The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind. Lewis Mumford
When I was young I used to associate Sunday mass with strong, floral perfume and giddiness. The intense perfume the old ladies wore coupled with the tropical heat and hunger (mass was at 6pm, dinner time) would make me giddy.
Purple reminded me of my friend Colleen, who loved the colour. On seeing it I would instantly be reminded of her bedroom, with the soft gauzy curtains and lush shag rug, where we spent hours playing as children.
Into adulthood, fish and chips was a meal that transported me to the beach, a place where we had indulged in this treat as children.
Our senses connect us to the world. They are of course valuable in and of themselves but they can also imprint experiences and emotions associated with them in our memories, for a very long time in some cases. Our senses can evoke strong emotional reactions. There is a particular spray deodorant that triggers extremely negative reactions in me whenever I smell it. It sends me reeling back to a time and place that wasn’t one of the happiest in my life. On the other hand, there is a smell that I can’t describe to you because it isn’t readily available. I imagine it occurs only in certain places but I vividly remember as a shy and socially inept teenager visiting the house of my uncle’s friend, a stranger to me, and instantly feeling at ease and at home because this house smelt like my Nana and Papa’s house. I’ve always been strongly aware, quite sensitive and reactive, in some cases, to sound, smell, touch and visual input.
After visiting an interactive exhibition about my city; in which a number of residents shared a smell they associated with the city and vials of some of those smells, including thunderstorm, frangipani and garbage were on display to strengthen the experience; I gave pause to consider if I have any associations linked to my fair city and where none instinctively existed, I began to ponder what associations I would consider best suited to the place I now call home.
It sounds a little odd, I know, but many people do this, perhaps unconsciously. Do you have any connections to where you live? Does it have a colour, a taste, a symbol, a sound that is quintessentially about the place you live?
What follows are my mental and sensory associations to my city.
Smell: The smell that reminds me most of Brisbane was formed in my younger years before I even lived here. The annual Royal Exhibition was a phenomenon I was captivated with. Growing up in a regional area we simply didn’t have anything comparable and so the smell that permeates the air at that magical wonderland is Brisbane to me. It’s not the smell of the cattle pavilion nor the scented wood chopping arena, it is in fact the aroma of Dagwood Dogs (frankfurters o a stick, coated in batter and deep-fried) and tomato sauce.
Symbol: The muddy, murky Brisbane river snaking across the city is the strongest image I have of Brisbane. The river is such a prominent feature of our landscape and lifestyle that I can’t think about the city without also bringing to mind our river.
Colour: Jacaranda purple is the colour of Brisbane. In my first year of university the flowering Jacaranda trees around campus took my breath away. The whole of Brisbane is transformed by these blossoms for several months a year. Parks everywhere are dotted with purple covered trees and carpets of purple flowers underneath. I love the deep shade they take on just before a thunderstorm.
Sound: Cicadas and the Australian summer pretty much go hand in hand. I used to dread the chirrup of these insects on a hot and sultry afternoon when the heat and damp hung in the air, the grass crunched underfoot and ice cream would drip down cones faster than one could lick it. There was a sense of helplessness in the sultry heat that they conjured in me.
Touch: If I had to share a touch or texture that is Brisbane I would say it was bindis. Yep. Those pesky barbed prickles that hide in lawns, parks and anywhere green. I cannot tell you how many times my joyful run toward a playground swing would be crippled by feet burning and smarting from the sting of imbedded prickles.