scent of a memory

April 9, 2005

The power of association upon a scent never fails to surprise me. When fully considered, it is understandable that all of our senses—smell included—would be powerful forces. Even as an inner-focused person, I certainly recognize how integral my physical body is to the rest of my intellectual, reflective, and spiritual self. But still, I am surprised when something so simple as a scent can affect me to profoundly.
This afternoon it came as I walked into Cadek to answer phones for wutc’s pledge drive. I have not been in that building but once or twice since moving back into town, as my normal work, school, and Church schedule never seems to take me there. Except for once, to pick up a prize that left me even more of a loyal listener to the station [that story I will happily tell, if prompted to by anyone] . . .
At any rate, I walked into the building and was instantly bowled over by my reaction to the smell—it is an old building smell, but seems somehow distinctive to that particular building; I, at least, have never encountered one quite like it. So one whiff of the inside air brought with it a flood of vivid, bittersweet memories . . .
I was 10 years old again, trembling as I walked onto the stage to give my first recital . . .
I was sitting in my practice room one night, bursting into tears when my teacher hinted that perhaps I should try to practice more that I had for this week’s lesson. She said it not unkindly, but I was guilt-ridden already about how little I knew I had practiced that week . . .
I was standing outside listening to my sister play, and wishing I could play Suzuki also [she learned Suzuki method, while I learned traditional]. I never did feel like I did as well with sight-reading as I did learning by ear. So I pretended to sight-read, while in fact relying upon my ears to clue me into the correct notes . . .
What this afternoon’s reaction left me with is just another reminder to stay attuned to what I am experiencing, in its entirety, in any given moment of life. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, would feel a great void without those moments of transcendence that come from living reflectively: the tear-rending emotional reactions, the bittersweet pleasures, the vivid memories, and even the acutely painful ones.

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