The Gift of the Scents

By: Sandy Churchill

When people say it’s finding joy in the little things, there is great wisdom in such an adage. A trendy word in psychology and self-care circles is “intentionality,” a focused, deliberate paying attention to the here and now, and not rushing through actions in a mindless race to the next to-do item on a never-ending list.

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This word “intentionality” came to mind during some recent walks, where scents stirred a present awareness of the world around me. On one trek, I caught the scents of leaves blowing in the wind, steaming coffee from a café, and smoky bacon cooking somewhere nearby. This scent-fest of daily life happening right here, right now, was refreshing. It forced me to notice, enjoy the scents, and feel gratitude for the olfactory gift in life. Missing such a sense must be difficult and surely felt as a challenge, when so much experience and memory is tied to the sense of smell.


Campfires and burning leaves recall autumn magical memories of foliage strolls, backyard jaunts, Maine camping, and woodsy hikes. A lemony perfume called 47-11 hails from Germany and the tiniest spritz from a legacy bottle stirs memories of my Nana, her sugar-crusted cookies, muted piano keys, and green glass tumblers of ginger ale she served when we visited.

Funny how scents can stir panicky or sad feelings as well. My brother to this day freezes up at the antiseptic “hospital smell” when he has to visit a recovering friend or relative, and my mom bristles at the musty smells of attics and cobweb-laden cellars. Pines and Christmas tree scents bring happy recollections each year, while lilacs and roses continue to bring perfumey joys of spring, gardens, and picnics to mind. Salty spray scents at the beach have a special way of stirring all-things-summer and church incense can bring us back to stained-glass afternoons in childhood. IMG_1403.JPG

My younger daughter basks in the scent of lemon poppyseed muffins, her favorite baked indulgence I made for breakfast or afternoon snacks, while my older daughter relishes the scent of my signature pumpkin cookies baking in the oven at Thanksgiving. My son is the quintessential “bacon boy” and the sizzling scent is the fastest way to rally him from his tent on Boy Scout trips.

Regardless of the scent or your personal memories, this gift of the senses might perhaps be the fastest route to intentionality, as it has the power to stop us in our tracks, be present, and enjoy the experience.

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