I had a memoir writing workshop scheduled next Saturday and was looking forward to leading the participants in one of my favorite exercises: using smells to spark our memories. I usually have a variety of items available to sniff before we write, but wanting to be cautious here in Washington state, I decided to come up with a list of smelly items rather than bring the items themselves. That way, we wouldn't all be touching the items. But yesterday, I cancelled the workshop, a prudent decision coupled the widespread closure of schools, libraries, worship services and offices in my region.
Many, many of us will now find our activities being curtailed for several weeks at least, and I'd like to do my small part to provide an alternative to the anxiety of the news as we stay close to home in the form of a creative writing exercise.
Here is my "smellphabet" list of fragrant (some pleasant, some not) things in alphabetical order. I hope you'll find something on the list that reminds me of you a time and place in your own life. If you do, take a few minutes to jot down the story (somewhere between 5 and 20). Once you've written your memory, I invite you to share it with someone. Was there someone else in your memory that'd get a kick out of reminiscing with you? Email them the story, or give them a call. You are also welcome to post your story as a comment here, or email it to me. I'll be sure to respond with encouragement!
~Compiled by Cathy Warner
A Air freshener, asparagus, ammonia
B Baby powder, baking bread, bubble gum, bleach
C Chanel No. 5, cigarette smoke, cough syrup, cinnamon, cabbage
D Diaper Cream, Dove soap, dog (wet)
E Eucalyptus, eggs, earth
F Fish, forest, formaldehyde, Fritos
G Grass, grape (artificial), ginger, gardenia, gasoline
H Hairspray, hay (wet), ham
I Illness, Irish Spring soap, icing
J Juicy Fruit gum, juniper, jasmine
K Kelp, kirsch, kabab
L Lysol, lavender, lacquer
M Mint, mouthwash, maple syrup, menthol
N Narcissus, naan, napalm
O Oranges, olive brine, onion
P Puppy breath, Playdough, permanent marker, pencil dust
Q Quince, quinine, Quaker oats
R Roses, rain, rodent droppings, red wine
S Spray paint, sauvignon blanc, skunk
T Thanksgiving turkey, tobacco, tires, tar, turpentine
U Urine (animal or human), udon noodles, urethane
V Vick’s Vaporub, violets, vomit
W Windex, wax, Windsong perfume
X X-14 spray, Xerox copies, xylitol
Y Yeast, yard clippings, yogurt, yam
Z Zoo, Zippo lighter fuel
According to neuroscientists, smells have a stronger link to memory and emotion than any other sense. Read more about that here.
I began blogging about "This or Something Better" in 2011 when my husband and I were discerning what came next in our lives, which turned out to be relocating to Puget Sound from our Native California. My older posts can be found here.