Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Scent and Memory

It sometimes amazes me how much of an effect some smells have on me.

I know they say that smell is the sense with the closest ties to memory, but sometimes it’s surprising that the memories come with a depth of feeling that you wouldn’t believe possible until you experience them.

Of course, a lot of us have the memory triggers from certain perfumes or shampoos or what have you that remind us of our first love (I know that I do). However, I have some that a lot of people would consider odd.

A lot of my childhood involved training in martial arts – first kung fu and then European and Japanese sword arts. Sometimes I think they were the happiest times in my life until I met my first love.

As a result, two of my major scent triggers (other than the aforementioned shampoo, perfume, and makeup) are well worn leather and cosmoline (gun grease).

Of course, the leather comes into play because of my harnesses, belts, baldrics, scabbards and gloves (who would ever guess all of the straps and things you have to wear). The deep, musky smell of leather gloves or baldrics which have had the dyes cured into them by the sweat of your body is just somehow very intoxicating (and a darn site more pleasant than the black and blue stains the leather leaves on your hands and chest before the dyes have been locked in by the salt – ask Karyl about the screaming blue hands).

There are probably, however, some people who are wondering what gun lube has to do with martial arts. The answer is simple – good carbon steel blades will rust if they’re not properly lubricated and I try not to buy blades that I wouldn’t be willing to use anymore (which means that they’re all good carbon steel blades).

The same was true of my sifu and my other teachers, so I have a lot of memories that involve the smell of well worn leather and cosmoline. It reminds me of times with the grass beneath my feet and the wind ruffling my hair and fighting robes, blade in hand, standing lightly and waiting to respond to the situation facing me. It’s a very serene feeling that I think more people should be able to experience.

It’s the place where you simultaneously loose yourself and find yourself, and I have to say that it gives you a different perspective on a lot of things.

It was enough of an influence on me that, after the relationship with my ex ended, my style of dress changed as well – back to one more reminiscent of my training clothing. Simple, comfortable, flowing shirts and pants that were almost monk-like in style (Loose black semi button up shirts with no appreciable collar and loose black pants).

I spent a lot of time at the lake training and meditating. It was my way to find myself again. Amusingly it also frequently got me accused of looking like a monk, a priest, or a mercenary.

What brought up this trip down memory lane? Taking care of my blades, of course. After all, I don’t want them to rust. I have too much respect for them to do that. Ask any of the fencers I chided for not taking care of their equipment while I was teaching them in college.

Current mood: tired
Current music: Papa Roach – Forever


Karyl said...

ask Karyl about the screaming blue hands

He is a horrible, evil man. That's all you need to know. :P

Kidding aside, in case anybody cares to hear the story, I was just a little newbie fencer at the time... and anybody who has dealt with newbie fencers in a training type setting knows why maestro gloves are usually padded. So, after an evening filled with "Ow! Close in your shots. OW! Watch the wide swings, close in your shots." About 50 times over, we started tearing down, putting stuff back in the equipment locker. Unbeknownst to me (and several other fencers he pulled the same dang trick on), he had a brand new pair of gloves, and the dye was still leeching out.

It's amazing how much black dye looks like bruises when it soaks into your hands....

He pulled his gloves off and started screaming "look what you did to me!!!"

Horrible person. :P How many others did you get with that prank anyway? I know there was me, I'm guessing probably Kari... lol

James Hollingshead said...

Karyl -

Several of you. The gloves leeched for the better part of a year.

Now tell me. After all of the things like that, all of you people wanted to date me why? :P

Karyl said...

Animal magnetism?

Or maybe gluttony for punishment. I dunno. :P

At least you have a sense of humor. lol