Souviens-Toi des Choses Passées
As I press the well-worn button on the top of my coffee machine, the familiar whirring and hissing is accompanied by an equally familiar, richly textured aroma, one that invariably brings up a range of disconnected memories, appearing momentarily not so much as clear images but as feelings, glimpses. All of these memories flick past and are gone, as I focus on adding milk, sipping my coffee, and waking up to face another day in the present.
It is only when I stop and pay attention to the smell of the coffee, resulting from a complex set of interactions set up during the roasting process and released during brewing, that the aroma begins to draw me back to an earlier time. Triggered both by the scent of the roasted coffee being activated by the hot water, and the memories within myself, I start to see and feel those moments that are connected, indexically, to the sensory experience in the present: my dad and his ever-present half cup of coffee, visiting quaint cafes in Tokyo or Osaka with Karen, buying fresh bread at Future’s bakery in Toronto.
These memories have always been there, in me. It is not as if they were trapped in the coffee, or the coffee maker, or the coffee beans, not that they were some lost souls waiting to be released or brought back to life. Rather, it was up to me to make the effort to focus on the present, on the moments as I lived them, so as to see them as equally important to, and ultimately continuous with, my remembrance of things past.
Extracted text is taken from Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, Vol 1: Swann’s Way: (accessed 24/12/2020). This text is in the public domain.