Lately, I’ve been fascinated with the power of our senses. We rush through life, head-down, one foot in front of the other, without a break or a moment’s hesitation. We have time for nothing but our to-do list, working, or cooking, cleaning, folding, cooking, cleaning, folding, etc. We focus on what we prize most in life, and we miss out on the world around us.
Yet, in a single moment, one scent, a single memory frozen in time, can break through all boundaries and flood us with a sense of nostalgia.
This power overrides all of the things we feel we must accomplish.
I was recently struck by a scent in our house (just bought our first house) that I hadn’t smelled since I was in 7th grade. Our new pantry is an under-stairs closet with wooden shelves, and the furnace is located on the left side when you first open the door. I’m not sure if it’s the wood/furnace combination, but the pantry houses the same smell of my grandparents’ pantry, a scent I hadn’t experienced since my grandmother died in 1998. Standing there, I was taken back to their kitchen, their pantry. I was shorter then, and I’d often open the cabinet and look for snacks we didn’t have at home or sam’s club sparkling water. I’d walk to the back of the pantry and peer down the dumb-waiter shaft my grandfather never got around to finishing. I’d call down to the basement for my cousin, Kathryn, and some sort of adventure would commence.
All of those memories and things I hadn’t thought about in years came back to me at that moment, and I was filled with such a nostalgia for what seemed like years and lives ago, when things were more simple, and I was a kid. I immediately loved our new house and our pantry even more because of the smell.
Since then, I’ve been trying to notice my senses and how they affect my thoughts and memories. I’ve been trying to store specific smells and tastes, specific colors and textures, and hold them for the future.
Because I’ve been putting off writing, distracted by the move, the end of school, and everything new around us, I’ve decided to take on a summer writing project. I’ll explore and practice these memory triggers, the tastes and flavors of life that bring back things past, things lost, things cherished.
I tend to build walls around myself. I fear an overabundance of emotion and the loss of control over myself because of them. This summer I will practice allowing myself to think and feel and write. I’ll practice savoring an emotion, whether positive or negative. I’ll practice using all emotions and experiences to learn and grow. I’ll practice treasuring the here and now as well as the past.
Because one day, today’s here and now will be the stuff of nostalgia. Today’s moments will be remembered fondly as, “The time we bought our first house and life was crazy, but we loved well and figured everything out together.”
I’m excited to begin this summer journey. I hope anyone who reads these moments and memories will enjoy them as well.