I have grown old

but these words remain

tell her for me

because it’s very important

there will come one May night

of every year she’s alive

when the whole world smells of lilacs


Al Purdy from “May 23, 1980”


I’m going to guess we all know what Al meant by that specific night’s scent. His words immediately bring back my own memories of lilacs and their scent.  As a kid my mom cutting them and bringing them into the house, the house filling with their scent, I see my mom as she was then. Or the backyard where my kids grew up, the lilacs at the edges of the yard, the scent wafting in through open windows. I see my kids as they were then in the backyard, maybe with a basketball, Mr Huber next door working in his shed. Or lying in bed alone in the dark in a certain time, the scent of lilacs making their way in. How those nights seem alive as spring fully takes hold and because of the nostalgia also holds loss.  


Scent apparently is hardwired directly into the memory areas of our brain, it doesn’t go through the filters that the other senses do.  So there is an intensity to those memories unlike our other senses. And unlike most of our other senses can also be there without experiencing the others. Your eyes can be closed, it can be quiet and you can be remote from the source of the scent but there it is. The rest of the body also not necessary to experience it or to take part in the experience. 

Continue reading “Scent – A Video Essay”