Sometimes people ask me to explain where I came up with the idea for Strong Odors or why the name or what the site is exactly.

Gasoline is one of my go-to explanations.

Because gasoline is one of those odors that most of us probably wouldn’t describe as “good.” We might not call it “bad” either… it doesn’t really fit into those black and white categories, you know?

But—good or bad—it is one of those odors that we can all relate to (and most of us actually like for some weird reason).

And that’s kind of what Strong Odors is.

Sometimes I experience certain moments in life that might seem good or bad at the time… or might seem good or bad on some level later on… or might not seem like anything… but however sweet or delicate or pungent or putrid… they are the experiences that shape me and affect the course of my life.

Sometimes it is even the smallest of things (like the color of my high school locker) while other times the experience buckles my knees (like discovering my son has Autism).

I’d have to say that up until now gasoline would probably have fallen into the prior category—unmistakable, delightful, sensory—but not really life-changing.

But last month when I stepped off the plane onto African soil for the first time, the distinct combination of diesel fuel and dust forever seared that moment into my olfactory subconscious as an irrepressible reminder of one of the most important experiences I’ve ever had.

So as much as something so simple as diesel fuel can invoke an emotion that powerful, how much more do the heavy-handed experiences offer me for my future? The problem is that so often we allow the strongest odors to own us. They smell so bad, we are afraid to look back and even entertain the thought there may be some part—even if it is difficult—that has reminded me in some way that I am alive.

But I can’t be afraid… because whenever I’m reminded that I exist it makes me appreciate the diesel fuel and the new baby smell and the PB & J and the sunshine and bare feet and paperbacks and saltwater and power chords and hot tea and cold beer and high fives and wipe-outs and wrong turns and cardigans and sour patch kids and polaroids and poetry and bad movies and lighting bugs and skinned knees and laughing out loud and hook shots and Saturday mornings and chlorine and ringing ears and corner stores and reruns and pockets and graffiti and loose teeth and magic wands and harmony and black eyes and dead skin and dill and spitting and slide-tackles and nachos and dust.

For some reason I feel like there should be a “gasoline” verse to that classic Flaming Lips song. There isn’t, but I put it in my playlist anyway.

Comments 1

  1. when I read the line about the diesel and dust, I had to stop and close my eyes and sigh. I guess that’s the true sign of a strong odor, huh.

    Also, orange… the color of our high school lockers. Lots of great conversation in front of those orange lockers.

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