Enable Your Senses

A few days ago my husband and I had a morning filled with running errands. We decided to grab lunch at a place called Betty Boop's. The little cafe happens to live next door to a classic car show room, Memory Lane Motors.

Attribution: How Stuff Works

Attribution: How Stuff Works

My husband is a classic car fanatic, and I enjoy looking at the classics myself. On this particular day there were lots of convertibles being showcased. It was after all a rare sunny day in the Pacific NW!

However, what caught my eye was an old Chevrolet pickup, vintage 1935 or so, modified as a grocer's truck. The truck was very similar to the one here, which is a 1947 Dodge.

The first words out of my mouth were, "Oh, when I was a kid, we had a truck like this come through our neighborhood." Suddenly, the aroma of produce and truck smells all came back to me. And visually, I could see the scales that hung at the back of the truck.

The truck in our neighborhood was slightly different in that both sides were open and one contained a section of penny bubble gum and candy. The joy of being handed a penny to buy something was big thing in the 1950s.

But enough about the truck. What I want to write about is allowing our senses to guide our memories. Let's look at the bolded and italicized paragraph above:

The first words out of my mouth were, "Oh, when I was a kid, we had a truck like this come through our neighborhood." The aroma of produce and truck smells all came back to me. And visually, I could see the scales that hung at the back of the truck.

My senses were obviously heightened as my eyes rested on the truck. But who enters a place called Memory Lane and doesn't begin floating back in time.

As writers, when we are out and about in the world-at-large, we need to have our senses at the ready -- sight, hearing, touch, smell and even taste. Each one can trigger memories long forgotten. Those memories may be what you've searched for to fill a gap in your memoir or an essay or short nonfiction piece you're working on.

Our senses are God-given and intended to enhance our lives. Without them, life would be boring. How would we know a rose by its fragrance, or an orange by its taste or even its color? How would we ever smell bread baking?

So, we shouldn't allow these magical gifts to sit back and become lazy -- allow them to help you rediscover past scenes, to trigger those memories long forgotten.