The scent of writing is all around me this morning in the form of a bouquet of lilacs. Yesterday, I placed the Mason jar bouquet on the shelf next to my bed, where I begin my morning reading and writing with my first cups of coffee.
The scent of lilacs. How that returns me to my childhood! All those times that I cut the stems for our apartment. All those times that I wished I could carry a bouquet of lilacs to school for my teachers—but was too painfully shy, year after year—to carry out my fantasy of standing before my teacher with the sweet blooms.
A smell from the past is often what one needs to jump start a memory.
The science behind this is that the olfactory bulb accesses the amygdala, which processes emotion, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for associative learning.
When we first smell a new scent, we link it to an event, a person, a thing or a moment in time. Our brain creates a link between the smell and a memory so that when we encounter the smell again, the link is already there, ready to elicit a memory or a mood—positive or negative.
I don’t know if it’s my imagination or not, but it seems that since I placed that bouquet on the shelf yesterday, I’ve been better able to fine-tune the outdoor chapters of Spring in my memoir. More details have come into focus.