Monday, February 4, 2013

The smells of my new home

I'm sure you've heard somewhere that scent is the most reliable trigger of memory. I've also read, though I have no idea where, that scent is an infant's first reliable sense. I've always had a fairly acute sense of smell and navigate the world, in part, by its aroma. This isn't always a good thing, but it does provide a deeper understanding of people, places and things. It means I understand the world, in part, by how it smells.

I wrote recently about the sounds of my new home, how the wail of the train is a new song. It smells different here, too, and I thought I'd share some of the smells with you before I become inured to them.

  1. Oh, you know this one had to be first. Barbecue. Drive around Kansas City on a Saturday night with the windows open and all you can smell is the sweet, smokey, rich scent of people eating, drinking, laughing and striving for a good time. Frankly, it's a little stunning how the whole place smells like a cook out.
  2. And on the other end of the spectrum, sewage. The sewers here must not run as deep, because standing near a street drain often carries with it a whiff of human waste. It's not overwhelming, but it's there and reminds me that while our own shit is inescapable I don't need to stand there and wallow in it.
  3. My street smells like sycamore trees, sweet and spicy. I love sycamores (aka plane trees). They have such a distinctive scent, I used to collect their leaves and stuff pillows with them.
  4. Fresh water. Kansas City is a pretty dry place, but there are hundreds of fountains and two rivers. In Massachusetts we'd get whiffs of marsh and salt water. Here, I smell fresh water.
  5. Smoking regulations vary state-by-state and are more relaxed here than back east, so I often smell cigarette smoke. While I can't say it's my favorite smell, it does remind me of younger days when clubs smelled of smoke and I wrote poetry about the ways we obscure ourselves with ash and embers.
  6. Lastly, my house is starting to smell of spices and books, the way my old home did. I walk in the kitchen door and smell hints of curry and garlic, cinnamon and tea. The stairways smell like the old books shelved there. The craft room has the faint scent of sandalwood incense.  It is, finally, smelling like home.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Ah, yes, Laura, scents do spark memories. Every time I smell Ivory Soap I think of my Grandma Koenn. She always had Ivory in her bathroom. She's been gone for years and years and yet the scent of her memory remains. Wonderful blog. Woman, your words jump just where you want them to.

  2. Beautiful to be so in tune with your new surroundings. Your words bring us all right there with you. Nice!

  3. Ahhh Laura I as just talking about smells this. Morning with Jim. I remember that when I truly knew I loved him and we had to be together was up at Franconia notch - it was piney and clean with a hint of soft dirt - that smell still takes my stress level down 6000 pegs! I'm glad KC is smelling like home :-)


True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Related Posts with Thumbnails