Sniff, Sniff

For the first several weeks of my sabbatical, I had a cold (it was a lovely gift my husband brought home from work and couldn’t resist sharing). I wasn’t sick in bed, but I had a stuffy nose for ages. Yesterday I declared that, at long last, I could smell again.

First I noticed the lilac bush. We have two, each with a different bloom time, and the first is a pretty light purple with a strong scent. I kept thinking that it must be my clean clothes I could smell (fabric softener?) or my hair (shampoo?) but then would look up and realize I was near that bush again.

Then late Sunday afternoon the kids and I went for ‘a walk in the woods’. We have done this since they were babies, crossing Neyagawa and walking the trails along the Sixteen Mile Creek. It’s always lovely–pretty in the winter months, cool and shady in the summer. Sometimes we would take a picnic of sorts–usually some kind of sweet treat and a few bottles of water–which would make it feel like a significant outing. Years ago we would take the stroller and stick to the wide gravel paths. Now that everyone travels under their own steam, we tend to make our way down the steep embankment and stop at one particular spot where some large rocks make a good resting place. The kids like to skip rocks and toss sticks into the water there.

Yesterday, as I sat at the river’s edge (all of us were careful to keep our distance, mind you–there is a strong spring current!) I revelled in the smell. It was damp leaves and new grass and fresh air, earthy and fragrant. And since my sense of smell had been out of commission for so long, I kept taking deep breath after deep breath. I almost hyperventilated.

As I sat sniffing and sniffing, my mind was drawn back to the many other times and places where that same woodsy smell has surrounded me: canoe trips on the French, Spanish and Temagami Rivers, early morning meetings at Camp Iona, camping at Kearney Lake in Algonquin Park with the kids. Those are sweet memories, and I enjoyed holding them in my mind.

The older I get the more I realize how precious memories are. Good times are nice enough, but to be able to go back in my mind and savour them is a gift, too. How blessed I am to have those experiences of delight and beauty, friendship and adventure. And how blessed I am to encounter a fresh, forest scent and be invited to relive them, even for a moment.

My nose works again, and I’m glad.

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