The Passing of a Moment
After writing out the exercise in yesterday’s post, I grabbed my favourite red fleecy blanket and went outside to sit on the lawn in my back garden. I laid it out on the slightly damp grass, sat down, and closed my eyes. For a while my mind was busy with all the daily minutiae: the housework that was still waiting to be started, the reading I need to finish, the fish bowl I should clean etc. Then, after a wee while, I began to let these nagging thoughts go, and I started to listen to the sounds of the garden…
The flapping wings of a passing magpie, the chorus of creaks as the window frames expand in the heat, the low buzz of a bumblebee, the high pitched whine of a small insect, a neighbourhood car’s engine turning over, the far away squawk of a seagull, the drone of passing aircraft, the flap of laundry as it dried in the breeze.
While I was capable of identifying all these different sounds, I quickly realised that when I turned my attention to what I could smell, I could only identify one fragrance, and that was of the fabric conditioner as it wafted down from the laundry to where I was sitting. It makes me wonder whether I’ve neglected one of my main ways of sensing the world around me to the point where I can no longer notice it.
Have you read the Patrick Suskind book, Perfume? It is one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read, as so much of the description is articulated through an exploration of scent. When I read that book, I found myself thinking, ‘Yes, I know that smell, and that’s exactly what it smells like.’ One of my favourite passages in it is when a wet nurse is describing the smell of newborn babies:
‘Well, it’s -‘ the wet nurse began, ‘it’s not all that easy to say, because… because they don’t smell the same all over, although they smell good all over, Father, you know what I mean? Their feet for instance, they smell like a smooth warm stone – or no, more like curds… or like butter, like fresh butter, that’s it exactly. They smell like fresh butter. And their bodies smell like… like a pancake that’s been soaked in milk. And their heads, up on top, at the back of the head, where the hair makes a cowlick, there… There, right there, is where they smell best of all. It smells like caramel, it smells so sweet, so wonderful, Father, you have no idea!’
Perfume by Patrick Suskind, pp. 12-13
Isn’t that an incredible description which focuses entirely on smell? I think today, I’m going to concentrate on the scents I inhale, and see if I can increase my own awareness of a sense I’ve clearly neglected for too long.
What did you discover when you did the exercise? Are there some senses available to you that you are not fully experiencing? How can you enhance your awareness of them?