The sense most closely linked with our memory is smell. I love smells, they always dredge up beautiful thoughts. I have a long (45 minute) drive home from work each night, and I leave the window open, each breath better defining a previously lost memory.

There is some plant that grows on the foothills that smells like minty sweat, almost skunky. I love that smell, it reminds me of Boy Scout summer camp. Every few camp sites shared a bathroom–they were just dressed up outhouses, we called them lollies–and a few days into each session they would start smelling like that. Some troops didn’t clean their lolly, and the smell would turn rank and attack you as you walked past. I remember one troop refused to clean the lolly on the path to the fire ring–they were unpopular. I remember odd things, like laying on a cot during work day, before the sessions started, looking up at the sun through a screen of oak leaves, and sitting in a tent playing D&D with Ian, Evan, Matt, and probably others. I remember the standing ovations Evan, Matt, and I got for our skits at the closing night campfires. Those were good times. It also reminds me of my treks in Philmont. Ten days of hiking in the mountains of New Mexico with only one shower stop can make twelve guys smell a little ripe. After a point the collective BO mingles together to become something greater. You can no longer smell how bad you stink (though passersby will let you know). So many beautiful memories there, it’s overwhelming.

Another smell is indescribable, it is just how the mountains smell on a beautiful night. It is how the air always smelled after I dropped my wife off at her house when we were still dating. I would drive home with the window open, full of joy from being with my baby.

When I get behind a truck that diesel smell takes me back to middle school, riding the bus. My apprehension at being in a new place, the excitement of making new friends, some of whom I still speak to. I lived in a developing subdivision, and we would play in the partially built houses. It was fun to climb down into the foundation and search for things the workers left behind. I also earned my black belt then. They told me I was going to test the night before.

Memories are so strange, and so fragile. So many things I never remembered doing flood back to me because I smell something in the air. And then they fade away, forgotten again.