Rosemary, Lavender, Coffee, Cedar

I liked this article on the sense of smell. It made me think, as the saying goes.

Mine is a mediocre specimen of a post-lapsarian nose. As a fallen daughter of Eve—or, more accurately, a fallen granddaughter of a sharp-nosed chimpanzee—I am conscious of smell only a few times each day…But for most of the day, it is unusual for me to notice any particular smells. I do eat food, of course, but with the illusory impression that I am tasting rather than smelling the myriad different flavours that make up even an ordinary meal.

Yes, same here, I suppose; but I do value smells, I thought to myself. Then later in the day when I was outside, I thought of the article and began sniffing, trying to see if I could exercise my sense of smell. It was interesting – interesting to find how little I could really smell.

It was a perfect day for it. It’s officially the wettest November on record in Seattle, and the month only half over; it rained heavily and non-stop all day Wednesday and it was also very windy, then it cleared overnight, so yesterday the air was as clean as it can possibly get, plus the ground is saturated, so you would think one would be able to smell it. But I couldn’t, really. I tried, but I couldn’t. Sniff sniff sniff – what am I smelling? Nothing, really – very clean damp air; it’s lovely, it’s a joy to sniff, but it doesn’t really have any specific content that I could name. That seemed odd. I looked around (I was walking) – there was, not surprisingly, wet fallen vegetation everywhere, gently decaying; wouldn’t you think we’d be able to smell that? But I couldn’t. Once or twice I thought I perhaps got a faint hint of wet earth and leaves, but I wasn’t at all sure. Maybe I could have in a forest; maybe the ratio of concrete to earth and grass and leaves in an urban neighborhood makes the organic segment more difficult to smell. I thought about farms, the ocean, eucalyptus groves, other smelly places. Gorillas – gorillas have a very strong, pungent smell; orang utans don’t. That’s interesting. Dogs smell bad; cats smell good; why is that?

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