Do You Smell Enough?

28 Jun 2020

On trips and getaways, I like to sneak into local thrift stores and search for hidden treasures to bring home. Over time I've picked up clothes, picture frames, glassware, books... these trinkets spread throughout my apartment for utilizing and storytelling. During my trip to Chicago last spring, I picked up a book by Alexandra Horowitz, "Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell". Winston wasn't in my life yet but Bobby back home was -- and I thought how odd that I'd never bothered to learn more about Bobby's life as a dog, to enquire about his sense of smell, or to attempt a life of conscious smelling. 

 

Fast forward to today, where travelling is barely an option and I am stuck in the apartment with a cuddly mutt and plenty of time to finally read some books. While a disgrace to summarize Horowitz's work in one sentence, here it is anyway: humans really ought to smell more. Stop for a moment -- if you are reading this on your phone in your bed (which I do not advocate), do you know the smell of your sheets before putting your nose to it? If you are scared to find out, it is probably even more important that you do. What about the smells of your neighbourhood? A cuisine that you often smell during your runs? A house with a yard full of flowers? See, it never occurred to me that dogs memorize their neighbourhood by smell. Winston remembers the turn of the road by a whiff of wild rosemary and the nearing of the bakery by the smell of fresh bread. Meanwhile, I hadn't even noticed the rosemary or mint on the side of the road (let alone their scents), and while always greatly anticipated, the bakery is often only recognized by its red exterior.

 

So for the past month, I've been smelling. Before I take my first sip of tea, I smell. I already do this with wine, why wasn't I taught to extended the same courtesy to other beverages? Before I borrow some cilantro from my garden, I smell. I chop them finely, then I smell again. It's already rewarding to grow your own herbs but that extra inhale takes you somewhere else. Somewhere calm. Somewhere quiet. And of course, before I walk out the door with Winston, I make a choice to pay attention. I've come to envy his dilly dallying, precisely his ability to appreciate the 'nothingness' of what he appears to can't get enough of, whether just a patch of grass or a sudden stop to smell the air. I do my best to be patient and to let him take his time. Then something hits me faintly. Someone's cooking something delicious. Maybe chicken? Rosemary seasoning? (My nose currently thinks everything is rosemary.)

 

Summer is a time too precious to forgo our sense of smell. Everything is alive and looking up to the sky. Fresh cut grass, blossomed flowers, and even the pint of summer ale on the patio -- these are all things that offer more than what we perceive them to, a fifth sense that the majority of us are not in tune with. So this summer I urge you to stop and smell, not only roses, but everything. 

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Nao

Dreamer, 26

Vancouver, BC, Canada

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