Sunday, May 1, 2011

Writing Exercise: Smells of Spring

Today I cut open a butternut squash for a beef tagine dish I was trying out, and as I scooped the seeds out of its bottom and breathed in its pumpkin smell, it struck me how misplaced its smell was. Butternut Squash is a fall smell! It put me right back into an apple-picking and pumpkin-carving mood.
This cooking experience illustrates nicely how smells conjure memories and can symbolize a certain time in our lives – one reason to use smell in your writing, especially in memoir. So going back to the butternut squash belonging in fall – what are the smells of spring? What would put you immediately into a springy mood? Here are my spring smells; feel free to add yours!
Freshly cut grass (my favorite smell! More on that some other time)
Lily of the Valley
Air after spring rain


  1. Mmmm, Annette: beef tagine with butternut squash?! Sounds perfect on this chilly spring day in Ottawa.

    For me, spring smells of:
    Garlic scape
    Early half-green strawberries
    Moist earth
    Lake water

  2. Cut grass was the first on my mind as well. Yes to smells in writing and for memoir especially. Glad to find your blog!

  3. Around here, the smell of skunk is often the first hint of spring. As they was romantic, the males stink up the place to bring in mates by the nose.

  4. Lisa - when are the tulips coming out in Ottawa? Don't they have a nice smell? Well, maybe not so much but I'v always wanted to see the famed tulips around the Parliament and yet I've only made it to Ottawa in the deep cold of winter.
    Motherlogue - yes, that first time they cut the grass I walk around sniffing.
    Stephanie - wow! I would not have thought of skunk. It makes sense though and gives a wonderful local "flavor!"

  5. I love the sweet smells of spring that have been listed, but we have one more here in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Ranchers burn the prairie grasses to promote new growth. It's said that cattle that feed on this new grass put on additional weight so selll for more at market. Thus, spring in my area also includes the smell of smoke. We can often see clouds of smoke in the distance. The ranchers control the fires very well and rarely do the fires get out of hand.

  6. I love how smells immediately transport me to a places and seasons. Cut grass and honeysuckle lift my spirits and remind me of times I ran through my yard as a kid barefooted playing tag with my friends. I love it. You made me hungry for Fall.

  7. Mmmm...spring. Will it ever truly arrive? Around here it's been raining with small bits of sunlight and warmth here and there.

    I'm big into smells in general. Lovely spring smells? Maybe roses, dirt, fruit trees, rain, and paint.

  8. A Spring smell for me is that of a wet pavement after rain on a warm spring (or summer) day. One of my favourite flowers is Hyacinth - they smell gorgeous in Spring.

  9. Nancy - now fires as an associative smell of spring is very interesting! I wonder how burning grass smells compared with burning wood? Out in the country here in Illinois and Indiana, I've often been struck by the grainy/dusty smell of burning wood as people burn stacks of branches and stumps after clearing out their woods in the fall.
    Garden4Life - yes, honeysuckle!
    Lisa - fruit trees, yes, but which ones? Cherry blossoms in Washington DC? I was lucky enough to experience them once, they were divine.
    Christine - yes, hyacinth! I've bought four already this year and my son is always sad when the blossoms dry up. But I plant them outside afterwards, so next year they will bloom again!

  10. This evening, walking home from my exercise class, my neighborhood smelled like a mixture of freshly cut lumber, newly mown first grass of the year, hyacinth....and skunk. Too bad about the skunk; could have done without that last scent.

    The hyacinths are in full bloom here in upstate NY right now and the crabapple blossoms should start to open in the next day.