You perhaps are already familiar with the concept of "mental rehearsal," wherein performers practice by dancing/playing/acting a piece entirely in their head. The concept first gelled for me as a bona fide practice when I heard Yo-Yo Ma explain in an interview that he spent so much time travelling, he had very little time with his cello outside of his performances. Therefore, he used his time on airplanes to mentally practice, going over the intricacies of a piece, imagining fingerings, bowings, phrasings--not just mechanically, but how his body would execute the performance, what he would be thinking, what he was trying to say.
Dancers can do the same, as can actors, surgeons, athletes. When it comes to the body executing a performance, practice makes better...and mental imagery counts as practice. Which is on my mind today, because I miss my sniffer, and have been attempting a little mental rehearsal of the olfactory kind.
What scents lend themselves to rehearsal? Here are a few that my imagination has visited in the past few days. Not necessarily because they are favorites, but because I realize they generate strong and clear imagined physical responses.
The bubbly aldehydes of Chanel No. 5 and Arpege. The upper reaches of my nose actually open up a bit (okay, they try), because when I recall what I would smell, my body remembers how those bubbles of No.5 go right to the top of the inside of my nose and hang there. And hang, and hang. Whereas in Arpege, there's a quick mid-entry period, a zip to the top, and a settling of the bubbles, slowly descending.
The low in my nose, deep in my throat edibility of a gourmand like Ambre Naguile. Which connects me to simply low & sweet and nearly tastable leather or comfort scents, like PG L'Ombre Fauve, Lancome Cuir de Lancome.
Then there are scents that move around, like Hermes 24, Fauborg, which threatens to bubble like an aldehyde (I can feel the vibrations beginning), then settles into a veneer with a rumble underneath (kind of like the way a comfort scent feels, but with a bubbly brook somewhere in the distance).
It dawns on me that this hasn't been a mental "rehearsal" so much as a mental review; I am attempting to recapture, not rehearsing for improvement. Nostalgia embodied, perhaps? Since I was pretty much trying to recapture how I remembered things feeling, as well as smelling, perhaps this is ultimately an opening of the door onto the practice room before the performance is ready. And ultimately, practicing what? Isn't it the perfume that communicates? Or does the way my body works with it count as part of the message?
I recall the soprano in Ann Patchett's Bel Canto making the comment that she never allowed people to see/hear her practice. Would that I had been so wise...nonetheless, thanks for indulging me.
If you've got time for a longer read, there's a nice piece on mental rehearsal and "physical genius" here (a 1999 article from The New Yorker, found on gladwell.com).