Friday, January 15, 2010

Smell and connection

This whole week has been devoted to The Skunk Incident of 2009. Primarily my focus has been on coping with the smell of skunk musk and how it affected my relationship with Ollie and Marshall. I also had to cope with how it affected my home. I was obsessive about getting that smell out of my house, not just because the smell was offensive to my nose, but because it was disrupting my spiritual focus.

Scent is very powerful. Some studies have shown that scent is one of the strongest sense connected with our memories. Certain smells can evoke emotions, positive or negative, and activate physiological responses.

I am very connected to scents. I am particular about what scents I have on me in terms of perfumes, lotions, or shower gel. I have very strong opinions about how my bedroom should smell (warm sandalwood, vanilla, sweet tabacco, and earth), my laundry room (Bath and Body Works Fresh Linen), and my kitchen soap is always, always lemon.

I even go so far as to adjust my plug-in air freshener scents in cycles. Post-holiday winter is black currant, spring is lavender, early summer has some kind of lime, citrus, or lemon verbena. The early-harvest August through holiday season bring apples and cinnamon, pumpkin, orange and clove, and fir and balsam.

These scents are not just for ambience. Scent, being so strongly attached to memory, is also attached to actions. The changing of scents are a cycle that generates thoughts and behaviors that help me connect with the season. I associate the fresh scent of lavender with activities that freshen my life and home: cleaning, organizing, letting go of hibernating hurts and grudges. Citrus smells make me feel juicy and full of energy, active and ready to take in sun and connect with earth. Apples and cinnamon make me long sleeves, long walks, and long fireside discussions over cider. The smells of the holidays encourage me to breathe deeply and focus on the warm feelings from connecting with those I love instead of associating the season with frenetic urgency, irritation, or stress.

I find that when I am having a hard time connecting spiritually, scents of wood and leather help me find roots. When I having a particularly difficult time with forgiveness of myself, others, or the world in general, lighting my citrus and sage candle during meditation or thoughtful reading helps me release the anger blocking me from healing my hurt and also helps release whatever ties that bound me to that anger.

Maybe this is why TSI of 2009 brought about so much change for me, so much reflection. I had to restore my house, my furry four paws, and myself to their own true scent to feel that connection as strongly.


True nature is always elusive,

Only the heart of no-heart
can grasp-it.

Up in the mountain,
the burning jade stays brilliant.

And in the roaring furnace,
lotus blossoms keep their fragrance.
- Ngo An, Korea, (circa 1090)

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