365 Smells I Know in My Core After 365 Days of No Smelling

A List I Never Thought I'd Make

This week marks one year of no smell for me. It has slithered from nothing at all to warped to hints to ghost smells back to nothing, and I am struck by the passage of time.

I went through the exercise of writing down 365 smells-feelings-auras that I know deep inside me. It was less about torturing myself and more about stopping to recognize the sheer magnitude of both my internal archive and the number 365. I read this list out loud and it took 17 minutes, and I cried because it reminded me that I am full of so much more than I can possibly hold at once.

If you have the patience to float through this stream of senses with me, perhaps it can be a moment for you too to finger through your personal archive - to know that you are every sense and memory and tangled mess that comes out of the thousands of movements we make in this world.

It is a portrait of me that I’ve never considered.

  1. Puppy Cody’s Padded Paws

  2. The Spot Between His Triangle Ears

  3. Lavender My Sister Mailed Me When I Moved to NYC

  4. Freshly Picked Jasmine Blossoms Placed into My Palm by My Grandfather

  5. Dew on Bay Area Mornings

  6. Coffee Grounds When I Open the Airtight Jar

  7. Coffee Steeping in My French Press

  8. Dumping Out the Contents of the French Press at the End of the Day

  9. Pu Er Tea in a Ceramic Cup

  10. Walking into a Coffee Shop

  11. Walking into a Bakery

  12. Walking Out into the Street

  13. Rain on the Concrete

  14. Melting Snow

  15. A Brewing Storm

  16. Nuts 4 Nuts Carts

  17. Waiting in Line at Ice Cream Parlors

  18. The Looming Presence of Fish in the San Francisco Bay

  19. Succulents that Grow at the Edge of the Pacific Ocean Cliffs

  20. Dried Wild Grass on the Ridge Back Home

  21. Sulfur of Cows When Driving South Along the California Coast

  22. Hot Seats of My Mom’s Car Sitting in the Marshall’s Parking Lot

  23. Sweet Leather of a Coat that Makes Me Feel Badass

  24. The Coat Closet Downstairs in My Childhood Home

  25. Freshly Laundered Sheets

  26. The Comforter Pulled Over My Shoulder

  27. Sleeping on the Couch

  28. My Father’s Fried Rice on Wednesday Mornings

  29. My Mother’s Wool Coats Clinging to Double Plastic Sleeves

  30. Cookies Out of the Oven

  31. My Childhood Bedroom

  32. My Mother’s Pajamas

  33. Opening the Box of Bath & Body Works Lotions my Mother Hoards in Her Closet

  34. Opening an Old Box of Knick Knacks

  35. Candles with Absurdly Evocative Titles

  36. Chopping Mint

  37. Picking Dandelions

  38. Grapefruit Body Scrub

  39. Old Spice Pomade

  40. Popping Popcorn

  41. Blowing Out a Candle

  42. Watering Plants

  43. Juice that Comes off Grass When I Instinctively Tear it Out

  44. Hot Turf

  45. Victoria’s Secret Fruit Spritz in Class Circa 2008

  46. Middle School Locker Rooms

  47. Those Horribly Designed Tampon Disposals in Public Bathrooms

  48. Public Bathrooms

  49. Nice Public Bathrooms

  50. Not Nice Public Bathrooms that Have Air Fresheners Though

  51. Chinese Restaurant Bathrooms that Have Cleaning Supplies

  52. Porter Potties

  53. Music Venue Porter Potties

  54. Carnivals

  55. Hot Dog Stands and Wharf Sea Lions

  56. Corndog Kiosks

  57. Hot Oil in a Fast Food Joint Specifically When I’m Starving

  58. Boiling Hot Pot at Home

  59. Liver that My Father Likes to Boil on His Side of the Hot Pot

  60. Simmering Onions

  61. Vodka Sauce

  62. Really Oily Pesto

  63. Toasted Sesame

