Let’s Talk with Karla Brandenburg

That Scent
by Karla Brandenburg

Is anybody watching the Outlander series, based on the books by Diana Gabaldon?

When I first started reading those books, I was enthralled. I started out of order, with the second book, and was so caught up that I went back to read the first one. And then the third. I have to admit the quality began to diminish for me after that, but those first two, especially, were so powerful that I actually took a trip to Scotland, on my own! But I digress.

One of the most compelling things about the Outlander novels is the attention to detail. We get to see the characters in living, breathing 3D. From the hairs on the back of Jamie’s hands, to the way his eyes slant like a cat’s, to the scent of Black Jack Randall.

Scent can evoke powerful memories. In this case, for Jamie it recalls his worst moments, a time when his spirit is broken. The scent of lavender can fell him as easily as the sight of his arch nemesis. But scent can also bring about fond memories.

lilacsI grew up in “The Lilac Village.” The middle of May is dedicated to the Lilac Parade, the Lilac Festival, the Lilac Queen and her princesses, who hold court in Lilacia Park. The park consists of walkways of various breeds of lilacs, and tulips designed into dozens of artistic patterns, but that smell… Every time I smell lilacs, I’m taken back to lilac time. Happy memories.

Is there a scent you associate with happy (or other) memories


  1. Sharon Sommer says

    Plumeria always brings good memories and also lemons

  2. Vanilla is a go-to favorite. Tobacco too. Honeysuckle smells like summer to me (along with freshly-mowed grass). And there is a scent, a citrus-y salt-clean smell, that the Ritz-Carlton uses that a particular brand of laundry detergent (now defunct, alas) used to use. Doing laundry smelled like spa day!

  3. maggietoussaint says

    I love the way summer rain smells. It always reminds me of those laidback summer days in childhood, where the biggest decision I had to make in late afternoons (pre-air conditioning) was whether to read my book in the hammock or the rocking chair. Afternoon thundershowers always brought immediate relief from the heat and that was purely a blessing.

  4. Oranges. When I was a kid we went to Disneyland quite often and you could then smell orange blossoms throughout the park. Years later I owned a orange orchard. Never miss an opportunity for that smell

  5. I love lilacs. When I went to college at University of Rochester, a local park had an annual lilac festival. Where is the “village” you’ve mentioned? I still remember going to the park, strolling among the blossoming trees, and sniffing that perfumed scent. It was heavenly.

  6. Roses my grandma had a walkway filled with roses so when i see them or smell them I think of her.

  7. Terry Ambrose says

    So many scents bring back memories and create an impression. One that I love the most is plumeria…it’s so sweet and heavenly, it always reminds me of warm days and gentle breezes.

  8. I grew up in the Rochester, NY area (the “Flower City — having changed it from the “Flour City” when the mills all moved west) and Highland Park is filled with lilacs and has a festival each year and I still love the smell of lilacs.

    There is one smell that always brings a lilt to my step and that is a northern woods after it rains.

  9. Any time I smell birdseed, I’m taken back to my great aunt and uncle’s farm, where they raised chickens for the eggs. Good memories.

  10. I’m not watching the series (I don’t even know if we get the channel it’s on) but I associate the scent of melted chocolate or cinnamon with good memories of making cookies!