Heaven Scent

The ancients burned offerings so a pleasing scent would reach their gods. What better way to share their earthly wealth with deities in the heavens?

In the same way, scent creates a connection with people who have passed on. We’ve all heard that smell is the sense closest linked to memory. Perhaps that’s because it has the power to cross time and space.

Years ago, this premise came to life for me in a drugstore where someone had dropped a container of Coty face powder. In a flash, I was sitting on my grandmother’s bed watching her at her vanity mirror. Before she went out, she always dipped a large, fluffy puff into her powder. The cream-colored cloud that billowed around her face left a trademark fragrance in her room and on her clothes.

Until that trip to the drugstore, I hadn’t realized what brand of powder my grandmother used. It wasn’t the box I recognized, but the smell–and I seriously considered buying some so I could return to memories of my grandmother at will.

Regardless of where you believe someone “goes” after death, a sense of connection can vary. I have never felt my mother’s presence, yet I knew my dad was at my side for months after he died. (He had always wanted to know more about my everyday life, and he’d finally found a way to do it.)

And yet a quick whiff of perfume or potting soil, the aroma of a favorite recipe, the unique smell of a city by the water or a cedar-lined drawer can connect us instantly with someone out there, somewhere.

Later this month, I’ll prepare my family’s stuffing recipe for Christmas. When the ingredients blend together in the frying pan, I will simultaneously be in touch with my father’s mother, who learned the recipe in a cooking school 80 or so years ago; my mom, who translated her mother-in-law’s bunches of celery and pinches of salt into standard recipe measurements; and my dad who stood next to me through the 1970s, 80s, 90s and early 2000s frying the vegetables and stirring them vigorously into deconstructed french bread.

That stuffing recipe is so more than food.

It is a recipe for a warm and powerful reunion.


Image: Surachai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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