Wednesday, February 24, 2010
To me, being in a wild world with so many sights, sounds, odors, tastes and textures is a little like walking down dusty paths of a renaissance festival and being bombarded with the scent of apple dumplings and roasted turkey legs while my ears buzz with pan flutes and tambourines, all as I’m touching velvety lamb’s ears and then hard, exotic handcrafted jewelry. But there is more. Yes, taste, we must include that. How about fresh corn crepes smothered in cream and then chocolate doused strawberries for dessert?
Oh, enough, enough! I’m ready for a festival, how about you? Yeah, I know. It’s still too cold. Until then, I’ll attempt to warm up our rich creamy layers of writing. Each post will focus on a different sense and I might even bring in that rowdy SIXTH SENSE to round everything up. Okay lords and ladies, let’s begin with scent, shall we?
What is that smell?
What springs to mind here are Sunday suppers, pork loin dotted with rosemary, the scent of raisins and stuffing and spice exploding each time the oven door opens.
Aroma’s, rather delightful or not, invoke memories.
If you have a keen sniffer, you might also be able to detect a storm before it arrives. The earth is different then, soil sighing and humidity yelling. Did you know moisture heightens our sense of smell? It does. And were you aware women have a keener sense of smell? They do. As we age, our sense of smell weakens, though. Middle age is peek smelling season. I vote we all stay middle aged. Oh, wait, too late for me.
Did you ever notice that houses have layers of odors? I remember an old farmhouse we lived in, which smelled of plants, laundry detergent, and an undercurrent of all previous owners combined. It’s as though scent embeds itself into walls and floors.
In developing characters and their environments, we can see how smell could be a vivid way to make a story breathe. If we are writing about a house full of men, scents will be different. I’m telling you,I know these things. I have brothers. The masculinity, shall we say, does shout smoke, spice and sweat.
On the other side of the road, where mostly females reside, you’ll find the staggering scents of cinnamon, lavender oil, powder, perfume and candles. Of course there will be fruity odors mixed in and funky, too, depending on whether they keep a clean house and if they cook.
So, if we want our characters to live and remember that they have lived, scent is one worthy tool. It is exactly why, when I smell baby powder, I can be yanked back to a morning, fifteen years ago, baby on my lap. She has just finished her oatmeal and given me an open-mouthed kiss on the cheek, leaving a smear. There is sticky oatmeal in my hair, too, left from chubby fingers grabbing to draw me close. I can still hear her coo at the birds, so early my eyes are barely slit open, but yet I’m chattering to her and overwhelmed with tenderness. Yes, baby powder can snap me back that fast.
Our world is one big, smelly memory.
This week I’m taking my basket of scent and sprinkling it throughout my work. How about you? What particular scent fires up your memory?
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