Friday, June 11, 2010

What's Your Smell?

Do you a have a special smell that instantly transports you to a time, place, person or period in your life? 

I have a cacophony of smells and memories.  I love where they take me.

Why smells and memories?  The olfactory bulb is part of the brain's limbic system, which is an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it's sometimes called the "emotional brain,".  This means that smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously.  Smells would not trigger memories if it weren't for conditioned responses. When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain creates a link between the smell and a memory.  And because we encounter most new odours when we are young, smells often call up childhood memories.

For me, I just need to say the word "Coppertone" and I am back on the beach.  I can see the bottle.  Diorissimmo is my former mother-in-law, I loved her smell as much as I loved her.  Petrol at a petrol pump is Dad filling up the car on a hot day when we were leaving to go somewhere.  Sadly, I can no longer smell my mothers perfume Opium.  Even as I write, I can smell her drawers where she kept all her makeup and bits. And the Cadbury Coconut Rough chocolate she used to hide but which The Sister and I used to find and sneak massive chunks of it assuming she wouldn't guess it was us.  Yup, some smells bring back sad memories too.

But my favourite smell of all is one hot summer sitting on the back of a 50cc motorbike driven by my 13 year old bestest friend Katie, as we rode the country roads of Ophir in Central Otago.  I'm not sure if we wore helmets but we always would have had our togs on and we were generally going somewhere to swim.  The smell of drying thyme, dusty roads and Central Otago schist, blowing hot in our noses.


When I'm back in Central I always stop on the side of the road and pick some, then leave it in the car, whereever we are staying and my handbag.  Katie brought me back some once. I think I had texted her when she was down in Central with a "go smell some thyme for me", but she did better than that and brought me some back.  That's it in the photo and it still smells (a smidge).  The handcream I use nightly smells like thyme.  Every night after I put it on, inhale deeply, then thrust my hands into The Husbands face, saying "smell the thyme".

That's my smell.

What's yours?


  1. Funny - I use that same cream (because its good) but unfortunately it reminds me of old people's homes. I shall try and think of Central Otago instead :)