I Know What I Like

  (Photo courtesy of aromatech.ca)

“The most immediate and basic response we have to a scent is whether we like it or not.” – Dr. Rachel S. Herz

I am extremely sensitive to odors, yet they form some of my strongest memories — good ones as well as bad, a jumble of images, sensations, and emotions as varied as a jester’s motley.

Synthetic scents are a no-no, intolerable and headache-inducing because they are usually so strong, a massive weight where a faint hint would suffice.  We’ve all experienced it — the miasma of heavy aftershave or perfume, hair product or deodorant.  (An elderly neighbor used to saturate the hall adjoining our apartments with a cloying stink my husband referred to ‘Bile Berry.’)

For me are the scents found in nature – the light perfume of wild-growing flowers, the mineral tang of lake water, the musk of earthworms in the rain. and the loam-rich scent of horse manure.  Better still are those aromas associated with food — fresh rosemary and thyme, oregano and basil crushed between my fingers; the bouquet of cinnamon and nutmeg, allspice and ginger and clove; the indescribable allure of real vanilla.  One whiff, and I am transported…

…my grandmother’s kitchen and the air thick with the smell of baking bread, molasses cookies, and fresh doughnuts.
…holidays with my parents, the rich odor of butter cookies heavy with sugar and vanilla; fudge with a scent so massive you could practically carry it.
…a childhood classroom, each student with an orange and a pile of whole cloves, pushing the sharp, pointed end into the heavy rind, releasing the perfume of juice and oil.
…the old electric range in the house I grew up in, a back-burner set on simmer beneath an enormous kettle of spaghetti sauce, bubbling like lava.
…baked cloves of garlic, sweet and hot, spread across a slab of hot, fresh bread.

The delight that comes from pleasurable scents are many — you feel them in your mouth and stomach and nose, but more importantly, you experience them once again in your mind and heart.  In that way, we anchor to the past and send tendrils to the future.


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
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