There are some smells that are so interwoven with memories of place and people that even just a whiff can bring back vivid recollections of moments. The sweet, fermented smell of summer rain on sagebrush in August, the distinct fragrance of a cottonwood tree, the aroma of my mom’s chocolate chip cookies wafting through the house on Sunday night–all scents that are peppered with the joy and freedom from my youth, growing up half wild in Southern Utah.

Drove by my old high school last weekend and had a strange flood of memories, including some olfactory ones. I could remember exactly what it smelled like in there, particularly during Friday night dances, which were held in the lunch room, oddly enough.

Forgive me if I share a poem I wrote about those days.



Forty years of small-town Fridays

Clog the pent-up pores of brick and lacquered dance floor

With yellow light and teenage sweat


Bad music, humorless chaperones and three other guys

With the same terry cloth shirt

Couldn’t ruin this night


“Wanna dance?”



I can almost see around that corner

Where mirror ball magic and drugstore cologne spill into the hall

And beckon me back


But I’m in the dark at my locker

Cooling off and wondering about places

That look and smell better than this


All my friends are in there

And I’ll join them soon enough

But let me listen from here for now


wake up


I used to dream about the future

Beyond that dim-lit hall

All those beautiful people living monogrammed marmalade lives

Somewhere far from this red dirt town


Just never thought I’d miss the small-town sanctuary

Of knowing everyone

And being known

And dancing


Now sometimes I dream of yellow light and teenage sweat