Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Smell....

 My Grammy wore a very strong perfume. It was the kind that's so strong that mosquitoes came from miles around to follow her, sensitive people got raging headaches, and the smell crawled up into every nostril it encountered an stayed there all day.

It was r-e-a-l-l-y bad, but it was her scent. Blend it with the smell of cat- faint but evident- and the smell of cigarettes from Grampy, and you have her signature scent. (The smell of cat is hard to explain, because their cat Chunky died years ago. There must have been an uncleaned catbox left somewhere in the house.....)
She loved that perfume, and we do too. Not for itself, but because we think HER when we smell It.

Now that she's not on earth to wear that stuff, every whiff of it left in her room or on her clothes is extra-precious. Once, in a grocery store, I smelled it on another woman. It nearly knocked me over.

(As an it of note Grampy himself is particular about smells. Last time we visited, we made the mistake of mentioning that I needed to replace my sneakers, because they stunk. He nodded sympathetically, and then he proceeded to introduce us to various better smells we could add to our home. He showed us several Glade air fresheners and an economy bottle of Febreeze oder-eliminator. Last came his personal favorite... a container of Snuggle, which he washes his clothes in, gels his hair with, and eats on his toast in the morning.

I wanted him to know how much I appreciated his help, so I leaned forward and sucked in a deep breath of Snuggle. I regretted it when I nearly sneezed my sinuses loose. Sweet mercy!

Maybe the stuff isn't as natural as we thought.
Some things smell amazing. If you forgot that a working nose is a gift, walk into the kitchen in October when the first apple crisp is browning in the oven. You'll find you have something new to praise God for.

A field of mint in the setting sun on a dirt road. The coffee aisle in the grocery store, even to a non-coffee drinker. Tomato leaves when you brush against them in a garden. Salt marsh air.
Woodsmoke. Clementines, that leave their scent on your fingers for hours after you eat them.
Hamburgers and steak cooking. Lilacs.
(I wish they made a perfume that was a combo of the last two... fresh cut lilacs in an old Coke bottle and hamburgers cooking. Trust me, it works.)

So I was at the barn today, with my neighbor's goats. She went away for the weekend and let me come and help. And when you enter a barn, you think of smells. Some people love it. Others find it terrible. She apologized for The Smell before we went in. We told her not to apologize, please.
I think the smell of a barn is objectively good, whether it tickles your fancy or not.

I think it's good because it's the smell of life. The fifteen year old goat, all arthritic and fuzzy, made docile only by age. The rambunctious four month old boy goats, knocking against their stall wall. There's sweet feed, all sticky and oatey and mollasses-ey, and hay, which is the grass and flowers of lost sunshine and rain. There is milk, pulled out of three nicely rounded milking Mothers by an ancient milking machine.  (Isn't it funny that a land of milk and honey requires rather contrary goats and rather fragile bees, each working all day to make our world sweet and creamy out of their own bodies?)

After the milking room emptied out, a little orphan in a pink collar named Ida hopped up on the milking stand, to finish off the grain. She's practicing for when she's a milker. I sat down beside her, petting her shiny clean sides. She turned toward me, and I fed her from my hand. She has soft lips and warm breath, as she picked each piece out of my fingers. I loved the smell of her. She was small and alive.

And so I have two thoughts. One is that we should be glad we can smell. Two is that we shouldn't be too quick to cover up the smells of barns. Wet dog and July sweat and old-fashioned skunk are part of our experience. Don't worry about coating everything with Snuggle and drinking oder-eliminator. You're alive. I can tell by the smell. Let's smile. :-)  

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