Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Sniffing Of Things

I've always had a fairly good sense of smell which became even more so after I gave up smoking many, many moons ago, the day after I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I remember it hit me then how much more I could smell, unaware previously that it was deadened by bad habits.

In the past year it seems to have jumped up a notch again and I'm sensitive to smells that others can't detect or it takes a while for it to filter through to them. I've been noticing that different weathers have different smells and I don't just mean the smell you get after rain, I mean the smell before rain, the smell of sunshine, the smell of snow.

Anyway to get to where I'm going with this, I recently went for a mini wander at the edge of the wood alone on a dark moon. Because I was so visually impaired by the lack of light I found myself sniffing the air like an animal. Literally turning everywhich way and sniffing. I discovered that even turning my head just a few inches I could sense differences. It was like something switched on and my olfactory bulb went from 60 watts to 100 in an instant. I could smell individual trees, animals, the distant car fumes and unrecognisable smells. It was as though a whole new way of sensing my world had opened up. I could sense several smells at once almost like streams of different qualities. Like filtering out the separate smells that made up an overall composite one. So hard to put into words.

We rely so much on sight that I often think that our other senses are not as honed as they could be. We've all heard stories of people who can see colours through touch or use sonar location when vision is impaired, but it was as though for the first time I really understood in an experiential way that there is a whole other level to the senses we have. Visually I have learnt to see a little beyond what we think should be there or what we limit ourselves to seeing and I use intuitive sight but even that is very different to what I experienced with this heightenend sense of smell.

The weird thing is my brother had an amazing sense of smell when we were growing up. I remember when bags of clothes got handed on to us, as is the norm in the close religious community I grew up in, my mum would bring the bag home and he'd sniff it and tell her who it was from. He used to freak us out by being right every time, even though the freshly laundered hand me downs smelled of washing powder to us.

My son, like his uncle in lots of ways, also has an extreme sense of smell. Most children in the early years taste their world by putting everything in their mouth. Myster C sniffed everything and I mean everything. He could always tell which side of a glass you'd sipped out of. I even used to test him with tiny invisible dots of saliva on the side and he would sometimes even tell you what you ate half an hour ago if it was distinct like coffee, chocolate or garlic from the dots of nothing. He used to always make embarrassing comments about people's smells in supermarkets and on buses etc.

I get it now. I'm beginning to get an idea of what it must be like to have an awesome sense of smell. I understand why dogs want to just follow their noses. I went to the woods today and the smells were overwhelming. The smells of moss, rotting wood, undergrowth, bog, different trees and the air coming at me from all directions. It was exhillerating. I wanted to sniff everything, but held back because I wasn't alone on the walk. How could I explain that I wanted to put my face to the earth and breath deep. I managed the inside of a hollow tree at one point but it wasn't enough. I want more.

It's as though I can smell now a whole load of new things I've never really catalogued before. All these things must be sniffed and filed away. I have to confess that since I've been home alone tonight I've been indulging in the sniffing of things.

The Dreadess xx


  1. Fantastic, I only get a heightened sense of smell and hearing when I am pregnant - have never figured out why that is.

    Could your increased sense of smell have anything to do with breathing differently? They do say that we don't breathe correctly, very small breaths like pug dogs apparently!!!

    Lovely post :)

  2. Well breathing correctly certainly changes our health, sense of taste and smell so much for the better. I've been doing breath work for a number of years now and I tend to breathe quite deep and slow naturally now, so I can't put it down to that. Probably just a change in awareness or sensitivity due to necessity, a throwback to our primal selves when we relied on those senses to keep us out of danger, similar I suppose to you during pregnancy. The whole smell thing is a wonderful, bizzare mystery anyway! The way we perceive things to smell can sometimes just be down to the way the molecules travel around our nose and past the olfactory bulb. Some molecules with exactly the same chemical makeup, but mirrors of each other, with one spiralling left in flight up the nose and the other spiralling right up the nostril can cause two completely different smells. I guess bringing mindfulness to any of our senses only enhances our perception, which is never a bad thing. Cheers for your comment xx


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