The Buzz

Scent and Gardening

Disclaimer: This blog is not really about gardening: this blog is about scent (and memories), and scent is definitely tied to gardening!   

Today is Monday and I am working in the Herb Garden. The dew has all the plants glistening. The sounds of birds fill the air – along with the low roar of cars in the distance and the encroaching sound of leaf blowers. The scents of Holy Basil, cilantro and the odor of gasoline mixed with oil exhaust from the leaf blowers do a tap dance on my sinuses. I have mixed emotions right now. I love working in the Herb Garden, even though it can be hot or desperately cold depending on the season, and some of the work is just plain out hard and not fun, the Herb Garden can be a very soothing, Zen place to be: the gentle sounds and the exotic scents can transport me into a zone where the day just flies by. Then there are the man-made sounds: cars and trains are usually background noise and easily tuned out, the sounds of children playing in MBBY make me smile with the shrieks of glee and the cacophony of drumming from the House of Rock. The past year added a layer of noise with the construction of the Live venue with the drills and hammers and screaming back-up beeps from large machinery from sunup to sundown, but that was bearable knowing it would have an end and a reward – and it has. But then there are the leaf blowers. I have a love/hate relationship with leaf blowers: they can be such a convenience – blowing the leaves is so much quicker than sweeping, and it is something that the guys take care of with a long walk through the grounds blowing as they go (translation: one thing that someone else takes care of for me –whew! Thanks, guys!), However, I do so hate the noise pollution! The plus side is that it is usually a short period of time.  There is also the true pollution – as the machine buzzes past, I am assailed by the scent of a two-stroke engine: gasoline exhaust mixed with oil. This scent is so very distinctive. I cringe, but at the same time I am reminded of how scent can recall memories more keenly than even a picture: I smell this smell and immediately I am a little girl again of about 3 years old. My parents (Horace and Jane Roane ) were co-owners of a houseboat and we went to Pickwick, Sardis, and Arkabutla Lakes. They also had a speedboat and we went water-skiing. I can still see my father skiing on one ski. I never remember seeing him fall – in my mind’s eye he always just let go of the rope and skied gracefully until he sank into the water and waited for the boat to pick him up. The smell of the leaf blowers is the same smell in my memory as the exhaust from the boats. When I smell that I am instantly transported back in time and I hear my father’s voice, the bass and ski boats slipping past, and the slap of waves on the side of the boats and docks, I smell the comforting smell of Coppertone sunscreen, and the smells of lakewater and fish, and I feel the warmth of the sun - all from when I was 3 years old. It makes me remember how I felt then, too: safe and happy and trusting (covered in Coppertone, bobbing in the water like a cork, my dad reeling me in if I paddled too far away). This scent is such a powerful trigger and it never diminishes: this happens every time I encounter that smell and it is such a guilty pleasure! So if you ever feel I am acting childish, now you know what lies behind it! I get to be 3 years old at least once a week and all because I work in the Herb Garden at the Memphis Botanic Garden.   

   This is me (Sherri) and my daddy (Horace Roane) July 1966.

 What is your favorite scent-triggered memory?

Posted by sherri mccalla at 2:34 PM


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