Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Exploring the Landscape through the Six Senses - Smell

Smell is a potent wizard
that transports you across
thousands of miles and
all the years you have lived.
- Helen Keller

   Smell is the least appreciated of the senses in many ways.  We are either trying to mask the scent of things through air "fresheners" or scented soaps and shampoos or we are trying to create artificial scents through perfumes.   Smell is a powerful sense but artificial scents mask the real odors of people and places and is a way to distance our self from true engagement.

   Scent, as the quote above alludes to, has the ability to elicit memories and everyone has their favorites.  September smells like new crayons to me (the art teacher), and  November is the smell of wild grapes that grow on the edge of my property, and I can always smell snow before it comes.  

   When I sit in the landscape it is often the smells that reach me first.  The smell of the sea, or damp earth, or the coming rain...each is a signature of the place and very important to my sense of where I am.  I use to wear perfume but I don't any longer.  I don't want it to interfere with the natural odors of location. This change in behavior happened because of an experience I had in the Burren in 2007.  I was sitting on the limestone enjoying the smell of the sea and the damp stone when all of a sudden a powerful perfume wafted into my consciousness.  I looked around and a couple had walked up behind me.  The woman was wearing a heavy perfume and at that moment I realized how these artificial scents can keep me from appreciating the natural smells of the landscape.

Get to know the bouquet of the landscape you are in.

   The rose in the photograph above was taken in 2005.  I went searching for it in my files for this post.  I looked for the original file, not my monochrome altered version.  I hadn't looked at this rose in this way for over 8 years and just the sight of the rain dropped pink petals brought the sweet scent flooding back.  I remember at the time marveling at the amazingly strong smell of it since so many new roses don't have a particularly strong scent.  Size and shape and color is often more important to the breeders of roses than smell but this rose was so heady in its fragrance.

   Take the time to "smell the roses", or the moss or the rocks, when you are wandering the landscape. Learn to identify the smell of rain and the different foliage of trees and shrubs.  Let your sense of smell acknowledge not only the sweet but the not so sweet smells you encounter.  They are all part of the bouquet of the landscape.

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