Places I’ve Breathed In: A Collective Scents Memory

Becky Poole
6 min readJun 10, 2021

I posted a question to my Facebook page, Hey friends, question for you. What is a smell/scent (good or bad) that you have a specific memory or memories linked to?” The response was incredible. So many folks generously responded with memorable scents — accompanied by touching, angry, and beautiful moments. This photo is a visual representation of the scents people remembered. The large bulbs are the ones mentioned repeatedly.

A notebook is filled with words to describe a smell that someone remembers. The words that were most popular: Sunscreen, Bread, Pencil, Asphalt, Mulch, Chlorine, Gas, Fresh Cut, Rubber, and Mold, are each outlined by a bulb shape.

In response, I pieced together a story of my own experiences crafted from their recalled scents. I’d love for you to take a whiff. As you read, light a favorite candle or hold something fragrant under your nose. For a moment, concentrate on the sense that transcends space and time, and places you in memory. Not just in reverie, but exactly. I will speak to you in smells. A scent story of the places I’ve called home. Nose prose using suggested scents to build a memory that includes yours. That titillates your nose buds, conjures your own memories, and takes you — someplace.


I think of life’s timeline in places because it’s easier to remember landmarks than dates. Brains never remember it all quite right. Except for smell. Scent is immediate, there is nothing to decipher. Scent is puppy paws, mom, and fresh tortillas. Like pinto beans in a pressure cooker, memories cook fast. The olfactory system literally swirls around the limbic system, clinging to the amygdala. Making close to indelible connections with memory. Blasts of old cologne (Malibu Musk, Cool Water, Electric Youth) like hippocampal stains, takes us “there”. Takes me back, to a place I can barely remember, yet all of a sudden I am there.

MANKATO, MN: I trampled through lilies of the valley to build fleeting lilac forts with cabbage patch dolls. Wet dog and rain wet grass, set on a palette of soybean factory. I’m from southern MN, with winters so cold the air smells like ozone. But Summertime’s new asphalt and honeysuckle thunderstorms were hot. Air conditioners and mowers drone through the humidity. Rain on hot gravel is different than rain on hot tar or grass. Summer camp’s emotional fireworks flared while listening to fresh water lap over lake algae while Love’s Skin So Soft as bug spray kept away some of the pests. Summer days are Coppertone, coconut…

Becky Poole

Actor, VO, writer, saw player. Based in LA. I write feminist murder ballads, eat up neuroscience, and wish I was a better SJW.