Monday, October 25, 2010

Fresh Smells of Fall

It rained early this morning, the kind of rain that refreshes everything and gives that musky raw earth smell. The dust and pollen is washed away, the colors much more vibrant.

I walk in the rain, taking a deep breath, learning the smells and sounds of the forest in fall.

Even the slightest breeze or drop of rain can move a distant leaf, causing the dark background of trunks to look as though they are moving, an optical illusion. Smells are like that too. A sweet smell. Is it muskadines ripening, distant fallen apples? The fall is a time of harvest, sweet smells are not flowers.

The smoky smell of campfires, less intense than a wood burning stove, much more pleasant that cigarettes or burning garbage, will tell of nearby campers.

As survivalists, we learn to recognize the smells, whether it be a stream, moss or vegetation, wild animals, urine, wet dog, humans. All these give us information.

Care must be taken because our initial recognition can evaporate quickly. Scientists tell us our brain becomes accustomed to a smell quickly, hence the warning if you ever smell smoke, investigate it. Get out of bed, find the source. If you go back to sleep, your nose won't wake you up again.

We can train our noses to be more sensitive by taking deep breaths and identifying what we are smelling. You can practice in the kitchen, at work, in the forest, any time of the day. Our noses give us a lot of information. Strange how desensitized we can become with cigarette smoke, perfumes, furniture polish and detergents we add to our lives.

I remember hiking the Colorado Trail and passing a bunch of hikers. We could smell the detergent on their clothing, the perfume in their hair and play a game of identifying the brand. Our packs picked up trail odors, not always so pleasant. We smelled very wild, like the places we'd been.

Some smells can be pleasant to one, and disgusting to another. I love the smell of black jelly beans. My friend finds them appauling.

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