  64. Chrysanthemum Tea that My Mother Brews in a French Press

  65. A Box of Cold Pizza

  66. Re-toasting Pizza in the Toaster Oven

  67. Dirty Chai Lattes My Library Barista Roommate Made Me at 2 am

  68. A Library Cubby

  69. A New Book

  70. An Old Book

  71. A Really Old Book

  72. Musky Used Book Stores

  73. Old Bookstores with Cats

  74. Going into Someone’s Home and Immediately Knowing They Have a Cat

  75. Going into Someone’s Home and Immediately Knowing They Have a Dog

  76. The Nervous Anxiety of Entering a Date’s Apartment

  77. The Cologne of Someone New

  78. The Perfume of Someone Familiar

  79. Alcohol Evaporating off of a Party Floor

  80. The Drink Someone Spills on My Arm at the Bar

  81. The Bartender that Leans in to Take My Order

  82. My Don’t-Want-to-Decide Gin and Tonic Order

  83. Hot Bread on the Table at the Restaurant That May Spoil My Actual Meal

  84. Red Lobster Garlic Bread

  85. The Superior Dish that the Couple at the Table Next to Me Ordered

  86. Hot Electric Fumes of the Blender

  87. Freshly Vacuumed Floors

  88. Old Sweat of the Boxing Gym

  89. Baking Soda Vinegar of the Sanitized Gloves

  90. Sunscreen

  91. When Sunscreen Mixes with Beach Sand

  92. Dusty Sand

  93. Ocean Water on Skin

  94. Sweat and Sunscreen Together

  95. Swimming Pools

  96. Swimming Pool Water on Skin Hours After Swimming

  97. Well-Loved Swimsuits

  98. Showering off Swimming Pool Water

  99. Chinese Restaurant Grease Seeped Hair

  100. Washing My Hair to Strip the Chinese Restaurant Grease

  101. Grease Still in the Coat I Wore 2 Weeks Ago to the Chinese Restaurant

  102. Scallion Pancakes and Dip at Dumpling House

  103. Dumplings on a Lazy Susan

  104. Scooping Miso Paste

  105. Sleepytime Tea

  106. Theraflu Specifically Made by My Former Roommate

  107. Stabbing My Thumb Into an Orange

  108. My Nailbeds Hours After Stabbing My Thumb Into an Orange

  109. Opening a Jar of Peanut Butter

  110. Auntie Anne’s in the Mall

  111. Train Station McDonald’s

  112. The Hot Bottle of Water that Has Been Sitting in the Car for a Month

  113. My Sister’s Car

  114. My Sister’s Closet at Home

  115. Our Shared Bathroom

  116. Really Clean Ubers

  117. Airplane Food Trolleys

  118. Airport Magazine Shops

  119. Dry Nose Interiors on Airplanes

  120. When the Person Sitting Next to Me on the Plane Takes Out Their Everything Bagel

  121. The Inside of a Concert Hall

  122. Backstage at a Concert Venue

  123. The Person Sitting Next to Me in the Audience

  124. The Person Sitting Next to Me on Stage

  125. The Tour Wardrobe Box on the First Day

  126. The Tour Wardrobe Box on the Last Day

  127. Burning Hair

  128. Hairspray Before the Show

  129. Stage Lights

  130. Heavy Foundation

  131. Steamers

  132. Hand Sanitizer

  133. Acrylic Paint

  134. Painting My Nails

  135. Messing Up My Nails and Then Immediately Applying Nail Polish Remover

  136. Not Waiting For Nail Polish Remover to Fully Evaporate and Then Applying More Polish

  137. Drinking Wine While Applying Nail Polish and Sort of Tasting Nail Polish

  138. Wines Like Metal

  139. Wines Like Leather

  140. Wines Like Wood

  141. Beers Like Piss

  142. Beers Like Honey

  143. Beers Like Oats

  144. Barley Tea at Japanese Restaurants

  145. Right After My Father Dyes His Hair Black

  146. Bright Yellow Dishsoap

  147. Garlic On My Fingers

  148. Pickles

  149. When Yogurt is Bad

  150. When There’s a Gas Leak

  151. When I’ve Burned Something

  152. Burning Firewood

