Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Senses

Snow is still on the ground here which is rare for Alabama. Frigid air blew down from the north last night turning the landscape in to one gigantic vanilla snow cone.  The cold seeped through my gloves and stung the tips of my fingers. Jilda and I made our way down our walking path, and the crunching made by our footsteps sounded like a platoon of marching soldiers. I flashed back to my time as a US Army Private in basic training - I started chanting:

Ain't no use in going home
Jody's got your girl and gone
Sound off, (one - two)  sound off (three- four), sound off ( one - two - three - four -- one -two!)
Jilda looked at me as if I'd lost my marbles. 

It's interesting what can trigger a memory. I can smell the diesel exhaust from a city bus and it transports me back to Hammond, Indiana in the late fifties when my family traveled north to visit my grandparents. I'd never seen a city bus and I'd never smelled that smell. It wasn't bad, nor was it good, it was just a smell I experienced when I was young and excited about visiting some place I'd never been. It stuck.

The sound of a flapping flag takes me to New York City 1971. I felt alone in a city of millions on my first trip there.  I walked the streets all morning amazed at the sights, sounds, and aromas.  I made my way to Yankee Stadium to watch an old timer's game on July 4th. Sitting up high in the stands I was close enough to the flapping pennant flags to reach out and touch them. 
As I sat there soaking up the ambiance, I heard the announcer say before the game began, "Let's have a moment of silence for Ivy Paul Andrews, from Dora, Alabama." I couldn't believe my ears because I was born in Dora, Alabama and my homeroom teacher was Paul Andrew's wife Josephine. He'd passed away earlier in the year, but I had no idea he would be mentioned at the game.  But in that moment, I felt a little closer to home, and the sound of flapping flags was etched in my brain like a prison tattoo.

I read a book recently called the History of the Senses and it digs deep and describes the senses and how they evolved.  To me, some of the best writers uses the senses coax us deeper into their make us feel like we are there.  I try to incorporate the senses into my writing, but it's a challenge to do without sounding lame. Like everything it takes practice.

Anyhow, I enjoyed our walk this morning, and it gave me something to write about tonight, in a roundabout way.


  1. exellent piece to start the morning...
    my senses seem to be sharper in the crisp air.

    or mebbee i am just cold...

    bruce johnson jadip
    stupid stuff i see and hear
    Bruce’s guy book
    the guy book
    Dreamodel Guy

  2. What wonderful memories!! I'm yet to capture a moment as you have without it descending to mawkishness!! Whereas I certainly need more practice at this - I think you've got this skill down to a tee!! This is a lovely post!! Thank you, take care

  3. For me the sense of smell conjures up many memories. The one that I love is my Grandmother's spice cabinet. If you have the right combination of spices housed in your cabinet, it will take me back to my Grandmother's kitchen, baking with her when I was young.
    My house in Virginia finally achieved that perfect scent, then we moved. Hoping my new cabinet won't take so long to become my portal to the past.

  4. Thanks Bruce and Ms. Kitty.
    My great grandmother lived next door to us until she passed away. Her porch was full of herbs and flowers.
    In the spring and summer I spent a lot of time hanging out at her house. She used them in her recipes. When she'd snap off a leaf or sprig, she'd give me a whiff.
    Even writing this brings back a rush of memories.

  5. That's a great story. My hubby was a Marine and he'd come up with those chants at the weirdest times so I can agree with Jilda's looks!! We are supposed to be up to 60 in the next couple days. Thank GOD!!

  6. I enjoyed reading this post! The senses really do play a large part in people's memories . . .


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