me. The food in the fridge, the oceans of books, his car, his cigarettes, the laundry that I had to take out of the washing machine. Everywhere that smell of a person who is just not there. At that time it just made me sad, or maybe it made me tired because of the conflict between presence and absence that it created in my senses, and tired and sad were synonymous feelings. For the next years those smells disappeared. And then now, cleaning the storage, finding the Dad-box, I discovered to my great surprise – because I don’t remember doing this – that I had kept my father’s perfume bottle. Seems only natural now, since my life is so much about scents, but then…I don’t remember that I thought about keeping it. I am happy that I did.
That it is even possible for a scent to give you the feeling of someone’s presence or of a moment from your past is…, I know the scientific explanations and the logic, but it just is magical. Extra-ordinary. It is not exactly the presence of that person, because they are not present, the dead are gone. It is not that moment back because it is over. It is more like something in your soul gets a little “now”-place to dance in for a moment. Like you are given the opportunity to open a little box, look at it, reconnect with something that is not as close as it used to be, activate a part of yourself that is connected to it – and then get back to business. Scents give us access to feelings. To our own different inner and outer worlds.