Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Smells that take you Home

Smells are an interesting thing. They are a catalyst to memories either sweet or bitter. I never really remember which smells will immediately take my mind back to a place or time until they wash over me or go floating by on the air. Smells immediately trigger emotions. Sometimes this is a refreshing escape and other times, scratches the surface of pain or sadness. Or, makes you recognize that what was once present in your life is momentarily or indefinitly absent.

I am in a place far away from the smells that are familiar to me. I have never noticed how removed I am from such familiarities until today as I was walking to the bathroom. In Japan, it is rare that you find hand towels in the public bathrooms. So unless you want to wipe your hands on your pants or wait until it dries, you have to carry your own hand towel around. So, in an effort to fit in a little better, I try to remember my hand towel. However, I often forget. Except for today....I remembered. As I grabbed my towel and dabbed it across my slightly sticky, sweaty face (Japanese don't get as hot as westerners so the AC isn't set quite as low and it is always humid here.) I was suprised by a familiar smell....downy fabric softner (this brand of fabric softener isn't as familiar here as it is in the states. So, finding some is a small accomplishment). Instantly, the fragrance made me feel comfortable, it made me feel familiar. In Japan, I am constantly aware that I am different. This isn't too terrible of a thing, it's just that it is always there. So, I was immediately thankful to have a smell that was an old companion. This land is full of unfamiliar smells....foods...air...insides of shops...everything it seems.

Although I was momentarily able to escape, I became aware of the familiarity that was missing here. Friends, family, language, stores, knowing where to go, how to cook, and the list goes on. This is just a part of the process. This is just a part of where the Lord has us. But, I am thankful for the days/moments when smells remind me of things that used to be part of my daily life. So, I was thankful that today, on my way to the bathroom, familiarity suprised me and took me home.