  153. Fresh but Heavy Summer Nights

  154. Street Vendors in China

  155. Dim Sum Carts Rolling By

  156. Opening a Takeout Box Not Sure Which Dish It’ll Be

  157. Putting on My Extensive Skincare Routine After Showering

  158. Putting on a Sheet Mask

  159. Washing off a Clay Mask

  160. Accidentally Inhaling Water into My Nose While Washing My Face

  161. Burying My Face Into a Body Towel

  162. Noticing that My Body Towel is a Bit Mildewy

  163. Freshly Cut Flowers

  164. Watermelon

  165. A Boiled Egg

  166. Being Self Conscious About a Boiled Egg

  167. Being Self Conscious About a Dank Lunch at Work

  168. Microwaving Fish

  169. Microwaving Curry

  170. Microwaving Something Innocuous but Knowing that Someone Before Me Microwaved Curry

  171. Microwaving Something at Work and Knowing that Someone Used the Nespresso

  172. Microwaving Something at Work and Peeking into the Fridge Out of Curiosity

  173. Eating My Lunch at My Desk Knowing There is Catering Mere Feet Away From Me

  174. The Work Vending Machine

  175. My Laptop Overheating

  176. Parking Garages

  177. Opening Fridges at the Supermarket

  178. Produce Aisle Mist

  179. Smoked Salmon

  180. Bagel Shops

  181. Cream Cheese and Chives

  182. Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

  183. Donut Shops

  184. Glaze Donuts

  185. Jam

  186. Smucker’s Uncrustables

  187. Salsa from Costco

  188. Turning on the Burner

  189. Marlboro Smoke Because of a Summer Friend with a Bad Habit

  190. The Boy I Suspected Smoked but Claimed He Did Not

  191. Cigarette Smoke Specifically in China

  192. Dolores Park in San Francisco and That Other Kind of Smoke

  193. Incense in a Fancy Store

  194. Perfume at Macy’s Before Getting To The Sale Shoe Rack

  195. Empty Cardboard Boxes at the Shoe Rack

  196. Dirt on the Floor From Repotting a Plant

  197. Air at the Top of a Mountain

  198. Central Park

  199. A Wooden Deck

  200. A Wooden Deck in the Sun

  201. A Wooden Deck After the Rain

  202. Making Daisy Chains

  203. Baby’s Breath Flowers

  204. Making Flower Crowns

  205. Eucalyptus

  206. Dried Eucalyptus

  207. Tree Sap

  208. Tree Sap on My Fingers

  209. Hot Rocks

  210. Spiced Cider

  211. The Week Before Christmas

  212. Christmas Trees

  213. Peppermint Bark

  214. Putting on Ornaments

  215. Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

  216. Yakult

  217. Hot Chocolate

  218. Spicy Hot Chocolate

  219. Ranch 99’s Butcher Counter

  220. Peppermint Hot Chocolate

  221. Warm Pie

  222. Toasted Pecans

  223. Brie Cheese

  224. Melted Brie Cheese

  225. Cheddar Cheese

  226. Basement Dorm Kitchen and Makeshift Mac and Cheese Cooking Station

  227. Roasted Garlic

  228. Drive Through Dairy

  229. Takeout Salad Dressing

  230. In-n-Out Fries

  231. Any Fries

  232. Hot Honey Butter on Rolls

  233. KFC Biscuits and Honey

  234. Boba Shops

  235. Kombucha

  236. Magnolia Bakery

  237. Subway Steam and Trash

  238. Opening the Trash Bin and Experiencing Death for 3 Seconds

  239. My Own Poop

  240. My Own Pee

  241. My Own Dirty Hair

  242. My Own Breath

  243. My Own Skin

  244. Blood

  245. Periods

  246. When One of My 5 Ear Piercings Gets Irritated

  247. Bubble Baths

  248. Hot Showers

  249. Hotel Lobbies

  250. Hotel Plastic Wrapped Slippers

  251. Old Elevators

  252. Public Fountains

  253. Fingers After Sifting Through Coins

  254. Fingers After Opening Something with a Metal Lid

  255. Keys on a Keychain

