My Outlook

Being led by the nose

            One of the many things I look forward to this time of year is the smell of freshly mown grass. It may not be one of the more pleasing aromas on the spectrum for some, but because of its association with other activities, I really like it.

            For me, the smell of fresh-cut grass is backyard bliss. Kids splashing in a paddling pool or running through a sprinkler. Barbecues. A lawn chair, diet Coke and a good book. I look forward to weekends when you can count on lawns getting mowed in my neighborhood.

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            There's another aroma so prevalent right now it's hard to escape. Nor should we want to since it is potentially lifesaving. Hand sanitizer. Something so precious it's hard to acquire. But with each pump (and as grateful as I am to have access to it) the aroma takes me back to a time when a surgery and subsequent infections kept my husband in the hospital for a few weeks, resulting in us using hand sanitizer multiple times throughout the day. The aroma hits my nose and I am back standing right outside his hospital room, even though it was almost twelve years ago.

            Our sense of smell can have a powerful effect on our mood, stress levels and even our productivity. Certain aromas affect brain activity or generate a physiological response. For instance, the smell of coffee can impact feelings of alertness, while some report that a scent like coconut reminds them of suntan lotions and consequently makes them feel more relaxed.

            There's another scent for me that denotes relaxation, contentment and peacefulness. It's the fragrance of flowers. I love touring botanical gardens or arboretums and while they are spectacular to look at, I also love to just breathe in the fragrance. I take in the aroma, the quiet, and often the sound of water as you walk past brooks or fountains that often play a role in the design. These garden walks most often happen while we're on vacation so there's a sense of unhurriedness that I embrace. It's truly an example of what golfer Walter Hagen encouraged when he said, "You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry. Don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way."

            I don't plant, weed or take care of any of the flowers in the garden or hanging baskets in my backyard. That falls to my husband. It's just not something I enjoy. But I can honestly say when I smell the blending of scents that comes with those flowers, I feel relaxed, carefree and very content. It's all in the aroma.

            The congregation I am part of built a new church several years ago. It's been more than a decade since we moved in and in that time thousands of events have taken place; worship services, weddings, potlucks, classes, studies, funeral services, concerts, meetings and so much more, and yet when visitors come through the doors they often say "it still has that new church smell." And they're right. Although none of us can define it, the place has a scent that feels new. Fresh. There's just something about the aroma.

            Of course, the very things I can enjoy freely, aren't experienced the same way by others. Those with allergies and sensitivities can become very ill by the fragrances, perfumes and scents all around us; and then there are those who have experienced the loss of smell. I'm not sure which might be worse: losing my sense of smell, or knowing that the aromas around me could make me sick. That's how powerful the sense of smell is.

            I have a shampoo that floats me right back to an ocean side resort, a body wash that takes me on a walk through the woods, and a candle that somehow makes it feel like Christmas Eve. We may not be able to travel right now but perhaps we can put our amazing senses to work and in doing so let our imagination take us to places we’ve already been. That’s my outlook.

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