Friday, November 20, 2009

Idle Contemplations

Tonight I stepped out onto our porch/balcony for some fresh air. What struck my senses first wasn't the rain, it was the aroma of the rain. The wind was wafting softly up from the river in the bottom of our valley already infused with the unmistakable scents of woodsmoke from the houses on the other side. Along its journey it gathered the soft marshy odors from the river banks and the fresh smell of clean, flowing water from the river itself. Then the breezes crossed the main road picking up the wet pavement, oil, and diesel exhaust smoke from passing log trucks. The trucks went past fairly rapidly, but not so fast as to be able to carry away with them the wonderful, rich aroma of fresh cut wood. Finally, just before reaching my nostrils, the air was additionally able to transport as its last gift to me the fresh tilled garden of my neighbor as he prepared to plant spring blossoming bulbs. All this got me thinking how much the earth tells us through just one sense if we're used to seeking out the information. Most folks know the smell of a body of water, but lakes, rivers, and oceans all have their own different aromatic traces of their make-up. And I wonder how many have had the pleasure of being at sea for days beyond the sight and smell of land. As the vessel transporting you approaches land, you immediately feel overwhelmed by the richness of the unmistakable scents. But, if enough attention is paid, the differences between desert, jungle, temperate, swamp or marsh, even man's various forms of settled areas assault our noses with a complex mixture. A walk through a northern forest is vastly different in aroma than tropic forest after a rain. The high desert smells much fresher than one near sea level. Even the different hemispheres & continents are endowed with their own aromatic medley. Sometimes the differences are subtle, sometimes very apparent. A public transportation ride in a 'meat eating' area varies greatly from that of areas where seafood is the main diet. We almost all recognize the abrupt differences like a fresh mown hay field, a barn with animals, city streets, alleyways, the vapor trail of a lawnmower, or the clean and softly pleasing smell of a very young baby. These we're usually familiar with and seldom notice if exposed regularly enough. We remain alert, however, to dangerous smells. Ammonia or other toxic chemicals, burning materials, electrically generated ozone and/or burning wire insulation aromas, even filthy water gives us warning through our noses. And musn't forget skunks! What all this contemplation of smells suggested to me was that we often miss so much because we simply tune things out. We avoid unpleasant or annoying sensory clues, often to our peril, but more often to our loss. So much of life just brushes us gently and moves along that we tend to only absorb the brash, harsh things that demand we acknowledge their presence. Next time I decide to absorb the delights carried on the breeze, I plan to stand down-wind of the Mom & Pop Variety Store/Pizza Vendor just down the hill. Might as well go for the GREAT aromas, but I'll have to settle for pizza oven exhaust, as my favorite seller of fried clams is too far away for daily visits. Until next time, take care, and as the trite saying goes, "stop and smell the roses" along life's journey.