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.

49 thoughts on “On a Beach Walk: No. 50 (Smell)

  1. It’s so true about how a certain scent will trigger a memory. Sometimes, it actually happens that I think back on something and I can actually gain my sense of smell as per that memory.

    Interesting post, Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent song choice to go with this post Frank – I was already humming it in my head as I read 🙂 Fresh cut grass is a winner too any time of the year and I do love the smell of fresh salt laden air down by sea! Reading this made me think of how much I watch Siddy when we are on the beach – his nose is constantly quivering as he picks up scents that are way beyond my ability. He lifts his head and scents the wind then turns in the direction that holds the most promise….. Dogs live in such a rich, scent laden world. I am curious to know what it is like.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pauline,
      Glad this walk hit home for you. Great point about Siddy. Dogs out for a walk seem to be relishing the opportunity to use their smell. I wonder how acute their sense of smell is. Then again, I wonder what the downside of that would be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, apparently we have about 6 million smell receptors and dogs have 300 million. And the part of the brain that analyzes those smells is proportionally 40 times larger than a humans. I have a book called ‘Inside of a Dog’ written by Alexandra Horowitz which contains that and loads of other extremely interesting information about what a dog is doing and why. It’s made observing my dog a hundred percent more interesting 🙂


  3. As usual, I love your musings. Smell is such a powerful sense–and one that is said to be the best at triggering memory. Family meals, walks on the beach or in the desert–I do love the smell of rain in the desert Thanks for helping me remember so many scents!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patti,
      Thank you and glad you walked along. Now you have me wondering about the smell of rain – therefore wondering how the smell of rain in the desert is different. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Your opening sentence always pulls me in and sets the stage for your post. Then you pull us back to the beach at the end with the same comforting words. You are so right on smell and how it triggers memories and places. Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jo,
      Thanks for the kind words. I remember not only coming up with that line – but that getting the idea to use them as the bookends for each walk … so your comment made me smile.


  5. I love the beach air engulfing my being as I walk on the soft wet sand. I agree that certain scents bring back memories we aren’t even aware of. I LOVE the scent of baked bread 🥖
    I grew up across from a Wonder bread factory. They baked all night. The scent permeating through the open windows at night in summer was comforting. Great thoughts on the scent of smell.
    Isadora 😎

    Liked by 1 person

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