The Smells of Memories

October 31, 2012

It is said that the biggest memory connections in the brain, are triggered by our sense of smell. This isn’t always an easy concept to except until you experience those moments when a smell brings in a flood of memories and images you hardly remembered was there.

I was doing some end of Fall walks with y Mom this past week, along some of the feeder streams at Stony Creek Metro Park. There where more leaves on the ground then left in the trees, so the smell of decaying leaves filled the air. We came upon a beautiful spot along the Creek and sat by the rocks there.

Even though we both smelled the almost overwhelming leaves smell, I guess it was not the right tree leaves we where smelling. When we sat down we both smelled a distinctive decaying leaf smell, that suddenly triggered all types of old memories. That smell of an Elm tree.

Where I grew up, the area was predominately Elm trees, so when the Fall came around, the predominate smell was that of the changing Elm tree leaves. Now…….it may seem a bit strange that an Elm tree should smell that much different, but maybe it was the cool Creek water that carried the aroma and enhanced it. I do not know for sure. But I do know that we both smelled it at the same time.

Almost on cue, both of us started telling stories and reminding one another of the old neighborhood, where I grew up, and Mom raised her family. The memories poured in. We sat there by the Creek for an hour telling stories, one after another.

Right before we stood and continued on our walk, we both realized the same thing. The smell in the air was what had triggered these endless memories. They where sitting there……but it was that special smell that suddenly brought them to the surface. The rest of our Creek walk was a direct connection to the outdoor smells and aromas we would encounter. And sure enough……with each new odor, came a new memory and story.

Suddenly everything felt so familiar. That connection to the aromas and then the release of those stored memories was an excellent experience for the both of us. It didn’t matter anymore where we where walking. We where completely focused on the next smell. 🙂

One comment

  1. I grew up under the shade of three magnificent elm trees. I remember the aroma of the fallen leaves and the joy of laying in the carpet of leaves and scattering them about like nature’s confetti. Your post is a poignant reminder of the beauty of childhood exploration and the lessons that will last a lifetime. Happy Autumn to all at Hiking Michigan.

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