From the archives of 2013:
“I don’t have a sense of smell.”
“What?” I look up from the puppy I am holding. I’d been sniffing the top of his head and relishing the smell, knowing it would fade in a few weeks.
“I don’t have a sense of smell.” Raymond shrugs his shoulders, puts one puppy down and scoops up another. There are eight of them tumbling around, pulling on our shoelaces, biting the hems of our shorts, teeth getting caught in the edges of our socks, sharp puppy nails scratching our legs as they attempt to climb our laps. It’s a struggle not to flinch as they move from whisker-tickle to pinch.
“How can you not have a sense of smell?”
“Just don’t. Born that way. Can’t smell a rotten egg.”
“That’s not a bad thing," I say.
“I guess not, but I can’t smell something burning either.”
“Oh.” I take another sniff of the puppy I am holding. I can’t stop myself. It smells so good, a curious mix of warm milk and newness. It comes right out of their breath and skin.
Raymond’s got another, too. Holding it close, he is covered with puppy kisses and nose nibbles. Sweet puppy breath must be washing over him, sticking to his face. After a moment, he puts the puppy down, almost sadly, and says, “I’ll never know what they smell like, that new puppy smell.”
The above is partly true. I had a neighbor growing up who did not have a sense of smell. He was born that way. I thought it was strange and almost funny until one day he listed for me the things he couldn’t smell, and never would. It was then that I realized how important our sense of smell is. We identify many things –emotions and memories especially– by certain smells.
So, here’s your task: Record what you smell.
Much like listening in and noticing the sounds around you, tuning in to smells will strengthen your writing.
Start with your home. Stand in different areas, close your eyes, and record what you smell.
Go outside. Do the same thing.
When you run out if places to smell begin thinking of smells you like and those you don’t. Think of them in varying degrees; chart them as weak smells and strong smells. For example, you may not like the smell of fish, but you abhor the smell of vomit – especially when it splashes down next to you. (Yeah, totally gross, but you get the point!)