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celebrating the senses: smell

roasting chilesSmell is different from our other senses. It has a direct connection to the brain, and its signals are in a hurry (per John Medina, author of Brain Rules). Smell immediately stimulates our emotions. But we don’t all like or dislike the same odors or feel the same emotions when we experience them.

One of my favorite smells is green chiles (yes, that’s the correct spelling) roasting outdoors in the fall. Come August or September in Albuquerque, chile roasters spring up all over the place. You can sometimes get a whiff as you drive past one. The local Whole Foods operates a couple of roasters right outside the front door. I’ve been known to stand in front of them with my eyes closed breathing in the intoxicating aroma. It’s too bad the internet isn’t scratch-and-sniff capable. I’ve yet to encounter anyone who actively dislikes the smell of roasting green chiles—or at least who’s willing to admit it.

coffeeOther smells I love are coffee, pine trees, rain on hot pavement, strawberries, jasmine and gardenia (both in moderation), wood smoke, popcorn, rosemary, citrus, ginger, and libraries.

cilantroBut my second favorite thing to smell, after roasting green chiles, is cilantro—which also makes the list of my favorite tastes. Every time I rinse a bunch of cilantro leaves I have to stop and inhale the scent before using them. Cilantro used to come in at number one but got bumped down a notch after I moved to New Mexico and got my first sniff of roasting green chiles. If either of those scents could be bottled, that’s probably what I’d be wearing, so maybe it’s good they aren’t available.

In thinking about celebrating the sense of smell, I’ve realized that although I go out of my way to create a visually appealing environment for myself, I don’t put much thought into the way things smell. I’ve fallen out of the habit of using essential oils on a regular basis, maybe as a result of getting a curious kitten. But the kitten is going on five years old, so I think it’s time to bring out the tea lights and the oil burner and reintroduce some celebratory scents to my space.

What are your favorite things to smell?

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

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