Space, Smell and Memory

Ursula K. Le Guin
“Living in a Work of Art”
Words Are My Matter

She grew up in a redwood house designed by Bernard Maybeck. She remembers:

The pantry, off the narrow hall at the foot of the back stairs […] was a tiny dark room full of shelves, smelling of apples and old pfeffernusse and other pantry things. I would go into the pantry sometimes just to smell it.

Its smell was partly redwood. The wood is aromatic; you can’t easily catch the scent in a single piece as you can in a piece of cedar or fresh-cut pine, but an enclosed space built of it has a characteristic fragrance, dearly welcome to the nose to which it smells like home. To come into our house after a long absence was to know again how immediately and profoundly the nose is connected to the emotions.

Because it has nothing to do with sight or touch or hearing, the space in which smell takes place seems to me to be dark or at least shadowy; still; and without boundaries, therefore very large: mysterious and benign. In this it resembles the very earliest and most primitive impressions that I find in my memory of the house itself.

Moth balls reminded me of the confined space of trunks. Hay, the heights of a barn with cathedral-like sunlight piercing the space between the vertical boards. Wet leaves and moss, a labyrinth of forest. And a very distinct paper smell transports me: library.

And so for day 2609

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