This started as a comment to bloglily about a memory (malformed as it turned out) of something written that she had enjoyed. It involved smell and was a powerful memory. I responded with this:

Scent is so evocative, it really dredges up memories. The smell of roses always reminds me of my paternal grandmother’s house, lilac’s of my maternal grandma’s.

I remember noticing when I was in California, hiking up the Devil’s Post Pile (I think that’s what it was called) and thinking how ‘alien’ the place smelled. Like someone opened potpouri in the other room. For me home is the smell of salt air and pine.

As for correctly remembering things from books, some of my more creative work has come from getting something I remembered completely and utterly WRONG! It’s like I have a copper-tube memory that ferments everything put in it. Apple juice in, cider out. Vinegar if I’m having a bad day!

It’s such a fine line sometimes between creativity and ‘copying’. I myself have had a few creative moments that were the result of an attempt to copy something but getting it wrong! I suppose I would be in trouble if I had a better memory ;-).

What does plagiarism, the sense of smell and creativity have in common? If you read the last post, you saw me whining about the uber-academic discourse regarding creativity from the wikipedia entry. One thing struck me though, creativity is all about connections, especially “off-side” ones. The connections come from our conscious and sub-conscious ‘muck’ that is the great holographic mish-mash of memory. Smell is such a powerful trigger for memory and connection, but so difficult to quantifiy that I think it is always at work making those off-side connections. You don’t sit at a coffee-bar with your friends and talk about the smell of the library yesterday (“I found the mold a bit off, and the BO was giving it a tart edge”). But the smell of coffee triggers all sorts of connections with me. Especially in the morning. Especially right now.

Something to smell:

geranium 2

PS: I know it looks like a rose, but it’s actually a closeup of a bud from our geranium.