Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A whiff of the past

I don't have a particularly discerning nose.  My father esteems my sense of smell enough to want me to be the vintner for the family winery*, but his reasoning  behind that is somewhat mysterious, given the number of times I let something burn in the oven, blissfully unaware of the smoke odor filling the house.  I seldom wear and never remember fragrances.  Stores that sell scented candles typically gag me.  As a result, I'm usually dubious about the research reporting the close connections between smell and memory.

And then something like the smell of downtown Lawrence in May hit me.  Downtown Lawrence in May smells like finals are in and undergraduates are gone, it smells like spring, it smells like falling in love, and it smells like a specific longing for a group of friends, a bunny in the vacant lot, a walking lifestyle and all of the other trappings of one of the best times in my life; all encapsulated in the aroma of linden (Tilia) trees along the sidewalk.

And the next day I stopped by the Kansas Biological Survey. Perhaps it is because the hand-drawn face was still hanging on the bathroom door, or perhaps it was the fact that none of my former colleagues was surprised to see me show up for work, but it may have been the overpowering smell of fake-flower air freshener that erased seven years of professional accomplishment and two kids and made me feel like a graduate student coming in to type in my cube.

Two weeks later, I arrived at my parents house in Denver and felt immediately welcome, refreshed and, somehow, sweet.  While my parents are welcoming and their garden is exceptionally lush this year and every change feels better after a few hundred miles in the car with toddlers, it took me two days to identify that the sweetness was not their generosity of spirit or a transformation of my attitude, but the delicious background fragrance of their honey locust (Gleditsia)  tree.

Once identified, the smell evoked a less visceral response, but brought to mind a broken foot, my first internship at the Denver Botanic Gardens, and the computer-programmer, biker chick, plant nerd who first helped me recognize blooming honey locust.

So there must be something to that smell-memory connection.

What fragrances evoke things for you?

*To be clear, there is no family winery, but jobs have been assigned in the unlikely event we ever have one.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The photographic Georgia O'Keefe of my own mind

I do love getting close to flowers, with somewhat mixed results.  All except the prairie turnip are from my garden in Oklahoma.
April 27

Peony-flowered Tulip, April 27

Peony, May 9

May 9

May 9

Sedum, May 9

Prairie Turnip, Richmond Prairie, May 29