Friday, January 9, 2009

Heaven Scent

There is a famous passage in Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past in which one taste of a "little madeleine" cake transports the author to another place and time, filling him with a sense well-being and joy.

This soap is my madeleine.

One breath of it, and I am back in our summer cabin, high in the Adirondacks. Care and worry fall away, just as it did then, and for a moment there is nothing but sun, water, sky, and freedom.

The cabin had a warm, citrus, honeyed scent that we all loved but were never able to identify. It wasn't pine, though the cabin was pine, or the harsh, phony lemon of a cleanser. It was more like beeswax and ... something. Something else. When we left for the last time, I spent a moment quietly breathing in that scent, trying to remember, to take it with me. I didn't expect to encounter it again.

And then this soap appeared. We had never bought this kind before. My husband picked it up somewhere and stashed it in a vanity drawer in the new house before we moved in. When I opened the drawer for the first time, there was that scent, and with it that same sense of lightness and peace.

It's just an ordinary thing, just plain old Dove soap, with a fragrance they call grapefruit and lemongrass. It sounds more like breakfast than a magic potion, but in a way it is both. With every morning shower, it nourishes my soul and promises a day filled with possibilities. It reminds me that happiness comes one moment at a time. And that's a magic worth remembering.

*Remembrance of Things Past, Volume 1: Swann's Way: Within a Budding Grove.


Sallyacious said...

That is lovely. Scent can be so evocative.

Your story reminds me of stepping into the tool shed in the house where I grew up. My parents kept the lawn mower there, and even in the dead of winter, it smelled like fresh mown grass and transported me to 80 degree summer days.

Kylee said...

Isn't it amazing how a scent can transport you to another place and time like that? There's actually a word for that, but I can't remember what it is.

I had a similar experience this past week. I opened up one of those perfume pages in a magazine and I don't remember what new scent they were hawking, but it was very similar to one I had worn in high school, way back in the early '70s called "You're the Fire." I hadn't thought about that in years!

I love this post. It's nostalgic and who doesn't love that? :-)

Kiva said...

I never really understood what the big deal was with madeleines. I tried them, not my thing. In fact, I really never understood Proust at all although I loved his language. Now the smells of lemon and beeswax, I can understand.

Thanks for dropping by and saying hello. These last months have been wild. Am just getting back home to the warmth.

May you and yours have a peaceful and glorious new year.

lisaschaos said...

I love how certain scents can call up days gone by and make you have those same feelings as before. :)

MyMaracas said...

Ahhh, fresh grass. What a great memory for the middle of winter, Sally.

And Kylee, if you remember that word please let me know! I'd love to know what it is. I had several scents in my younger years; Sheseido, Muguet Des Bois, and Maja. It's funny you should mention perfume. My sons were talking a few days ago about how catching a particular perfume scent reminds them of old girlfriends who wore it.

Kiva! Great to see you again! I do hope you'll be around once your projects are done. I've never actually had a madeleine. Maybe it's best just to imagine them.

Lisa, yes it is. I love it when it happens -- at least, when the memory is a good one. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Scent is so powerful and the memories even more so..Glad you had that surprise...