Louisiana February Night

Honeysuckle … or crickets? 

Talk about an incongruous juxtaposition, right? Well, think of it as two possible answers to my very own Jeopardy question (“I’ll take ‘Senses’ for $500, Alex.”): “What smell … or sound … provokes the strongest memory?” 

For me the smell of honeysuckle is just … wow. Home. Childhood. Spring. Memories associated with all of those words and overlaid with a feeling of life and freshness just flood in whenever I get a whiff of that miniscule flower. Every Spring I’m surprised by the smell as I walk down a sidewalk and past an overgrown fence with those little buds peeking through the green. And then Honeysuckle season is over, all too soon. (Except in England where I discovered the weather allows for longer Honeysuckle growth!)

You might have heard before that smell is the most evocative sense—a powerful trigger of memory. And in writing smell is a useful tool for making a scene come to life for the reader. But I’ve not given much thought before to sound.

Did you hear that?

Sorry.

But, yeah, sound. A few nights ago I decided to turn my phone’s white noise app on before heading to bed, and I spent way too long rustling through the sound files to find the perfect one. Running water, like a stream running over a bed of smooth pebbles, is probably my favorite. Fans. Sometimes storms or rain falling on a roof. I try to go for sounds that I might actually hear while dropping into sleep.

That night I discovered a sound file called “Louisiana February Night.” And I heard … home. A fire crackled softly in the background, while crickets played tiny violins and tree frogs sang songs only their mothers could love. Now, I actually grew up in Arkansas, but Louisiana isn’t that far away. And my heart clenched a little. 

Normally I’m not really one to feel homesick. Sometimes I get homesick for people. Or things. Like biscuits. Or, if I’m completely honest, I constantly have a desire for home, but it’s not a hurt now. I’ve moved so often that such a place just doesn’t seem to exist anymore. I’m mostly okay with that because I do believe “home” is out there, if not now, then in the future. As C.S. Lewis described in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” 

I know, Lewis doesn’t mention home, but it’s there, hiding in plain sight. Lewis was sneaky that way.

But the other night I couldn’t listen to “Louisiana February Night” as I went to bed. Instead I played “Shallow Stream.” Even though smell might be the more evocative sense, sound, in this case, was a painful pleasure I couldn’t bring myself to fall asleep to.

That probably tells you far more about me than I actually intended, but there you go. I suppose I miss home a lot more than I like to dwell on. Because it hurts. And I tend to avoid hurt, even when I don’t have to. Or shouldn’t.

It’s funny what a fragrant flower and a musical bug might make you think about! Perhaps we should be paying more attention to what our ears and noses are telling us.

What is the answer to your personal Jeopardy question?