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Speaking to the Soul: The Scent of Gratitude

Speaking to the Soul: The Scent of Gratitude

by Linda Ryan


Now and then there comes a moment when time seems to stop, even for the merest fraction of a second, and in that fraction of a second something becomes so clear that it’s almost heartbreaking. It happened to me the other morning when I went to feed the outside cats. It was just about dawn, and the air was moderately crisp, given the temperatures we’ve been having during the day lately. In my hurry to get the cats fed I didn’t notice anything special, but when I turned to go back to the  house all of a sudden there was this most marvelous scent. I looked at my jasmine growing up one of the patio supports. I couldn’t see any blooms although there were plenty of buds, but still there was a slight whiff of something sweet coming from it. Then I noticed an even stronger fragrance coming from the orange trees across the road. Between the two it was such a delightful aroma that I wanted it to last forever. Unfortunately, like most things that attract me by scent, the olfactory centers quickly assume that that is normal and move on to something else, so I can’t smell it anymore. It’s only for a short period of time that it’s new enough to the nose that I can actually smell us and enjoy it.

There are other times when I know I noticed a pleasant odor or tang that that has a trigger to it that cascades memories and sometimes new thoughts in my head. Give me a whiff of salt water and I’m back home on my river even though I’m thousands of miles away. The scent of pine, the smell of rain, the aura and warmth of wax candles, like a bayberry one at Christmas or the beeswax ones in church. Speaking of church, there’s a remnant of, the scent of incense in church from years of high holy day celebrations. Then there’s the  perfume mama used to wear, and her hand lotion. There are probably a hundred others ( would recognize that I can’t remember right at the moment, but if I caught a bit of their scent then I would react to it.

The world we are  more accustomed to smelling is one of  diesel fumes or auto exhaust, hot tar, fresh-cut grass, the neighbor’s steaks on the grill, the sweaty smell of the gym, some pleasant, some  pungent. We lose ignore smells because there are more important sensory work going on. Still, it’s hard to walk past a stand of flowers in the grocery store this time of year, because there is a fragrance of hyacinths, and it reminds me of the hyacinths back home in the spring. I can walk by the fruit and for a moment I’ll smell the strawberries or oranges or even some of the vegetables, and I remember how amazing they smell compared to the aisle full of air fresheners which, while they smell good, or so I’m told, they don’t necessarily do the trick.

As I stood there the other morning enjoying the brief encounter with the orange blossoms and the jasmine, it was easy for me to be thankful for such an enjoyable treat. I’m afraid there many times when I fail to be thankful for little things like sweet scent in the air or the flight of the hummingbird or even a gorgeous sunset. I’ve been churches were there was an indefinable smell of furniture polish and candles with maybe just a tiny bit of leftover incense last used months ago. It seems to soak into the place and it adds a kind of what used to be called an “odor of sanctity”, a smell that reminded me that I was in a holy place, and one where such things  help me to relax and to fall into a little bit more meditative mood simply .

When was the last time I stopped to smell something like I did the other morning? I did this morning after I finish mopping the floor and the Pine-Sol made the house smell nice and clean. After that I gave thanks. There are times I give thanks for the smell of clean sheets or the almond oil for the wood furniture. Perhaps the sense of smell is somehow attached to a feeling of love? Well, some of them, anyway. It’s hard to love the smell of a diesel bus exhaust.

So where am I going to allow scent to take me this week? There are many pungent smells, many of them unpleasant, that I run across on a daily basis, but how do I create a thankfulness moment with fragrance that gives my heart a little bit of joy? Febreze won’t always do it, and now they tell us not to burn candles because of the lead in the wick, and one can only take so much Pine-Sol. So my next search is to look for something somewhere, inside or out, that will help me find a moment of joy and a moment of thankfulness. After all, God made smells as well as sights and sounds and tastes and touches. God put them there for us to use and to enjoy and also spur us on to clean up the unpleasant and rejoice in the pleasant. So this week I need to find something to bring that to mind are more regular basis.

Go thou and find something beautiful and sweet and fresh, then remember to thank God for it. God bless



Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter.  She lives in the Diocese of Arizona and is proud to be part of the Church of the Nativity in North Scottsdale.


By Abhishek727 Abhishek Mishra (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons


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