I’m not saying I smell my way around like a dog. My residual eyesight is still my predominant sense, followed by my hearing. But when I couldn’t smell anything at all, there was a dimension that was missing.
Today, however, my nose is clear, and my walk with Ruby was just a delight.
The weather was windy and dry, though it had rained in the night. I suspect these conditions are not the best for dogs, because the wind scatters the smells and makes it difficult for them to track a scent precisely. For a primitive species like a human being, however, it’s perfect. You can just sit down, shut your eyes, and play Spot the Scent.
It’s quite difficult to smell yourself, because that’s your base line, the scent you can smell when you think you can’t smell anything. I start as close to me as I can, and then slowly expand my awareness. It becomes a form of meditation, or mindfulness.
First is my jacket, which is a smell I have come to love, because it smells of wind and rain and bracken and dogs. Then I identify the peculiar smell of Ruby’s rope lead, which is looped over my shoulders. Who would think wet rope could smell so warm and rich?
Then, I can smell Ruby, lying at my feet. Her smell is wonderful. It is like a big bag of broken biscuits. Dog smells are like baby smells. Your own dog is warm and evocative and reassuring, but other people’s dogs smell alien and sharp.
And then, beyond Ruby, I catch moments of other identifiable scents on the wind. The wind itself seems to have a smell of its own, but I suppose that is just all the smells of this world mixed together, really well. Despite the horror of what we are doing to the Earth, the wind is still smelling light and clear. It’s like clear water flowing through my face.
There is a whiff of the undergrowth, wet and darkly decaying. The moss on the stone walls, the lichen on the trunks of the poplars. A dead tree smells of ancient mushrooms, and, on the ground where the bracken has been worn into a tiny trail, there is the pungent smell of fox.
I sit, because I am too happy to walk. In the wind, the world is breathing, and, as I sit there, a leaf lands in my lap, like a gift.