I’m currently reading Blood Cross (in the Jane Yellowrock series) by Faith Hunter. The main character is a Native American shifter, and she hunts rogue vampires, solves the central mystery primarily by her heightened Mountain Cat sense of smell. Jane is smart and tough. She researches, interviews, sorts through a tangled web of facts and hunches to find the bad guy, but her nose is how she tracks and identifies the human, animal, and supernatural world. Hunter is a writer who sets a scene with a good deal of description. She’s very sensory in her style, but nowhere is this more evident than when her main character is describing the smells around her. It made me think a bit, because as a writer I don’t always consider smells. Admittedly, my main character isn’t a shifter. She’s much more visual and tactile in her view. Still, as I go back and think about my novels, I realize the only time I get into aromas is when they’re critical to the scene or to reinforce the setting. Is it because my own sense of smell isn’t exactly the best in the world?
I’ve got mild allergies, and chronic sinus issues, so when I actually smell something, it registers hard – like a shock. It sticks with me, forever linked to the moment. I jog, and each day I remember the sudden scent of honeysuckle on the roadway, gone as quickly as it came. The same with wild cucumber, a fresh cut field of alfalfa, that dead groundhog, festering in the sun on the shoulder of Rt 26 for the last three days. Why, oh why won’t the county come scoop that thing up? Blech!
Then there are the memories: Vicks vapor rub. English boxwood. Saddle leather mixed with horse sweat. Puppy breath. A newborn baby’s skin. Baking bread.
I read a few years back that in treating patients with advanced Alzheimer’s, scent therapy works best. It seems memories attached to smells are the most persistent, and the last to be lost in these patients. It makes sense. Just a whiff of English Boxwood sends me back to my Grandparent’s front yard, with their globe-shaped shrubs lining the front walk and all the feelings and emotions of that part of my life flood my mind.
What smells trigger big memories in your mind?