memory scents

Do you ever experience an aroma that jogs your memory?  A scent that reminds you of a time or a place? A scent that calms or excites?

I certainly do.

Spring, especially spring, draws me back in time to my growing up years. Those years had some struggles for me, but somehow those struggles are tempered and tamped down when I plunge my nose into a lilac bloom.


There is no smell on earth – for me – as lovely and as soothing as that of the lilac.

Growing up in Colorado, lilacs grew with abandon. We had three huge lilacs that grew in a circle, with just enough space for young children to find the center and hide out. The best time to do this was in spring, of course, when the lilacs were in full bloom.


I am so very fortunate to have a lilac growing just steps from my front door.  It was planted not long after I moved to this place. As a tree that prefers northern climes, I was not sure how it would take to this southern hospitality.  But take it has!

Walt Whitman writes, Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul, There in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and dim. The chant of my soul. Those words entrance me.  In Sprig of Lilac, Hyam Plutzik writes, …their faint aroma touches the edge of the mind. To me it’s definitely not a faint aroma, but the scent of lilacs does touch the edge of my mind.


I’ve been thinking about the power of scents. Aromas can remind us of a certain time and place, of an event that carries strong memories, of relationships, of joy and of sorrow.

I visit a place regularly. When I open the front door of the building, I’m met with a familiar and pleasant scent.  Familiar because the scent has greeted me for many months as I step into this place. For me its a place of healing. So as the scent touches the edge of my mind, I begin to feel a healing presence.

There’s an entire field of study and investigation into “smell memory” – about how our brains experience smells, and how some smells in our lives remain in our memory of the events associated with a particular scent.

While I have little interest in the scientific explanation, I know that what I experience when my nose plunges into a lilac bloom, or when I step inside one door in particular, I am thrust into a place of soft harmony and healing.


My Thumb Prayer activity is taking shape and just as making crosses last year called me into a creative time, so too does making thumb prayers. The intentional choosing of each button, with the thought of, and the prayer for the recipient, draws me further in.

Here are the latest.

It’s very quieting. Be still. Be still. And know.

2 thoughts on “memory scents”

  1. I miss the smell of the Northern lilac bushes. The one at my grandparents house was as tall as their old 2 story home.
    I LOVED that bush! The Texas lilac bushes don’t even come close to the memories and scent of the one of my childhood.
    I may have to have you send me some cutting!


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