Saturday Morning

Smoke: tobacco burning, coal smoke, wood-fire smoke, leaf smoke. Most of all, leaf smoke. This is the only odor I can will back to consciousness just by thinking about it. I can sit in a chair, thinking, and call up clearly to mind the smell of burning autumn leaves, coded and stored away somewhere in a temporal lobe, firing off explosive signals into every part of my right hemisphere. But nothing else: if I try to recall the thick smell of Edinburgh in winter, or the accidental burning of a plastic comb, or a rose, or a glass of wine, I cannot do this; I can get a clear picture of any face I feel like remembering, and I can hear whatever Beethoven quartet I want to recall, but except for the leaf bonfire I cannot really remember a smell in its absence. To be sure, I know the odor of cinnamon or juniper and can name such things with accuracy when they turn up in front of my nose, but I cannot imagine them into existence.

~ Lewis ThomasA Long Line of Cells: Collected Essays


Notes:

Comments

  1. Leaves burning, air that stings a little when inhaled, hugging a sweater around the shoulders and realizing how perfect it is.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The reptilian brain in action—scents evoke memory, not the other way around.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. yes, one of my favorite sensory experiences. this is so well described here –

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Now just a memory. Our leaves are vacuumed up at the curb by the township…it’s just not the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Omg, look at those earrings!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Bright, shiny objects! and commented:
    David Kanigan never ceases to amaze me…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, for some reason I didn’t see this post until now, but I love it. And I can smell the leaves! Olfactory memories are purportedly the strongest…this certainly bears that out.

    Liked by 1 person

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