Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What is myrrh, anyway?

I hate saying "it's a well-known fact" because I've learned that most "well-known facts" are usually wrong, but I guess it's a well-known fact that a scent can be the strongest memory trigger there is.

I opened up a box recently that I hadn't seen in a while, but I knew exactly what was in it. It was the box that the mouse came in for my very first computer: an 8 MHz laptop with dual double-density floppies, no HD, and a blue supertwist LCD monitor. Fortunately, it also had an output for a CGA monitor, which is how I usually used it. When I still lived at my dad's house, the old (then new) computer sat on a desk in a little nook in my room. Immediately to my left was a bookshelf where I kept all sorts of books that I might need while writing: dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri?), my complete Lovecraft collection as well as other horror books, and various other reference books and my (cough) "black books."

On top of this shelf was the old mouse box, into which I had stowed my small collection of essential oils.

They were purchased by mail order from two or three different places. Various scents for various uses, some sandalwood, some cedar, and from Papa Jim's, one bottle of essential oil of myrrh.

I used to use a drop of myrrh the way most people use cologne, and by a drop I mean a drop. A very little goes a long, long way when it comes to essential oils. It was different, it has a kind of dark spiciness that I like in a scent, and there was at least one young lady in the years before I met my future wife who really dug it.

So I dug into the old mouse box today and extracted a still nearly full bottle of myrrh oil that is around 18 years old now. It still smells exactly the same. That's a nice thing about essential oils: if the container doesn't leak they'll last forever.

And what did the smell of myrrh immediately remind me of? Playing Ultima V on my first computer, nearly 20 years ago.

And then I thought of the girl. But I remembered the game first. I guess that says something, but I'm not sure what.


  1. It's a resin... basically, dried tree sap. the myrrh tree? I can't remember the exact name of the tree right now.

    Smell is a big emotional memory trigger for me, and I reason I love books. The smell of fresh ink on new paper seems so full of promise, potential, and excitement. The smell of old books feels so full of history, warm memories, and excitement. Mostly because, either way, I'm going to get excited about reading the book.

  2. Oh, thanks, but I know what it is. Heh heh. The post title is just another Monty Python line.

  3. And now I'll spend the rest of the week tracking down the Monty Python reference, and probably get distracted and end up watching enough Monty Python to drive anyone crazy. Luckily, I'm married a man who was in his high school's Un-Official Official Monty Python Club.

    Heck, maybe I'll just ask him. Thanks for keeping us busy!

  4. It's from "The Life of Brian."