Strange isn’t it, how we can imagine perfectly the scent of things we remember, or are familiar with — though, if I were to ask you now to write in words what a rose smells like, you’d find it impossible to do that? How do you describe the scent of roses, or jasmines, or the smell of oranges? Sure, we can say things like “the citrus smell of oranges” — but can you describe the smell without introducing another point of reference — even though our minds know exactly what oranges smell like, and we can feel the smell in our heads even while there is no orange in sight?

Oftentimes, memories make themselves known by the scent they leave in their wake. The scent of sandalwood may remind me of my mother, her loving embrace, her soft, kind eyes, her warmth, the comfort she gives, the words she whispers, her lap that is very much akin to home. One scent but so, so many memories, so many feelings. But what does sandalwood smell like? For me, sandalwood is the scent of my mother, and try as I may, I can never describe it any other way; although in my head, I know quite exactly, quite literally what sandalwood smells like. I can smell sandalwood right now in my head without having sandalwood or my mother anywhere close to me.

I suppose our minds play the same games with us when it comes to weathers, seasons, places…and perhaps feelings, too. If you ask a ninety year old man what it was like on that one particular hot summer afternoon in Texas in the year 1957, the day he was getting married, he would probably say it was hot, it was humid, but hell, it was great. A man could have had the worst of his adult life in a city, but perhaps the city still holds great meaning for him because it houses the streets he spent his childhood playing in. A woman could love winters, the romance of falling snowflakes, the warm seasonal drinks, the quiet echoes on a cold, cold night…and yet feel a perpetual sadness in the season because it was in one such cold winter that she lost her child to an accident.

These lingering scents we shall carry with us all our lives, with all the baggage of memories that these scents drag along with them, the wafts of cold, the warm breezes, the falling leaves, the people, the places…o the places. 

In these remnants of memory, one day, we shall become a memory of our own.

It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.

― Edward Thomas, Collected Poems