The other morning a neighbor’s dog was in my front yard contentedly rolling on the dew covered lawn. It rolled on its back, stood up to smell the grass again, and repeated this ritual several times. Nothing was visible on the grass and weeds so I assume the dog was applying an earthly scent to her body.
As I watched her it reminded me how my perspective on what’s around me is based upon many senses. Yet my experience of a place is often described only visually. Being able to smell also creates a perspective about the surroundings. As an artist, the scent of a place psychologically influences the colors I choose to create a work of art. A scent can become a texture or pattern in a sculpture I make.
That dog in my yard reminded me how many people are not connected with the earth. Many live in apartments and have not put their hands in soil for decades. And many with homes and yards use lawn services so they are as dislocated from the earth as apartment dwellers. There’s something about digging up the earth and smelling it that can’t be duplicated by a cologne or perfume. And lying on your back in fresh grass with your eyes closed is magical and transcending. Of course, chiggers and fire ants can also transport your body to another experience.
During a eulogy for a friend who died recently, the minister spoke about how this man in his upper 70’s still made time to connect to the natural world. This friend knew how important it was to go into the woods and smell the soul of nature. He took his grandkids into the woods so their young souls would know to seek out the soul of nature regardless of their age. He never got too old to breathe in the natural world and I will attempt to do the same.
I use to sleep outdoors at least once a month regardless of where I lived. Sometimes it meant sleeping on a football field in the middle of a city, or sleeping on the roof, or the porch, in a backyard or in a park. In all those places an awareness of the scents also affected my perspective as much as vision or sound could. But why do I not account the scents of a location as easily as the other senses? It takes practice.
It’s never too late to let the perfumes of life enhance our perspective of the world. Such scents identify the presence of a spouse, our children, a pizza baking, wildflowers blooming, specific trees in a forest…..and on and on.
Next time you begin refining your artistic perspective…(of describing a specific experience or place), how could it be enhanced by acknowledging the presence of life’s perfume? It’s questions like this that help an artist refine their work…Of course, you could just stick with the easy questions.