Taste of Memory

Have you ever tried to recreate a taste memory? When I was picking up a few things from the supermarket this week, my eyes fell on a package of English muffins. Instantly, I had the starkest memory of bread, butter, and strawberry mingling together in an amazement of breakfasty deliciousness. The memory was so strong that my stomach growled in want.

Yes, Dear Reader, I bought the English muffins. On Saturday morning, I toasted one nice and crispy, slathered the halves with butter and strawberry jelly, and settled down with my coffee. That first taste…ohhhhhh! It was the beginning of summer all over again! Creamy, crispy, and sweet, it poked just the right spot in my brain. It is rare for taste to have that strong a memory power over me without having actually tasted anything. I love food but scent has always been the most closely-tied sense to memory for me. So to have such a poignant taste-based memory was both striking and startling, and I’m finding myself wanting more of it. More of tastes that poke my brain and connect me to nostalgia and comfort so strong that all I can do is devour what’s in front of me.

It happened again yesterday afternoon as my family and some friends met for dinner at a local Latin cuisine restaurant. As I tucked into Venezualan beef, white rice, black beans, and sweet, soft plantains, that first bite of meat and rice hit so hard that I felt the taste memory of it in my sinuses. I stopped participating in the table conversation and concentrated wholly on the food before me, reveling in familiar flavors, perfect textures, and comforting combinations.

In days that are still indelibly difficult at times, moments like these have become equally, unspeakably precious to me. Moments of tumbling into happy and remembering that, yes, life is full of good. The world may be on fire, or we may be angry at it, or cowed/beaten down by it, but there is still brightness, still moments of light. Maybe it is in a familiar bite, a comforting sweet, a warm cuppa cradled in your hands, or the smell of popcorn reminding you of fun nights at the movies or fair. Let’s savor those moments of brightness, of comforting deliciousness, hold them close, and devour them down. May they become new memories that comfort us and make us smile on the harder days.


Pausing to Rest

As I tipped the trash bag into the hopper and let the lid fall, I paused on my shuffle back to the house over the icy drive and just stood still. I let the silence of the winter night, the temperature rapidly dropping, settle over me and just…rested in it for a long moment.

Have you ever listened to the world freeze over? I did. I could hear the creak of branches under the weight of the freezing snow and the muted boom of expanding ice birthing cracks and potential potholes in the streets. My eyelashes sparkled with shimmering snowflakes that fluttered to spangle the black of my sweater as they swirled and winked in the arc of light cast by the fixture beside the backdoor.

I remembered a night similar to this, almost twenty years ago, when I tripped merrily home from a campus formal. I recalled the dusting of snow on the sidewalk glinting like fairy dust under my feet and the hem of my gown in the blue moonlight and how beautiful I felt in that moment. Smiling at the memory, I just stood there, drinking the peace of a winter night, its stillness, its deep, slow breathing, and its call to rest.

Then the single-digit-chill wind decided I needed a nudge back to reality and gusted up to cajole me on into the house. “Before the cold catches up to you…” it seemed to whisper, dusting one last sparkle of snowflakes over me before I turned to go inside.

A moment’s rest can be just what you need, especially when it leaves you with a pleasant little shiver.

The Courage to Look Backward

There is an avid debate over whether the Memories feature was a good or bad idea on Facebook’s part. I, however, have found it to be at least useful in one particular case. As I have been looking through them each day lately, I have once again seen–surprisingly plainly–just how God has been preparing me for a reflective shift in my life. As you know, Dear Reader, for this month of November, my writing and reflections are centering on courage. It’s striking to see just how God has been brick-laying in advance.

Inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s daily practice on Twitter, I post daily good-mornings and good-nights on my personal FB page (and, sometimes, on my blog page), in an attempt and the hope of of encouraging my dear ones. Looking back through those previous posts, I am seeing more and more how they, too, were focusing on courage. A full year ago! Look at You, God. Way to prep!

It takes courage not only to look forward but also to look backward, to look at the past and see just how we have gotten to this point in our lives. Yes, sometimes, looking backward is hard or painful. Sometimes it can make us wince to see where we were then or to re-experience what we were going through, even when a year removed from the actual experience of it. For me, it is a comfort and a relief to see this evidence of preparation, these next places being made ready for me…when I have the courage to look forward again.

