In my “tween” years, I went to camp in New Hampshire. I loved that experience. As a 12-year-old, I was on my own for the first time, away from my family, meeting people from places other than New York. Over 5 years, I made friendships that have lasted.
Not only did I love the experience of being at camp, I loved the surroundings. Set on Lake Wentworth, buried in the woods, I found myself dwarfed by remarkable pine trees daily. Cabins were constructed between the mammoth roots. On hot, sunny days those trees provided much needed shade. On rainy days, they worked like semi-functional umbrellas. Essentially, they protected us as we played and we learned.
I grew up under those trees physically, mentally and emotionally. I found my voice among those trees. Part of whom I am now is certainly due to my experiences there. As you likely have divined, I view that experience fondly.
Any time I smell pine, two things immediately come to mind: Christmas and camp. If you ask me which comes first, I will have to admit that I am immediately transported to camp. I don’t know the science to explain why our sense of smell triggers memories, but there are a myriad of research papers that explain this biological marvel. Individually, I suspect each of you have your own examples to support this fact.
Of course, if smells can trigger good memories, they also have the ability to trigger unhappy memories. I cannot smell raspberry soap without being transported to purgatory. You can imagine why I routinely try to avoid Bath & Body Works.
I’d love to overwrite those memories. I am working on it. Recently, I had to buy a new shampoo to treat my son’s chlorine-plagued hair. You can imagine my surprise when I opened it and it smelled like raspberries. Perhaps the use of the soap on his head will help me reset my memory bank. Actually, I am counting on it.
Striving for the balance in life, I find myself constantly working to stay on keel. Good memories keep us on keel; tough memories can push us off balance. If this happens, if you find yourself transported to a place, revisited by a memory your find difficult, remember that you are in charge of your response. You can leave that memory, that smell, in your past. Surround yourself with the smells and the memories that bring you joy.
Go find your pine tree.