Scent Safari time

This past Monday morning, I decided to stir up my routine a little.

Rather than starting the car at 7 AM to drive to Stanford as usual, I took a walk downtown to get coffee.

It was bright and sunny, still a little cool, but one of those mornings that can feel delightfully heavy with promise.

So, rather than driving through stop/start traffic listening to the radio, it was just me and my feet, with time to think, space to notice what I passed.

And given our recent focus on the rich potential of tapping into our sense of smell as a way to lift emotional well-being, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that what struck me most was the amazing range and depth of fragrances.

Bushes and shrubs were in full bloom, breathing out the most gorgeous bouquets.

I stopped, I inhaled, and I felt pretty good actually.

And so now I’d love you to share this treat for the senses and the soul. When the weather next permits it, why not head outdoors for your own scent safari?

Depending on your circumstances, it could be anything from a full-on hike to a wander around the garden, but here are seven suggestions to help you make the very most of your mini expedition.

One quick public health warning first, though. Be aware of any allergies you may have, of course, and don’t place yourself at risk.

1. Take your time. Consider this an investment in your emotional well-being, so don’t rush things.

2. Breathe deeply. Give fragrances a chance to get right to the back of your nose.

3. Get closer to smells. You know that thing where dogs get their noses right into the centre of the action? Well they have a point. A wine expert does a similar thing with their nose and a glass.

4. Put a label on it. Rather than simply thinking about whether you like a smell or not, ponder hard about what different smells remind you of.

5. Gather homework. If something botanical takes your fancy but you don’t know what a flower or shrub is, take a picture with your phone, then look online to identify it when you get home.

6. Share your experience. When you’ve stopped to embrace an aroma, someone might pass you and smile or speak. If they do, engage a little. You might even make a new friend.

7. Activate your smell compass. Believe it or not, your two nostrils give you a kind of 3-D smell-power, enabling you to pinpoint where odours are coming from. If you can’t get right to the source, at least have a go at determining its approximate location (e.g. coffee from someone’s house, newly-cut grass from a back garden, etc.)

Different times of day will deliver different smells, of course, so this is a great excuse to try the exercise out more than once.

And if you do experiment with it, I think you’ll be happy you did.

10 thoughts on “Scent Safari time

  1. I’ve just sown night-scented stock for the first time – in batches two weeks apart so they keep on coming. Can’t wait for them to flower.
    My mum – now 87 – tells me they were the first thing she planted when she was a little girl and so smelling them will take her right back there. I wonder if they’ll take me anywhere.

  2. Guffaw, I did exactly that this morning.

    After spending an unwelcome half hour in a motorway traffic jam, I eventually tumbled into work hot and bothered. I paused at reception wondering whether to grab a coffee. A lady in front of me had just been given her bacon sandwich and coffee breakfast deal. The aroma was divine. The warm, mouth-watering smell of freshly ground coffee and smoky bacon enveloped me and I felt myself ordering one too. (first time ever and I’ve worked here for years). We got into a conversation while my sandwich was cooking. She was a lovely lady who had also suffered the motorway that morning. We both laughed about it and decided to linger over our coffee and sandwich. Turned out to be a great start to the day

  3. Have just got back from the dog walk. The hawthorn is in bloom and smells wonderful and I walked by a very smelly river that has got stale and still, so it reeked! But freshness came again when walking up the hill passed wallflowers: bright oranges and yellows and the fragrance is divine…I stop there whenever we walk passed the garden as the smell is so evocative of growing up when my mum had masses of wallflowers.
    Super ideas here Jon, thank you.

  4. Every morning I tip out the teapot on to the ground around the rose bushes (my mother instilled this in me!) and then I pick a small handful of a bush that was planted by an Australian friend of mine. I think it’s called a “Tea tree” but it has a heady scent, when the leaves are crushed , a bit like eucaplytus. A few deep breaths of that are a good way for me to start the morning

    1. Sounds great Rebecca. I’m guessing the tea tree bush is where the Tea Tree essential oil comes from? I believe a lot of people swear by its antiseptic qualities, and I think it’s particularly popular in Australia.

  5. My early morning walks just after dawn have been wonderful. The commuter traffic noise is at a minimum so the birds singing and chirping can be readily heard. Many of the buildings in my Noe Valley neighborhood have trellis vines, particularly jasmine. The delicate white blossoms are so fragrant! I love putting my feet on pause and sticking my nose right up against the petals. So soothing and calming.

    1. That sounds wonderful, Judi. Just wonderful.

      I love the picture of you getting your nose right among the petals, and what a great way to start your day bright and early.

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