Smell

Boca's Nose Knows

The sciencey people say that smell (usually regarded as a sense that is kind of marginal in importance) is actually the most evocative of human sensory faculties, subconsciously tying memories and experiences through the power of odor. Take the smell of vanilla, it might kindle long forgotten recollections of a summer day baking chocolate chip cookies with Grandma while bright sunlight streamed through lattice glass windows. Or perhaps an acrid whiff of gasoline stirs images of family road trips, siblings being pressed together in hot and muggy cars at gas stations with eager smiles for an ocean sighting in the future. Smell is integral to our perception of our world and our storing of distant but consequential memories of our existence, a way to shortcut to deeply embedded files in the harddrive of the human brain.

Smell is a way we subliminally categorize our world.
Unfortunately, due to a inauspicious combination of violently belligerent allergies and a nasal passage that was mutated to disallow air passage in one nostril, I am not only a radical mouthbreather, but I also am unable to smell.

Now when I say that I cannot smell, I mean it in the sense that it is like the world is covered in several layers of thick wool blankets. I can only detect the most powerful of smells, vanilla and gasoline being among the tiny handful of scents I can perceive through the dense fog of hyposmia. Its kind of funny that my mother is a bona-fide Super-Sniffer who can detect even the most infinitesimal of odors with her finely tuned schnoz. I guess the super-sniffer trait is recessive.

Anyway, I never really noticed that my lack of smell was so pronounced until I took this corticosteriod medicine for a week before I had to get allergy shots and suddenly, I could smell. To put it in perspective, I was like the blind man Jesus healed who had never seen before and for the first time ever could discern the visual world. Well for that week, my eyes (or in this case, nasal passages) were open and I could discern the multitude of odors that made up our subliminal world.

It was a revelation. My friends thought I was insane when I ran up to them with a feverish look in my eyes and shoved Skittles in their faces as I blathered on about how Skittles actually smelled like their respective fruit and I could finally understand the complaints of my classmates when they protested about the reek of formaldehyde in the biology classrooms. I suddenly could catch a whiff of cranberries and be immediately transported back to Thanksgiving where I got my first bike. It was wonderful!

But like all good things, my week of olfactory excellence, came to an end, and a day of the medicine, I was back to my cloud of allergies and all the fragrances of the world were stifled under mucus and pollen. I was very bummed about that, but then I realized that I could see, and hear, and touch. I laughed at my good fortune of being born with a pair of eyes and ears that could hear. As evocative as smell is, I’d never trade it for the ability to see a sunset, or hear a sonata. I thank God for making me the way he did and I have no right to ever complain!

One thought on “Smell

  1. My mom cannot smell either. She just recently had an olfactory awakening and I remembered reading your blog years ago. I shared it with her today to perhaps shed more light on the experience. Thanks again for sharing. I love you and this gift from God you have of writing.

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