Monthly Essays

Capturing Sunshine

Those who passed by my house may have wondered at the laundry basket on my porch with a pillowcase stretched across it. It’s simple, really. I wanted to capture sunshine.

Last night for the briefest of moments, I thought I was sleeping on a pillowcase that had just been brought in from the clothesline. The freshness of that one deep breath in a dream was a scent from my childhood, and not the scent of Bounce fabric softener from the dryer.

This morning I wanted that smell for real, thus the pillowcase on the basket. I left it there for several hours, but the smell didn’t last long. I suspect it was because I put out a dry pillowcase, not a wet one to absorb the sun.

Of all our senses, smell may be the most powerful. It transports us to another time and place.

Think of popcorn in a movie theater. Can’t you smell that just by reading the words? Years ago, when I was reading a story where a character was eating popcorn, I had to get up from my chair and fix some popcorn right that minute.

The smell of freshly mowed grass is one of my favorite smells. Researchers believe that special scent makes us feel more joyful and relaxed. But the grass, which just got injured by the haircut, is releasing a distress signal of volatile organic compounds (VOC) sent through the air as gases. (I wrote an almanac article on that, so I learned this odd bit of information that no one wants to know.) Even aware of the grass’s trauma, I still love that smell.

Opening a new box of crayons and inhaling its perfume sends me back to grade school. I have two boxes (both gifts) in my office, and I open them occasionally for a whiff of pleasure.

Pine scents (but not in cleaners) remind me of a cheerful moment when I came home from grad school at the U of A for Christmas break to find lights on the tree and Mom and a neighbor in a frenzy of making divinity, which takes two mixers growling to make sure the candy sets up right. It’s the smell of home and activity and love.

Antiseptic smells put me in a hospital corridor, too many hospital corridors. That’s the smell of fear.

The musty smell of old books transports me to the county library of my first job, a Saturday gig during my senior year in high school. It was a small library located in the basement of an old building. Mostly country folks came in on their weekly trip to town for groceries and supplies. Town people used the city library.

On a morning with heavy dew, there’s a spot on my walk, down in a valley with thick vegetation, where an earthy muskiness takes me back to Aunt Punch’s farm and hurrying to the milk barn at dawn.

Smells take us back in our memories. What are some of your favorites?

Under A Texas Sky by [Veda Boyd Jones]Ghosts and Sabotage–Although she loves her job at the Abilene Texas Tourist Bureau, Abby Kane sees her life as rather uneventful. Then the movie company comes to town to film on location at Fort Phantom Hill. Hired to help screenwriter Rob Vincent make sure the script is historically accurate, she falls under the spell of movie excitement and is enchanted with Rob. But someone is trying to sabotage the filming, hiding a deep secret at the fort. And she’s hiding a secret of her own.

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