I smelled my grandfather tonight. Since he’s been dead for more than 20 years, it kinda caught me off-guard.

Grandpa Morgan was an extremely intelligent, sometimes intimidating man who didn’t say much to grandkids (although he obviously got a kick out of us). He took his dog outside for walks a lot because Mom and Dad wouldn’t let him smoke his pipe inside. When he’d come back, the scent of sweet autumnal smoke trailed him throughout the house.

Tonight, heading out to the studio, I had a sudden, overwhelming feeling that Grandpa was in the room. It stopped me dead in my tracks, looking for him, until I figured out what was going on: I was smelling pipe smoke. I hadn’t so much as thought about Grandpa’s pipe in at least two decades, but one sniff was all it took to convince some part of me that he was right there.

On investigating, I found that the smell was coming from the Skutt. The kiln has reached the mold-drying portion of its firing schedule, the lid is cracked slightly for outgassing, and something vaporizing inside the kiln smells exactly like Grandpa’s burning pipe tobacco. I suspect it’s the blue painter’s tape, which is being used in an experiment that may solve a LOT of problems with a particular casting project…if it works.

Update: It’s not the painter’s tape. I’d forgotten that one of the molds in the kiln is a core mold (i.e., a vessel shape that needs investment inside as well as outside). I use organic material as an investment filler in core molds, usually chopped up kitchen scraps. Was out of that stuff when I mixed up the mold, the garage doors were up…and the yard was filled with fallen leaves. So I grabbed up a few, crumbled them up and used them in my core. I really AM smelling burning leaves in there, and they smell just like sweet pipe tobacco. Cool.

Hmmm. I’ve been reading Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses,* in which she credits the sense of smell with triggering the most powerful memory associations of all. If my experience tonight is anything to go by, she’s right. Wow.

*And many thanks to my friend Rinee for loaning it to me.