It is said that a human being can recognize 10,000 separate smells, one-tenth of what we are offered, and yet there are few words to capture and quantify fragrance. We have color wheels and musical scales, but there is no such chart for scent; we are left with vague similes -- it smelled like smoke, ammonia, peaches, mildew, grapefruit, hot concrete -- that only hint at the real experience. Deciphering and illuminating scent becomes even more difficult within the deodorized, and re-odorized, homogeny of modern climes. In my mind, the smell of freshly cut lemon has become inextricably associated with the notion of Pledge furniture polish. I say "notion" because the "lemon-fresh" scent of Pledge immediately conjures memories of my grandmother's furniture -- unapproachable antiques that were never used but were religiously polished; every time I squeeze lemon into a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea, some small part of my brain returns to that strange, cold house in Michigan and to all the emotions it entails. And that is part of the unknowable nature of smell. Of all the senses, smell is the most primordial, the most intimate, and the most emotionally evocative. Smell is the first thing a baby recognizes and the last thing a lover forgets. Unlike sounds and images, smells are fired directly into the hypothalamus -- the ancient, almond-size portion of the brain that houses pleasure, pain, sex, and sleep. Fragrance completely forgoes the brain's more analytical routing stations, so it's little wonder that the elusive, intangible quality of scent has prompted poetry, passion, and... More >>>