Fresh Fallen Snow

3 Oct

by Lindsay Bridges

Smell evokes memories and emotions in a way that no other sense can. The intensity and vividness of memories elicited by imagining a particular scent is attributable to the plethora of visual, auditory, taste, and tactile sensations associated with it. Specific smells bring forth a celebration of the senses. Take the icy smell of a winter’s first snowfall, for
example.

Essentially crystallized water, some people say snow is odorless, but to me its mineral scent conjures one of my most profound memories. When I think about the smell of snow, I am overcome with emotions. Joyfully, I reminisce about the first snowfall I saw, in all its glory.

It was during my sophomore year of college at a Michigan university. How is it that a woman born in the Midwest sees her first snowfall at age nineteen? Of course, I had experienced countless snowy days before, but being visually impaired my attention was always focused on using what little vision I had to navigate my surroundings. In a way, my visual sensory experience blinded me from my other senses.  Walking down a snow-covered block required so much visual bandwidth; the smell of snow never crossed my mind.  ragments of falling snow, mentally pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle, had always been my understanding of a snowstorm. This day, when I was nineteen, differed because it was the first snowfall I could smell, taste, touch, hear, and see.  Liberated from my visual impairment and sensory blindness, I experienced it all with my guide dog by my side. No longer trying to navigate the world with my broken eyes, I was able to walk with my head held high, breathing in the cold, crisp smell of winter’s first snowfall. My eyes focused not on where we were going, but on the most beautiful scene! Fluffy white snowflakes danced across the blue sky, catching in my hair and tickling my nose. Each breathe I took embraced the sharp, cold scent of freshly fallen snow.

Lindsay Bridges lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children. She has Retinitis Pigmentosa and is legally blind.

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3 Responses to “Fresh Fallen Snow”

  1. paul hostovsky October 6, 2011 at 2:59 PM #

    Lovely piece, and it’s so true about the sense of smell. Reminds me of Richard Wilbur’s essay, “Poetry and Happiness” which I excerpt below:

    “There is a primitive desire that is radical to poetry — the desire to lay claim to as much of the world as possible through uttering the names of things. This fundamental urge turns up in all reaches of literature heavy or light. We have it, for example, in the eighteenth chapter of Hugh Lofting’s story of Doctor Dolittle, a chapter in which all children take particular joy. As you will remember, Doctor Dolittle and his animal friends, on their way back from Africa, come by chance into possession of a pirate ship, and find aboard her a little boy who has become separated from his red-haired, snuff-taking uncle. The Doctor promises to find the little boy’s lost uncle, wherever he may be, and Jip the dog goes to the bow of the ship to see if he can smell any snuff on the North wind. Jip, it should be said, is a talking dog, and here is what he mutters to himself as he savors the air:

    Tar; spanish onions; kerosene oil; wet raincoats; crushed laurel-leaves; rubber burning; lace-curtains being washed — No, my mistake, lace-curtains hanging out to dry; and foxes — hundreds of ’em . . . .

    These are the easy smells, Jip says; the strong ones. When he closes his eyes and concentrates on the more delicate odors which the wind is bringing, he has this to report:

    Brick, — old yellow bricks, crumbling with age in a garden-wall; the sweet breath of young cows standing in a mountain-stream; the lead roof of a dove-cote — or perhaps a granary — with the mid-day sun on it; black kid gloves lying in a bureau-drawer of walnut-wood; a dusty road with a horses’ drinking-trough beneath the sycamores; little mushrooms bursting through the rotting leaves . . . .

    A catalogue of that sort pleases us in a number of ways. In the first place, it stimulates that dim and nostalgic thing the olfactory memory, and provokes us to recall the ghosts of various stinks and fragrances. In the second place, such a catalogue makes us feel vicariously alert; we participate in the extraordinary responsiveness of Doctor Dolittle’s dog, and so feel the more alive to things. In the third place, we exult in Jip’s power of instant designation, his ability to pin things down with names as fast as they come. The effect of the passage, in short, is to let us share in an articulate relishing and mastery of phenomena in general.
    That is what the cataloguing impulse almost always expresses — a longing to possess the whole world, and to praise it, or at least to feel it.

  2. becky January 4, 2012 at 9:04 AM #

    So glad I found your blog. Also have RP :).

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