  256. Street Construction

  257. My Pillow

  258. Not My Pillow

  259. The Adam’s House Library

  260. First Sitting Down on the Adam’s House Library Couch

  261. Dusty Corners

  262. Thrift Shops

  263. Trying Something on at the Thrift Shop

  264. Used LPs at the Thrift Shop

  265. Opening an Old Picture Frame

  266. A Really Hot Light Bulb

  267. A Sundrenched Carpet

  268. Old Hats

  269. NYC Radiators

  270. Turpentine

  271. Oil Paint

  272. Acne Medication

  273. Tropical Mousse I Used to Use in My Hair

  274. Deodorant I Never Use

  275. An Old Hairbrush

  276. Chinese Oil Rub Medication for Sores

  277. Tiger Balm

  278. Black Sesame Paste

  279. Blanched Greens

  280. Stale Cereal

  281. Old Halloween Candy in a Repurposed Costco Nut Jug

  282. Vanilla Soy Milk

  283. Mahjong Tiles

  284. Static on Blankets

  285. Kimchi

  286. Hondashi

  287. LuoMiGi

  288. Tea Shops with Chinese Pastries

  289. Frying Oil

  290. Vinaigrette on Salad

  291. Lining a Margarita with Salt

  292. Pancakes

  293. Bacon

  294. Brunch diners

  295. Booze Breath and Brunch

  296. Mulled Wine

  297. Mulled Cider

  298. Crunching on Fall Leaves

  299. Pumpkin Spice

  300. Garlic Naan

  301. Elmer’s Glue

  302. Hot Glue Guns

  303. Writing Really Fast in Pencil

  304. Smearing a Ball Point Pen

  305. The Side of My Hand After Charcoal Drawing

  306. The Side of My Hand After Rubbing an Ink Plate

  307. When The Laser Printer Spits Out 100 Pages

  308. Walking Into the Dining Hall on Chicken Tenders Day

  309. Walking Into the Dining Hall on Bread Day

  310. Walking Into the Dining Hall on Friggin Honey Butter Day

  311. Infused Water

  312. The Copy Machine at Work

  313. Potlucks

  314. My Mother’s Chicken Soup

  315. My Mother’s Tomatoey Beef Soup

  316. My Mother’s Nightly Blow-Drying Before Bed

  317. Chili Crisp

  318. When the Rice Cooker Toggle Pops Up

  319. Boiling Porridge

  320. When a Bowl of Pho is Placed in Front of Me

  321. This Coffee Rubbed Pork Rib Dish with Whipped Cream

  322. Rolling Down the Window While Driving

  323. When My Friend Picks Me Up in His Car Because I Don’t Ever Drive

  324. San Francisco Civic Center and Urine

  325. The End of the Blue Line

  326. When a Car Zooms By

  327. First Turning on the Window AC Unit at the End of Winter

  328. Hot Water with Red Rock Sugar

  329. A Hot Microwaved Towel

  330. Opening the Dishwasher

  331. Scooping My Sister’s Cats’ Litterbox

  332. The Warm Spot the Dog Leaves on the Bed After Curling Up

  333. A Riverbank

  334. A Very Seaweed-y Beach

  335. Custard Fruit Tarts on my Birthday

  336. Music Practice Rooms

  337. My Flute After Hours of Practice

  338. Crayons

  339. Uncapping a Sharpie

  340. Uncapping a Dry Erase Marker

  341. Saran Wrap

  342. Furiously Erasing Something

  343. The Weird Lip Balm that I Use

  344. The Other Weird Lip Balm that I Use

  345. Lavender Hand Cream

  346. Forest Fires

  347. Hose Water

  348. Washing My Dad’s Car

  349. Redwood Trees

  350. Mineral Caves

  351. The Crackling Gas Fireplace at a Familiar Homestay

  352. Wiping the Counters at the End of the Day

  353. Apartment Stairwells

  354. Back Alleys

  355. New Year’s Eve in a Cabin

  356. Plastic Tupperware

  357. Developed Film

  358. Black Woodear Fungus

  359. Bright Plastic Colanders

  360. Sitting in the Doctor’s Waiting Room

  361. Cutting into an Onion

  362. Cutting into Ginger

  363. Choking Back Tears

  364. Ugly Crying

  365. Snot


Leave a comment