On a Beach Walk: No. 50 (Smell)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

As I walk, air along the gulf coast has a certain freshness that vitalizes the soul. The salt and a bit of fish or other marine life seems to permeate the sense of smell.

I think about how smell and taste influence each other. The sommelier smells the wine first, then tastes – and smell influences that taste – then the sommelier may smell again, followed by another sip to taste, and then even repeating this cycle of experiencing enhancement.

I think about the times when walking into the house from the outside to be greeted by the aroma of a food feast is in the midst of preparation for a family meal. Smells that we recognize – smells that trigger memories – smell that make our mouths water in anticipation.

I think of the smells many of us recognize – burning leaves of autumn – grilling steaks – newly cut grass – freshness of a flower.

I think of chemistry class as a teacher taught us to wave one hand over a beaker or test tube toward our nose to catch a scent – especially wonderful esters that are part of the flavor industry.

I think of products with distinct smells – whether roses, leather goods, pungent ammonia, or many more in nature and as manufactured products.

I think about how smell and taste are two senses working in tandem to enhance the other. We have many more different specialized sensors detecting smell than taste – yet the wine sommelier uses both to develop descriptors for that wonderful fruit of the vine.

I think about pheromones – the chemicals that living things release outside the body for a variety of reasons as attracting a mate, defense, marking territory, alarm, and more. Although we humans also have natural pheromones, sometimes we chose to add a scent of our choice.

I think about those who cannot smell. What a world they are missing. Yes, they are fortunate to miss the bad and unpleasant – but smells absence is a misfortunate when encountering the flowery, the essence of a spice, the sensuality of freshly-cleaned skin, and more.

I think about how smells are personal. Not only can smells trigger memories, each of us can smell something different from the same object as each of our brains interpret those smells differently. Each of us may associate a smell with a different event in our past – some pleasant, others no so.

Yet, we have something in common. Our smell sensors are in the same location. After detection, the sensory impulses travel to the same part of the brain, which interprets that smell for our analysis – yet we may perceive the smell differently in the analysis

We can walk in the same air, but smell is personal. Each of us my detect something different or interpret the same smell differently.

I enjoy smelling the sea air when I walk, after all walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.