Woodsmoke at Dusk
If you take a deep breath in now, what do you feel? Can you smell your surroundings? What are your favourite smells and why?
I love the smell of the salty sea on a crisp summer morning that holds the promise of a scorcher of a day, the scent intertwining with the sounds of the coast and the sight of the horizon where the sea touches the sky.
Petrichor enthrals me every time I smell it after a spell of summer rain, whisking me away to my childhood in Tashkent, where water was splashed on the pavements to keep the dust at bay at the start of a hot summer day. Later in life I found out that the English language has a word for this earthy scent, and that the human nose is particularly sensitive to it.
The sweet, musty smell of ancient paper and leather, forever married to the silence of a library, a silence that invites careful movements to preserve it. Opening books like doors into another time, another place, where nowhere is out of bounds.
The smell of an open bee hive, a symphony of humming wings, nectar concentrated into golden honey, sticky red propolis, and the gently zesty aroma of the pheromone bees release to direct their sisters home.
A cup of tea and a hot meal prepared on a log fire, the scent of woodsmoke gently clinging to clothes and hair in the dusk light as the flames crackle, whistle and snap.
The complex, signature scent of a loved one, a unique human being.
On the extraordinarily long days that Edinburgh offers in the summer, it is not beyond the realms of possibility for me to experience all of my favourite smells in one day. I love these smells because they evoke happy memories and hold the promise of more to come. My sense of smell is very precious to me, it informs me of my surroundings and directs my mood. Aromatherapy is a crucial aspect of my self care, and it has got me through some of the most emotionally difficult periods of my life. I have always loved aromatics, plants and nature, and here are substances that contain the very essence of my favourite things! For me, they mark the start and end of every single day.
Scent does not exist in isolation, it weaves into the tapestry of our experiences, merging so tightly with emotion and memory that it is innextractable from that context. It is so powerful and evocative, it rounds out our experience of the world, and it is tightly bound to our memories. As the senses go, it is both central to our perception and yet somehow elusive, impossible to describe it must be experienced. Intimate and personal, it envelops, but it cannot be touched.
This coming summer has a great deal to live up to, making up for lost time, reconnecting, and moving forward with life. At times I must admit to being rather overwhelmed by it all, but when I do feel the momentum is too much, I try to slow down and recalibrate. Rest and relaxation must not be an afterthought, because without it, I cannot be my best self. And a little pampering, and some ‘me time’ in the bathtub is the best way for me to unwind, and breathe.