NaBloMoPo Day 20: Follow Your Nose

The inspiration is running low as I have been laid out with a sinus infection over the past few days. But I did have a thought, that tied into another thought, and, if I’m lucky, those thoughts might just birth a blog post that makes sense.

My sense of memory is very strongly tied into my sense of smell. Certain smells remind me of certain people, places, and experiences. I also use smell in my creative process to develop characters, be they for stories or for roleplaying games, or what have you. It is most readily evident in my live action roleplay characters, as I tend to wear specific scents for specific characters. And the scary part is I remember them.

Aislinn Davis – Warm Vanilla Sugar & Cotton Blossom (Bath and Body Works)

Dovasary Windemere – Sensual Amber (Bath and Body Works)

Esther Julian – Bright Crystal (Versace)

Delilah Croft – Secret Wonderland (Bath and Body Works)

Betsy Martin – Black Amethyst (Bath and Body Works)

I still have all of these scents in my collection here at home and, whenever I smell them, I am reminded of the stories woven by and around these characters and the stories still yet to be told. It makes me smile.

Now, I have a rule when it comes to scent and it goes for both men and women: They should never smell you coming but, once you pass, they should not be able to forget you. The point of the scent is to draw someone in, not repel them like a force field. Draw them, illicit a smile, seduce them, implant yourself in their memory. That is the point.

I have a love/hate relationship with my sense memory. I remember the first time I activated it. It was a boy, my mom’s boss’s son. I had a huge crush on him and only saw him during the summer. He wore Tommy Hilfiger. I didn’t know it at the time but, while my mother and I were perusing the perfume store, I picked up the cologne and smelled it and all I knew in that moment was him. His voice, his laugh, his playful hug, the cookies he brought every morning. I eschewed the pansy little scent stick, and asked my mom for a Kleenex, which I covered with the scent. When I took it home, I kept it in a plastic bag to preserve it, along with the one letter that he sent me. Yes, I was a bit of a sap at fourteen years old.

Flash forward almost ten years to the first summer that my husband and I spent apart when we were dating, I took his college sweatshirt home with me. When my mom found it, she said it needed to be washed. I grabbed it from her and told her no, that was the point. I slept with that thing every night for the three months. I could smell both of us mingled on it by the end of the summer and it gave me a great deal of comfort. When people pass me and smell like friends or family members, I often turn, expecting to see them somewhere around me, even though I consciously know they aren’t there. But the memories are and those remind me that I am never really alone.

The Taste of Dreaming

Dream of Stars by `zeiva (http://deviantart.com)

I am a sensory dreamer. Those are my favorite (and most terrifying) type of dreams: the dreams where I can feel, smell, hear, and taste things. I can never quite “see” very well in my dreams, oddly enough, but my other senses can be needle-sharp at times. I can feel a person hug me, smell them near me, hear their voice reverberate in my ears, and feel kisses and touches tingle along my skin. I can feel the warmth of the tears that roll down my face, feel my chest swelling with the heat and sting of crying. There are times that those tears have even spilled over into real life and I have awoken sobbing, unable to stop. Even though that can be difficult, heartbreaking even, I still love those sensory dreams.

I have dreamt about my daughter before, years ago. I dreamt of rocking her in her nursery in the middle of the night, watching her in the moonlight as she settled down to sleep in my arms after eating. I could feel the soft, warm, sleight weight of the child in my arms, hear her little coo as she yawned, and watched her scrunched up her little fists under her chin.

I have dreamt dreams of such peace and beauty and love that, even while dreaming, I struggled to burn them into my memory so that I could remember them when I awoke. I have jolted out of bed in the middle of the night, so compelled by a dream that all I could do was get up and write it down. One night in grad school, I spent an hour sitting on the edge of the tub, writing down a dream in the bathroom so that I wouldn’t wake my roommate. The images and the story were just so powerful and moving that I refused to lose them. I have dreamt dreams that are so detailed as to amount to a memory. I have been reminded of them by the way the sun shines, a certain smell in the air, or particular words that someone might say or a look they might give me that strikes me with a certain déjà vu. I remember looks and kisses as if they had really happened, events and encounters as though they were facts.

We are told that dreams are our subconscious working out the things that we do not let to the forefront or things that lie dormant within our minds. I do not know what parts of me all these dreams are trying to reveal but I will admit that I do love and enjoy these dreams and the lasting impact they have on my memory.