The Nose Knows: The Sense of Smell “Takes You Back”

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Your five senses know a lot about your life.

  • They know what you like to taste.
  • They know what you like to see.
  • They know what you like to hear.
  • They know what you like to touch.
  • And, they know what you like to smell.

Studies have shown that perhaps more than any other sense, it’s your sense of smell that can bring you back to a particular place and time or person most poignantly, whether you were younger or older—that sense of smell can take you there in a moment. Bam! You are quickly reminded of an aspect of your life. That’s why when we teach writing courses, we instruct students to tap into their senses…it’s descriptive writing regarding the senses that can cause the prose to pop.

I have a keen sense of smell. Perhaps it’s because I inherited an Italian nose from somewhere down the line. I can smell certain scents and be transported instantly.

  • The smell of burning rubber (electrical fire) reminds me of being trapped in the D.C. Metro on a commute home from work when I was in my twenties.
  • The smell of pizza dough reminds me of being in my Great-Grandmother’s kitchen in New Jersey watching her flip pizzas while the cuckoo-clock chirped.
  • The smell of exhaust a bus emits reminds me of walking the streets of New York City.
  • The smell of honeysuckles reminds me of playing kickball and SPUD in my yard as a kid.
  • The smell of a certain cologne reminds me of someone I once loved.
  • The smell of stale beer reminds me of being in the infield at the Preakness many, many moons ago.

Of all the senses, smell takes you back faster than “I Dream of Jeannie” could snap her fingers and take you there.

You are back. Remembering…

What scent brings you back to a moment in your life?

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