Thursday, January 29, 2009

as a matter of olFACTory.

Today I was riding my bike to a job interview at Lou E Lueys, (my new temporary job for the winter here in Cali), and during my bike ride, I caught a whiff of something familiar. It was from a man who was running in the opposite direction as I was riding my bike. All of a sudden, a flood of memories from my trip to Wales had rushed into my mind. Although, I already knew that smell and memory goes hand in hand. The olfactory bulb is part of the brain's limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling and it's sometimes called the "emotional brain".(Thank you Dr. Kingsley, Physiological Psychology Class). Wow, I mean don't get me wrong, I found the class extremely interesting, absolutely challenging, and most of the information I learned, I thought was just going to help me with Grad. School entrance exams and nothing more! But here I am. Blogging on my own time. Talking about the good 'ole Olfactory system and how it relates to memories... I digress.

So. I get a whiff of this cologne/perfume/aftershave... whatever it was, and BAM! I'm taken back to being in my Aunt's house in Wales and sitting around the living room eating a nice greasy bag of fish 'n' chips! It was absolutely amazing. Too bad I couldn't bottle up all the familiar smells from around the world. I'd have a so many bottles and when I was wishing I was back at that particular place, I'd just spritz a little into the air and let the memories begin--the smell of DEET to bring me back to Africa and remembering lathering up with bug repellent during the evenings of cooking by candlelight in our camp and taking turns reading aloud "The Life of Pi" and playing drafts off our homemade wood carved board--or the smell of homemade tortillas after walking in from a long, exhausting morning in Nicaragua from digging the foundation to house... the list could go on and on.
But after all is said and done. It is nice knowing that the smells are unique and that they don't come around often. So when you least expect it you are hit with a smell that brings you thousands and thousands of miles away. And for that one brief moment, something you forgot about while you are catering to the "real world", comes back to you and satisfies your soul. Even if for just one second, you are reminded of the fantastic memories you have made.
Cartoon "Memory Book" from