The Nose Knows

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Random Thoughts, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Olfactory memory is something that has fascinated me for some time. I was recently linked to an article that showed a definite link between smells and memory. I doubt it’s the first time such a study has been conducted, because this was something I, as a young teenager many years ago, believed to be a real thing. I used to call it “memory smells”. It was the best way I could think of to describe how certain smells would trigger not necessarily distinct memories, but more often simple reminiscence of places I’d been before, in some ways putting me back into those places to ‘re-experience’ them.

I’m really not sure how much sense I’m making, here. It’s hard to put something like this into words. Hopefully, if you’ve felt it (or something similar) you know what I’m talking about.

Today I experienced something which was almost a reversal of that. Instead of a smell triggering memories, it was a memory that triggered the reminiscence of certain smells. At the end of a nap today, I had a very brief dream just a second or two before I woke up. In it, I was on the first day of one of my handful of manufacturing jobs I had after high school. I was being shown around the various machines where I would be working on finishing parts. Just as I awoke, I had a crystal-clear remembrance of my junior high shop class. More specifically, the odors it had.

The warm odor of plexiglass being smoothed on a bench polisher; the slightly acrid yet strangely appealing scent of burned carbon; the unmistakable smell of wood going through a table saw or pushed a little too hard into a belt sander. In an instant, I had such a clear memory of all of these smells and more of my shop class from over two decades ago that I could almost smell them. And each memory of those smells brought with them equally clear memories of the shop class: the feel of the materials I worked with, the plans I had drawn up and submitted to the teacher for approval. The sounds of the machines and my friends and fellow students. The mistakes I made and the sense of accomplishment when making something exactly as the schematics said.

For just a few seconds after waking up, I was back in that junior high shop class, reliving events that I had consciously forgotten for years on end. All because of a dream that reminded me of what it all smelled like. I’m still smiling about it.

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