I think smell is an amazing thing. It always amazes me how one whiff of something can transport you back in time to a specific place. I think a lot of our memories are made more poignant by the smells that go along with them.
On the flip side, I think smells can be tortuous as well.
Some smells I could do without:
- Burning rubber
- Burnt hair
- Lexi’s, um, “toots”
- Leftovers that have been in the fridge too long
- Wet dog
- Fingernail clippings (sorry if that was too gross)
- Nasty street corners baking in the hot Madrid sun
- Freshly brewed coffee
- Baking bread
- Garlic, especially roasted
- Honeysuckle (although it makes me sneeze like a crazy person)
- Turkey and stuffing roasting in the oven
- Fresh basil just pinched off the plant
- Sprigs of fresh mint
- The air during and after a good rainstorm
- Baby powder
- Hot chocolate chip cookies
- Just mowed grass (but, again with the sneezing)
- My kids, after a bath or shower
- Fallen leaves in autumn
- Cotton sheets, line-dried in the sun
Being an actor, I’ve learned that smell is more connected to emotion than sight. Try it out now. In your mind’s eye imagine these scents:
Fresh cut grass
A strawberry scented candle
A lit match
Okay, now imagine these smells:
Moldy egg salad
A field covered in fresh manure
Old carnival ponies
Stale, imitation crab meat
Zucchini gone bad
Rancid, uncooked potatoes
My guess is: there were a handful of items from the first list that conjured positive emotions. Smell has the potential to actually make one feel less fearful even. By the same token, there were likely a handful of items from the second list that called forth negative emotions.
Some of the scents, both good and bad, have particular memories attached to them and recalling these memories results in (quite often) strong emotional impulses. That’s why, depending on your experiences, some of the items from the first (“positive”) list may actually call forth negative emotions, even though we tend to regard those scents as generally pleasant. For example, perfume: if you’re divorced and you imagine the perfume your ex-wife wore, this could have a negative effect.
Interesting, isn’t it? What are some other scents that you’d add to either list? Are there any scents from the first list you’d regard as negative?