Friday, June 24, 2011

Olfactory, meet Limbic

Scientists who study these things tell us that the olfactory lobe of our brains - where the sense of smell derives - is closely connected to our limbic systems - the seat of emotions.  I have no doubt of this, nor should you.  All it would take is one whiff of your high-school sweetheart's chosen perfume, and all the uncertainty, self consciousness and confusion of those times would return to you in a rush.  And women are very much aware of this.  (Ladies: if you would render him helpless, find out what perfume his high school sweetheart wore and use it yourself - he'll never know what hit him).

Of course, I can have no way of knowing if this would work with the gender roles reversed.  But if it did, what would the guys do - try to obtain a pair of sweaty gym socks from her high school sweetheart?  (I think you see why I am not much of a success at matchmaking.)

I was struck by the close connection between the olfactory and limbic systems again tonight, while riding my bicycle home from the University.  As I have written before, just as I came to the Locks, the smell of seawater (yes, it really does have a distinct smell)  filled my nose.  And my emotions rose.  I stopped pedaling like a crazy man in some kind of race and slowed down.  I was overcome with a kind of calm, relaxed  joy.  The emotion that filled me (and it *did* fill me) was one of wonderful homecoming, like you got in college when you returned home for Christmas break. 

Do you feel it too when you go to the sea?  And where does this come from?  Is it a harkening back to our early origins?  Is it the emotional equivalent of the fact that the composition of our blood is almost exactly that of seawater?  I don't think we can know, since emotion is beyond reason.  But I do know that, living on the water as I do, I get to experience this every single night.  It never grows old - it's been happening to me now for 11 years, since we moved Eolian out to Shilshole.  And it is wonderful.  Absolutely and indescribably wonderful.

So guys, maybe you could take advantage of this.  Instead of the old gym socks, you might want to go with a judicious application of seaweed, rubbing a little behind each ear.

Let me know how it works out for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'll never forget the first smell I had of the ocean. Driving down I-5 coming out of the inland areas over the Oakland hills to San Francisco. It 'filled' me, too, with tremendous emotions as I anticipated what seemed like a 'rejoining' my true home.

The Pacific coastal tide pools have the best smell of all. Specially Monterey bay where the sea life is so abundant.

It's the smell of the "romance of the sea" - its' wonderful power and majesty, plus the promise of adventure.

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