Friday, April 17, 2009

Past Lives and Memory ...

I struggled with how to title this post but I knew it had something to do with the nostalgia inspired by smell and a yearning for familiar things...

I woke early here in this Istanbul world and decided to get up. I've been alternatively working on photographs, with an occasional detour out into a new book I'm devouring but don't have much time to read - The Attack by Yasmina Khadra, is worth checking out if you're looking for an interesting fiction about suicide bombers.

It's too early for anyone else and there is the promise of hot fresh borek if I'm patient, so I quietly found a banana to eat while my Turkish tea stewed in the top pot.

The banana was ripe and breaking it open delivered me back, just for a moment, to my childhood of bananas bruised by their trip to the river's edge in our picnic box.

Savouring that scent here in Istanbul, so very far from the world I grew up in made me stop to think about the way that scent has been taking me 'home' lately ... the way that smell has become something akin to an album of memories I carry inside of me.

You see, there is a particular soap I use occasionally, it's one that transports me directly back to a childhood of happy visits to Nana and Grandad's Invercargill house. And a colleague of mine delights me by smoking the same cigarette brand that Nana once smoked, a long time ago. Gidon is less than excited by this fact that he reminds me of Nana sometimes ... he is younger than me.

Shampoos and conditioners pick me up and take me home but they come from so many periods of this strange life of mine ... there were those childhood toiletries, then there is that one I used in America, another was discovered in Istanbul and they too offer a surprisingly powerful journey into memory.

It's like that these days but the house is waking now - this took longer than I expected and my tea-glass needs refilled. Soon there will be piping hot borek in my tummy and here I am, creating a whole new set of memories in this different place.


Carolien said...

What a beautiful post, Di.
It made me think of one of my favourite quotes, from Jhumpa Lahiri's book 'Interpreter of Maladies':
"I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination."
Thank you for sharing your memories with us.

paris parfait said...

Lovely, thoughtful post, Di. Yes, memories can be evoked by smell, as well as sight and sound. It's strange when one suddenly remembers something you haven't thought of for many years. Enjoy your day! xo

P.S. I have read Yasmina Khadra's The Sirens of Baghdad. I think it may be the same book, but with a different title?

V-Grrrl said...

Scents that transport me:
honeysuckle takes me back to a Virginia summer, my years as a distance runner and my first love
The smell of a river--home
Cow manure and skunks--farm life
Ralph Lauren Romance perfume reminds me of my first months in Belgium
The smell of old books and old buildings is college
Last week I saw a bottle of ginseng cologne on the shelf of a store; I haven't seen it in decades. An old beau wore that and I was so, so tempted to buy a bottle and see if it could transport me to another time. But you know, some trips back aren't meant to be taken. ; ) I didn't buy it.

Di Mackey said...

Carolien, you did make me smile when I read your comment tonight, thank you for putting up my memories :)

My day was fantastic, thank you Tara. As for the book, no it's another of Yasmina's but oh what a book. I haven't had any time to read but it's all-engrossing when I find a few moments here and there. I will look for his other stuff as soon as I can.

Honeysuckle ... oh yes, Ms V. I just picked up my first plant over Jasmine here in the lowlands actually. That's my favourite smell, remembered on all the best balconies back home. I hadn't been able to find it until I was in the Flower Market, Amsterdam just recently. I'm rapt :)

Marianne said...

The smell of Coco by Chanel perfume transports me to my first trip to Paris, 17 years old and desperate to be sophisticated.

The smell of lavender is my Grandmother, as is fresh scones coming out of the oven.

The smell of apple tobacco from a water pipe takes me back to Gaza, sitting by the sea in the evening.

I love this post Di!

Di Mackey said...

Thank you for responding with a few of your memories, Marianne. I smiled over scones fresh from the oven, it's been too long since I smelt that particular smell. My grandma had lavender too, and now we are filling our balcony with it.

Your apple tobacco memory ... I just Yasmina Khadra's book and needed to read of evenings spent by the sea in Gaza. Quiet tears came as I reached the end of it. Your comment was timely, I needed to know there were good times in that place too. xo