I’ve always been fascinated and baffled by the relationship between smell and memory. All senses can remind me of past events, but a fleeting scent has the power to take me back farther, faster, and clearer than other sensory phenomena.

Today we were walking past beach houses and one was being rebuilt. Sawdust mixed with cigarette smoke hit me faintly for a split second. Snap. I was back. I could hear the crass lunch-break conversation, feel the slivers in my fingers, taste the half stale peanut butter sandwich I’d packed in my dirty plastic cooler. I travelled 18 years into my past to my old construction job. I loved that job.

Moments like these make me wonder where that detailed, crystal memory resides the rest of the time, and how exactly it was triggered and released to my conscious mind. What other memories and associated smells are in there, awaiting the correct smelling key to unlock them? Could I go through a smell catalogue to see what else I remember? If my nose breaks, are those memories lost forever?

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