I saw a Glade commercial the other day. Scent, it said, makes us feel like nothing else can.
I pondered the words.
It’s true. Smell really does make us feel like nothing else. Distinct smells have the ability to bring back memories and laughter, a grimace, a feeling of nausea or hunger or even a feeling of peace. We associate certain smells with certain events, like peppermint and pine with Christmas or fresh cut grass in the summertime. Some smells are so distinct, so unforgettable, that we need only a few words to conjure them for us. I’m sure everyone can think of an example. I can think of one right now – and it is the perfect time for it here in Ohio – it’s the smell of fallen leaves, and it makes me think of Halloween. I can picture, clear as day, tromping through the fallen leaves on the sidewalk, hearing them crackle beneath my feet as I walk from house to house in town, trick-or-treating. I can feel the cold night air around me and see all the costumed kids filling the streets, but it’s the smell that remains the most prominent, which holds the key to that memory.
Smell makes us feel like nothing else.
Our other senses can be just as powerful. There’s a reason writing teachers and professionals tell us to write using all our senses. It’s because the human experience is written with senses. We might record it in words and pictures, but we experience it with all five of our senses – sound, sight, smell, taste and touch.
Sound. There’s nothing like hearing the sound of a loved one’s voice when we’re lonely, or to greet us in the morning or night, or just to say hello. The sounds of our favorite bands and musicians can motivate us in a unique way that only music can. Sounds can scare us like a bump in the night or a scream, or comfort us like a soft lullaby or the roll of waves on the ocean, or a patter of rain on a rooftop. Music helps tell a story in a movie or on a television show and sometimes even in real life. (choreographed proposals are becoming more popular these days…)
Sight. The mere slight of our crush or special someone is enough to make our stomach flip-flop. It’s enough to fill us with wonder at the world around us – in a new place, watching a sunset or seeing something amazing happen. There’s a reason we take photographs – to capture a memory and document it forever, to revisit again and again.
Taste. Imagine the smooth taste of rich chocolate melting on your tongue. The buttery, salty goodness of theatre popcorn. The savory, juicy taste of a tender steak with sauteed vegetables. It’s enough to make your mouth water. Tastes can be bad too. We all have foods we refuse to eat because of the taste. (That’s sweet pickles and cheeseburger casserole for me!)
Touch. The feeling of touch is written a thousand ways in our language. The soft caresses of a lover, the cold nip of winter wind, the warm safety of a hug, the comforting hold of a hand on your shoulder. You can identify objects by their touch – the fuzzy peeling of a peach, the dimpled surface of a golf ball, the smooth softness of silk. Touch can convey so many feelings – love, comfort, anger, joy.
Our sense are a gift that help us feel and experience the world like nothing else. The have the power to retain memories and bring them back, and the power to change our moods. The can conjure images of places and people we’ve never seen, describe foods we’ve never tasted, and tell stories in ways we couldn’t live without. Our sense are an amazing thing.
So why not use them? Stop and smell the roses. Watch the sunset. Listen to the birds singing. Eat something delicious. Hold someone’s hand. Experience and remember.