You've probably heard that smell is the sense most closely tied to memory. And you've probably experienced it too -- walking into an unexpected cloud of scent and being transported back to a place (the smoky incense of Northern New Mexico), a time (the smell of your fresh childhood Christmas trees), or even a person (my grandpa's Jovan Musk cologne) that you hadn't been thinking of the moment before.
I am a lover -- you might even say a collector -- of scents, and over the years I've noticed how a particular perfume becomes inextricably linked to the time I first wore it. Clinique Happy makes me think of high school; I got a free sample mini-bottle a while back and I often laugh with a kind of rueful embarrassment when I spritz it on. Chanel No. 5 makes me think of my mom and how my dad brought a bottle of it back for her from London when I was 13; Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, on the other hand, makes me think of the delightfully ragtag (to put it gently) production of The Importance of Being Earnest some friends and I staged I college (sometimes it reminds me of studying in Rome).
It is for this reason that I bought a special bottle of new perfume to travel to England with. When I laid eyes on it back in Silverlake, I had a feeling it was the one. The travel-size packaging had a delicate gold-embossed image of a tea cup on it. I did a quick test to make sure the smell wasn't objectionable. Perfect.
I didn't open the box. I packed it, still sealed in its cellophane, and got on a plane to England. After a night's sleep, I woke up in the tiny city of Wells, and opened the box. I wore the perfume, Tocca Bianca, all week
Yesterday, after a hallowed week singing, exploring, and drinking in Wells and the vicinity, the choir said our goodbyes and got on a bus to Salisbury. I haven't seen the cathedral here yet, and I've heard it's even more spectacular. It's unbelievable that we get to start this transformational journey all over again in a new place, but it's bittersweet. Salisbury is a bigger town, less intimate, and I think we are all mourning the loss of our little village, who we were so grateful for and who seemed to appreciate us so fervently, just a little bit.
It's the first morning in Salisbury. Our room here is bigger, our beds are more comfortable. I got up, got dressed, had a lovely breakfast. And then I put on my perfume.
Guess what? It reminds me of Wells. I think it always will.