favorite sounds and smells

hello, friends (including anyone reading this anonymously)…

i was reading a series of articles in the utne reader about sounds and noise pollution, etc. a column on the side of one of the articles listed some of the favorite sounds of people on the utne staff. personally, i’m more interested in smells. i have always loved smells, especially how they trigger memories, like when i first walked into jj’s apartment in minneapolis, when matt brought me there to meet him for the first time, and my god, it smelled like the rooms and apartments of friends from centralia and olympia… the coffee, the books, the music stuff all over… i don’t know what makes that exact smell, but i love it. i love the smell of pierre cardin cologne, especially if it’s really old, and lingering in the smell of an old, much read book. i love the smell of cinnamon. and cat fur. and lots of other things…

anyway, what i’m wanting is this: some of my friends’/acquaintances’ favorite sounds and smells. you can post them as comments or email them to me privately, if they’re private. whichever. anyway, i’d like that. thanks.


  1. i like the smell of gasoline a lot.
    and 40v. hair bleach.
    the earth after a good rain.
    and MONEY. 😛

  2. Smells: Freshly cut grass, coffee, the ocean, puppies, cinnimen buns

    Sounds: Church bells, crickets, rain, ocean waves crashing, a purring cat

    Good thing I’m in a rush or I would just keep going!

  3. for starters:
    moth balls (this has a direct memory line to my favorite grandmother)
    grilling hamburgers (of all the cooking meat smells, i’ve found that this is the most specific and pleasant to me and i have no idea why the smell for grilling ground meat is so different than grilling non-ground meat)
    lilacs (more for their signal of spring than anything, but also for the chilhood memories of our big-enough-to-play-inside-its-branches giant hedge of lilacs)
    parking lot after the rain (so acidic! yet so indicative of the shared immediate past of the rainfall)
    i will think of more during the day…

    1. and:
      burnt matches
      sawdust (this has both the connotation of wood as common plaything of my youth, the association with liked relatives who were woodworkers, and also the connotation of construction, building, new things, etc.)
      tiny whiffs of gasoline after a stop at the gas station (because it is one of those smells that are there and then not there and yes its there no its not)
      hay (just one of a collection of farm smells from childhood that includes old wood, apples, rhubarb, black dirt, faint manure smells, the dry dirt and corn smell of the fields, alfalfa, tractor tire/sandbox, pine trees, creek-pronouced-crick, and slightly rustly swingset)

  4. The sound of crackling ice underfoot as it thaws in spring. Dead favorite sound ever.

    Call me a hippie, but I really love the smell of some essential oils. Patchouli is a favorite, as are frankincense and myrhh.

  5. I’m another hippie…I really like the smell of rose oil the best…dragon’s blood comes in a close second…and believe it or not, sawdust (memories of my grandfather from childhood)

    Favorite Sounds: hmmm…a cat purr probably…

  6. a few of my favorite things…

    I love the sounds & smells of water… rain falling on leaves, streams that rush or meander, the ocean on calm or tempestous days, even those dumb little desktop fountains bubblin away make me happy. Oh and I love the sound of peeing in the snow!

    I love the sound of the wind going through a pine forest and how hushed my footsteps are walking on pine needles and the smell of overturned earth. I love the sounds of fire, from a small and contained one in camp to a big bonfire taller than three people high.

    I love the smell of hot flint, and burnt matches. The smell of old books and sandalwood. Rosemary, Grandfather White Mountain sage, autumn leaves, the smell of cold on your clothes when you come inside. Lavendar, rose, thyme… the way I smell on my lover’s lips 😉 and freshly laundered bedsheets…

  7. Know what gets me every time? Underarm deodorants.

    Back in the day I used to switch brands a lot. Now, if I smell a brand I have abandoned, I remember the time period when I was using it. Alas, I have become set in my ways and have exclusively used the old faithful “Original” Speed Stick for about ten years now. So, those memories are all old ones. But, I guess that’s why the old smells trigger powerful memories.

    1. i do this too! the old formula soft and dry baby powder scent brings me instantly to 1996-97, sunday dance party at first ave and an apartment i had on loring park.

  8. Favorite Smell: Ginger. As in my dog ginger. We bath her as infrequently as possible (pretty much only when she rolls in something nasty) to preserve and prolong the conforting smell she has. I adore it. I love to smell her paws in particular. To me they always smell of warm pavement and cuddles.

    Other nice smells:
    Jasmine – passing a big bush of it unexpectedly while walking down a street.
    Barbeque – pork ribs especially. delicious without ever tasting it.
    Frying garlic – makes a kitchen smell like love.
    Thanksgiving – I love the smell of the house by early afternoon so much that I try and repeat it every holiday occasion. Roasting turkey smells like family, in all the good ways.

    smell/taste combo:
    chlorine – smells like summer when you semll it on skin and it tastes like being 10.

    I love the sound of a good metal windchime. Large or small it doesn’t matter – the small higher pitched sound friendly, and the larger deeper sounding ones sound wise. Wooden windchimes kind of annoy me, but my neighbor has a good quality, very large bamboo one that has grown on me.

    Purring. A strong, deep cat pur can make me cry.

    Wind rustling foilage, especially trees. Sounds like peace, summer and youth all mixed up and fleeting.

  9. Gitane cigarettes evoke an image of an older man reading a paper on a parisian train.

    The smell of ozone takes me back to one day as a child living in Nebraska when I stood outside in a field after a rainstorm and the sky looked like muddy pea soup. I remember there was an absolute stillness to the air, no wind whatsoever. I was so transfixed on how quiet it was and how the light looked so alien through the clouds that I didn’t notice the funnel cloud forming. Then my mom was running to take me inside. Ever since then I’ve loved thunderstorms not only for the smell but the sound of thunder as well. In fact a thunderstorm with its sights, smells and sounds is one of the most perfect experiences.

    Cheap beer and the acrid smell of sweat reminds me of sitting underneath a bridge in Uptown drinking with friends.

    The smell of electronic circuits recalls the time when I took apart my dad’s computer and the wonder I felt at looking at all the circuit tracings and various components.

  10. I love the smell of a lake on a hot day, it’s very green and earthy, and I love the smell of Lake Superior on any day- it’s clean and cold and almost metallic. You’d expect it to smell like the ocean, but I love that it doesn’t. I love the smell of campfires and also the smell of camp fire when it lingers on your clothes the next day, the smell of tomato vines and fresh picked tomatoes, clothes fresh from the dryer, and also the dryer steam that comes out the side of the house, and the indistinguishable smell of my childhood home. I also have to echo others and say that I love the smell of our dog, it’s sweet, but outdoorsy, but very faintly smells like pancakes.

  11. I forgot to mention favorite sounds: old airplanes. My grandmother was a pilot for 60 years and would grill me endlessly over the sound of different engine/propellor combinations that I would hear as airplanes flew overhead. No fair peeking. I got pretty good but it’s been awhile so the only engine I can readily recognize by ear now is a late 20’s design called the Kinner K-5. It’s a pretty distinctive sound. Everything else sounds like a buzz to me now, so I cheat and look up these days. Grandma would have my ass. Ah, well, she’s not around to cuff me any more. She would, though, make no bones about it.

Comments are closed.