I was on the interstate today when the unmistakable smell of skunk filtered through the vents into my truck, and it made me smile. Not because I’m weird (the jury’s still out on that subject), because it triggered a memory of a happy time in my life.
Moving to Idaho has been a bit surreal. It seems so strange that I could be in one state one day and in another, 1000 miles away, the next. Not that it isn’t different here. There are a lot of things that are different. Like snow, for example. Never had that in AZ, and Idaho Falls gets a lot. I just haven’t felt like we’re really living in Idaho. And I didn’t understand why, until today—all the smells are missing in the winter.
Growing up, I spent at least two weeks out of every summer in Idaho and Utah visiting family. My favorite part of the trip was always pulling off the interstate and driving on the country roads to get to my grandparents’ house. The air was always cool and rich with the smell of fresh cut hay—one of my favorite smells. And I don’t really know why—we had skunks in AZ—but the smell of skunk always reminds of those summers spent with my cousins.
Smells can be a very potent reminder of things we’ve forgotten, good or bad, and they’re a very important part of a person’s daily sensory experience. Therefore, I try to incorporate smells into the description in my writing. But I’ve found them to be the hardest thing to describe. Some smells are so unique that it’s difficult to put them into words. Like the way my grandpa smells when I hug him. There’s nothing in particular that stands out, he just smells like my grandpa. Or even the way fresh cut hay smells. If you’ve never smelled it, that description isn’t going to do much for you.
Maybe I’m over thinking this.
What do you all think? Do you put smelly descriptions in your writing? Do you think it’s important to include smelly descriptions?