Olfactory Triggers


What a shnazz! a then boyfriend exclaimed when I had taken a sniff of the fresh country air and said I smelled corn. Our host chuckled and pointed to a large silo about five hundred feet away.

In her book A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman talks about the sense of smell being the strongest of all our senses. As I read through her examples my mind drifts off to my own experiences which would support her suggestions.

In our backyard in Parma, Ohio there was a roof high lilac bush which lived in the corner of the yard almost up against the back of the house and when I left my window open, the scent of lilacs perfumed my dreams. The chain link fence was covered with honeysuckle, which was a very hardy plant and also had a wonderful delicate fragrance. Unfortunately it was covered with bees during its flowering season and my next door neighbor complained that they were congregating in his garage and so he said he was going to cut down the plant on his side of the fence. No problem I thought since they would only grow back.

Ms. Ackerman talks about how memory can be triggered by olfactory senses and in fact when I had first moved away from home and unwrapped a bar of Palmolive soap, the scent was so strong that my paternal grandparents bathroom appeared before me, with the dark turquoise painted walls and flamingo pink trim! Yikes, not colors I could live with myself, but my grandmother must have thought them lovely.

At one of my downtown jobs, there was a microwave in the lunchroom and I had gotten hooked on popcorn as a mid-day snack. It is amazing how the smell of corn popping carries through the ventilation system and in time I was dubbed the popcorn queen. One day however, the popcorn burned and those within range of the smell were a bit offended.


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