Catching The Ephemeral

Rose Tremain reveals how a smell inspired her to be a writer:

One evening, lagging behind the other tennis players, with a June sun beginning to go down, I stopped still on the path, inhaling something new and impossibly seductive in the air. During my two-hour game of tennis, the hayfield had been cut. I experienced the scent of the new-mown hay as something so perfect, so life-affirming, that the idea of its inevitable transience (it was, after all, only the frail and final outbreath of a fallen crop) felt crushing. I stood very still and wondered if there existed, in me, any magic by which I could hold onto it for as long as I remained alive. And it was in that moment that the idea of becoming a writer took shape in my mind. I couldn’t capture the smell; what I could capture was the power of my experience of the smell in words.

When the scent of new-mown hay comes to me now, I see how my fear of the ephemeral lessened in an instant. Writers give ephemeral things multiple existences: they understand how a single childhood experience may one day inform countless different stories. And so I saw the direction of my life set out before me across the field.