The Memory of Smell

Even though I’m sick with a nasty cold, I can still smell that summer day I lay in the sun-baked grass in a quiet grove on Vancouver Island.

I close my eyes and the smell of the sweetness of the grass comes back to me. The fact that smell is so closely attached to memory reminds me of an old friend who lost her sense of smell after receiving a hard smack to the back of her head.

From that day forward she couldn’t smell anything, and yet the power of her memory would bring forth the memory of smells more intensely than if she could actually smell them. The first time I saw this, I was fascinated.

We were hanging out and I peeled an orange. She smacked her lips and said she could “smell” the citrus so profoundly she could taste the acidic tang on the back of her tongue. Somewhere inside her brain, neurons were firing in response to the visual stimulation and attached to those neurons were the memory of the smell of an orange.

She likened it to having a full album of scratch and sniff stickers inside her brain. Each sticker activated by sights and sounds.

When you close your eyes and think about it, I bet you can smell the sweetness of the sun-baked grass too.