The Smell of Memory

I don’t know what it is for you. For me, the smell of truck exhaust brings me back to a horse stable. Summer is the smell of rain, but also the smell of hot rubber and newly mown grass. Discordant perhaps, but since they are individual connections, does it really matter to anyone that diesel exhaust brings me back to horse stables?

Moving away from smell, there are moments in my current routine when I go back to other parts of my life. Sunny days when I work on my back deck at the work I am doing for the U or at learning python or stats, or just the process of applying for jobs, when I think back to other summers.

In the summer before I went in to grade 6 we lived in an apartment on the top floor of a building and it was hotter than hades. I took to staying up half the night and sleeping on the balcony in a lounge chair. I would wake up to the blazing heat and the sounds of construction from the freeway below me.

I think the summer I was 15 I watched a family friend’s daughter. I remember days at the outside pool where I was there in a sort of overwatch way, but really I did little to earn my paycheque. I could swear that was the summer I read both Fear of Flying and Gone with the Wind – I remember sunburn and shimmering chlorine and trying to understand exactly what Erica Jong was trying to get across.

Perhaps what comes to mind most, and why those memories are so old is that they were the last times I had hours and days and weeks of empty time, with virtually no one and nothing to fill it.

Pacing is a challenge. There is so little concrete in my life right now. I have two meetings a week for the University (both on Wednesday) and then there is a sense that I could vanish from this world until the following Wednesday and no one would notice. My brain lies to me and tells me I am alone, I spend a certain amount of time reminding myself that friends do reach out and I do see people and my vanishing would be noticed.

I am working on connecting with the mundane. The satisfaction of a list of things checked off. The taste of a coffee and a cooky at 3 pm. The delight of clean sheets. The smell of the air after rain. That moment when I am sitting in my office at home working on something and I can sense, by a brightening in the room, that the sun is starting to peek out of the clouds. I am working at grounding myself, connecting myself to what is – not what could be or what was or what might be.

I’m not good at it. I suppose the nice thing about remembering a summer when I was 12 and a summer when I was 15 is that if I stop and think, I can imagine all the things I didn’t know and wasn’t good at those years.

Maybe, it occurs to me that 30 years from now I will think back to this summer. It’s an interesting thought.

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1 Response to The Smell of Memory

  1. Debby says:

    The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose the other ages that you’ve been. Madeleine L’engle

    There is a quiet blessing to having the time to consider them, isn’t there?

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