What's That Smell?
A few years ago I lost my sense of smell. It happens to almost all of the women in my family at some point, but it seems to have happened to me a little earlier than most. Losing one of your senses is never a good thing, but olfaction is considered the least important. The only real danger is not being able to smell the warning signals of smoke or noxious fumes and the heightened risk of eating foods that are no longer safe.
But don’t get me wrong; there are lots of perks to it. Driving over a skunk in the road? No problem. Teaching a kid who plays sports after school and doesn’t have time to shower before SAT tutoring? Not to worry. Even walking into a Yankee Candle Store? Piece of cake. Remember, when Covid was rampant, and no one worried about coming in contact with people with bad breath (because we were all wearing masks)? That’s still normal for me even without a mask.
But what about the wonderful things? The clean, fresh smell of a baby? The aroma of Thanksgiving dinner cooking as we walk into the house? The way a certain scent can instantly take us back? The fragrance of old books? Freshly mowed grass? Rain?
The world seems a little whitewashed without smells, and I don’t usually realize how much I miss my sense of smell, but every once in a while, something malfunctions in my brain, and I catch a whiff of something, and it is the most delightful thing in the world.
And in those moments when it does happen, I try to remind myself that more is not always better; sometimes it’s just more. When we have everything, nothing really stands out. Not having everything at our disposal all the time makes us appreciate things even more. For example, if I lived at the beach I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. (That’s just a lie I tell myself to survive being away from it.)
We always lament that we don’t have enough peace and stillness and rest, and yet we go, go, go all the time. But at the retreat a few weeks ago, we had some free time in the afternoon. Some people went shopping; some went hiking; some went exploring. I think they all had fun, but that afternoon, there is one moment that stands out more than the others. It was not exciting or wild. It was not loud or festive. It was not adventurous.
I think there were five of us sitting on the porch. The warmth of the sun balanced with the coolness of the breeze making the temperature perfect. We all sat with our eyes closed absorbing the peace. The squeak of one of the rocking chairs lent a rhythm that provided the basis for the slowing down of our breath. The noise itself conjured a conversation about other sounds and their effects on us, such as a screen door slamming shut, muffled shouts of children in the distance, the hiss of an iron, the sound of water.
When we stop and literally smell the roses, listen to the gurgling stream, feel the softness of a pet’s fur, watch the bluebird’s flight, and revel in our senses, the world around us comes alive in ways we normally take for granted. Learning to appreciate all the gifts around us seems like it just might be the sweet smell of success.