Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Power of a Smell

Yesterday evening, walking at the park, I reached to touch a new pinecone. Thick sap clung to my fingers and I held them to my nose to enjoy the fresh smell. It is the smell of a memory, of walking in woods where the sound of footfalls are dampened from layers of pine needles, and every step disturbs the pollen and brings the woody scent closer to me. I can hear the lake’s waves touching the shoreline with a steady rhythm, the driftwood caught on a shallow point hitting the rocks with a hollow echo. On the other side of the water, mountains rise, skirted in green at their feet and covered in snowy caps. Strains of “How Great Thou Art” still float above the water as the last note ends.

The smell of fresh pine makes me think of snowy morning moments at home. Wood smoke stings my nose as I build a fire in the potbellied stove, as the pine and kindling woods catching fire mingles with the aroma of fresh yeast bread rising in a sunny window. The coffee pot is waiting to refill my cup and a pot of soup bubbles on the stove for later in the day; both adding moisture rich aromas to the house. Outside in the snow, every breath drawn in feels somehow fresher; and when the pine tree smell drifts my way, it feels like Christmas.

On a summer trip, campground spaces in a deep pine wood are shared with friends. I remember laughing until I cried and then laughing some more. Pancakes were cooked on an outside griddle as we stood around and just enjoyed being together. Prayer, songs, more laughter, and soon we were clinking forks onto plates with sweet syrup and fluffy pancakes. The pine woods held little birds that sang above our heads and crows that floated through announcing their passing-by with much volume and fanfare.

It always amazes me how a single smell can cause biological triggers, bringing back rushes of memory in a moment. I traipse down sentimental neurological paths that have been cobwebbed since last visited, dust them off and look for the pine trees.