"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Power of Scent

I was standing in Wal-Mart yesterday selecting a photo album to use as a "Color" prayer journal (more about that another time) when my head and eyes jerked up in response to a smell. I really can't tell you what or who it was other than the aroma itself was sweet -- and strong. Obviously, someone had passed by that was wearing a fragrance that lingered long after they were gone. I learned quickly that smell cuts through thoughts, because one minute I was deeply engrossed in my purchase and the next, it wasn't even in my radar.

The power of scent. 

Did you know that smell is the most sensitive of the senses? According to Mirror e-magazine, we can remember with 65% accuracy what we smell after a year, but can recall with only 50% accuracy what we see after 3 months. But our noses are just as easily bored. Have you ever entered a florist or bakery that nearly took your breath away with the aroma, but by the time you left, you no longer smelled it?

Here are some more facts for those who might be interested. Typically, a woman's sense of smell is much stronger than a man's. (I heard just recently via John Tesh that the #1 turn-off for a woman is a man's body odor. I had to concur as I had just been on the treadmill at the gym next to man who had been working out for an hour.)

Speaking of exercise, our sense of smell is stronger after a physical workout. We can also smell things better in the spring and summer, due to the added moister in the air. We humans have 5-6 million odor detecting cells. But that's nothing compared to a dog who has about 220 million.

It is now not enough to go to a museum just to see the past come to life, you can now smell it, too. At the Jorvik Viking Centre, a stench is pumped inside to give visitors a true simulation of what the Viking era would have smelled like. Yes, you can experience the smell not only of a Viking village but a Viking toilet as well. Now that's something I've always longed to do.

The human brain can process roughly 10,000 smells in an area the size of a postage stamp. That's a lot of processing.

And have you ever put a new pair of shoes or leather jacket to your nose? So have I. Well, those particular smells make everyone happy. As does the new car smell ... which is why my friend Julie got disturbed when I brought french fries into her new sedan. (Again, Julie, I am SO sorry.) 

When we sleep, our sense of smell shuts down. We only smell the coffee or the bread baking AFTER we have woken up. And if we can't taste that bread, it's probably because our sense of smell is lacking and not our sense of taste as our smell sensor accounts for 75-95% of the impact a flavor has. Which leads me to share that people who cannot smell have a condition called anosmia.

And here's something for your next trip: Sheraton hotels smell like fig, clove and jasmine; Westin lobbies go for white tea while the Four Points venues smell of cinnamon.

And the most universally liked fragrance? Vanilla, of course ... because of its "calming properties."

But we don't have to know all that trivial information to know that the gift of smell is powerful. In a split second, through the venue of a hand or body soap, a flowering shrub, cigar smoke, even mildew, we can be transported to another time in space ... sometimes not even knowing how we got there or why that particular smell evoked some a powerful emotional response.

We all have them. There is a particular odor that sends me immediately back to 1969 when my house caught on fire. To this day, it still startles me as I feel a sickness rise in my stomach. When I smell a magnolia bloom, I am whisked away to my piano lessons in Macon. Just last week, I embraced someone and their fragrance stayed with me long through the night and caused me to remember them with much love and care. Recently, a young wife whose husband has been deployed since February told me that his clothes were beginning to lose their smell. I knew what she was talking about.

So let's embrace our sense of smell. It has the power to take us back to our childhood and closer to far-away loved ones, whether separated by distance or death. It can make us feel happy and comforted, keep us from danger or make bile rise in our throat. Yes, the power of scent cuts to the chase. It reaches down deep in us and tells us something.

Therefore, the next time your smell sensory talks to you, hear what it has to say. Bring whatever it is to this present moment, hold it, let it linger if necessary, thank God for it and then bless it. For in the making of that, our whole lives begin to be consecrated and take on a fragrance of their own. And sometimes, we just might find a little freedom from something that has bound us.

The power of scent. What an awesome gift we have been given.

Just an ordinary moment...

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