Particular sensory inputs stick with me, and similar stimuli will evoke memory of the place or experience they're associated with. Sometimes these make it into a work of fiction, but usually they just come flooding back when triggered. Here's some of them:
- The sodium lights on I-271 in Cleveland: You probably don't notice these during the day, but usually by the time we get to Cleveland, it's past 11 p.m. Cleveland has lights at all its interstate exits and interchanges, at least on 71/271, and they're the super-tall, two- to six-light clusters of sodium lights - or at least they used to be; I don't know if they've started switching to LEDs yet. It's a yellower light, and my husband is usually asleep at that point in the trip, so it's just me and a mostly empty highway and the sodium lights. I haven't actually used this in a story yet, but they're a large part of the inspiration for a setting I've been working on.
- The barn (now gone) at my parents': This is one of the stronger smell triggers - I've only run into it a couple times outside the barn itself, but it's a mix of musty and hay or straw and a hint of mud. It is perhaps one of the most recognizable of smells for me.
- The machinery barn at my grandparents': This is the location evoked for me by the smell of engine grease. I not infrequently have dreams set in this building.
- Keemun tea: I think the first time I bought keemun was because of the color of the container it came in from Twinings, but the flavor, my God. It has layers. Twinings eventually stopped carrying it, and I had to find somewhere else. I picked up a new tin at Jungle Jim's on the way to my folks' for Christmas.
- The pineapple fried rice from Jasmine Thai: This is probably in my top five flavor experiences; I got it kind of randomly because I've been trying to try different things from the Thai restaurant. It's kind of savory bliss, curry without the heat, with occasional pops of sweet/sour from the pineapple chunks and cashews for a bit of crunch.
- A ceiling fan under skylights: The location for this is at a kind of run-down Burger King, but the pattern of light and shadow is particularly evocative. I used this at the beginning of the first draft of Murena.
Most of these seem to be taste and smell, and a couple of light color/patterns thrown in. There are probably others, but these are the ones that get triggered enough for me to have noticed them.