Metacognition

Compounding Nostalgia

Today, the sweet smell of blossom is drifting through my window. I think it is a Sweet Olive? Maybe Honeysuckle?


I am reading a book called Storyworthy and there is an exercise the author calls Homework For Life. Every day, you write down a moment that you can build a story around. Today, I want it to be the smell of those sweet blossoms. But where is the story in that?


Why does this smell give me a visceral feeling in my chest of longing and nostalgia? I like nice smells, but usually not to the point of emotion.  I tried to remember the memories of past years when they bloom, but I can only remember one. I am a 14- or 15-year old boy, riding my bike through Julington Creek Plantation in Jacksonville, FL. It is a cool night, I am energized by raging, pubescent hormones and the sense of adventure of wherever I am going. I cannot remember if I am with someone – I traveled often with a select few friends but also by myself. I am riding along a white fence overgrown with the same blossoms. For perhaps a quarter of a mile, the scent envelops me. I used to love riding past that section.


It’s kind of funny, I never wished I could bottle that scent. When it was gone, it was gone until the next year. I never wanted to consume it until I was sick of it. 


I digress.


I am sure I have other memories that are nice around Spring when these flowers bloom, but I can’t remember any of them. This one memory overcrowds the others. 


Then, as I am standing outside enjoying breathing in the aroma, I hear a new song by Dan Wilson. Brand new. Yet the melody inspires a similar feeling of longing. 


I came up with a theory that I want to try and explain – maybe it is wrong – I don’t know. 


I am riding my bike in an exciting time of my life, and I smell this lovely scent. Years later, I smell the same and I remember how wonderful those bike rides were. Years later, I find it again and remember again. Now, I am smelling something and I have a sweet feeling but no memory. I think, again, I don’t know, I think that nostalgia is just remembering my own remembering. Every year when I smell the flowers, it reinforces that the flowers are attached to a good memory, which produces a nice feeling. But I don’t even have to know what the memory is. I just know that those flowers = some kind of joy. Almost as if the nostalgia or the memory compounds, like interest in a bank account. Or that they build on each other and each layer of pleasantness adds to an ever-growing, dense, joyful memory.


Does anyone understand what I am talking about?


I am typing this in my office, the windows are open, and again it feels as though I am bathing in the fragrance. So strong, yet so soft. Intoxicating and sobering at the same time. And I still have that feeling.

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