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©January 2001

Carol Jane Remsburg



The Fragrance of Living




How little we recognize our shadow sense.  It's the one we use most often and rarely realize.  Oh, if we are fully endowed, we have our sight, our touch, our taste, our hearing, and then—well, then we have our sense of smell.  Of all our five senses it is often the most dependable and the one we rely on when a sixth sense signals something amiss.


Our sense of sight, touch, and hearing allow us many things yet without our olfactory senses working overtime, we'd miss much in this life.  Taste is housed in there but is so intimately entwined with our sense of smell that our meals would become something of a chore rather than a delight.


When we awake in the morning all our senses are working even when they'd rather not.  Our sleep-scented sheets beckon us back into our dreams and away from the blaring alarm.  If given any opportunity to delve way from the early morning darkness we'd take it.  No warning alarms sound so we must arise.


If we didn't respond to our shuffling selves and the artificial light and the warmth of the shower, we'd revel in the perfume of soap and shampoo.  After the morning shower we always feel more alive—even before coffee.


The coffee arrives housed in heavy porcelain and coaxed with cream.  There are all forms of coffee from the best, early morning in our homes, to the imitation often found in the workplace, the stale/burnt sort found in waiting rooms of every sort around the globe, and the after dinner variety.  Discernment requires nothing more than scent to detail it down to identification. 


Throughout the rest of the day, other senses take the fore.  Sight, feel, and touch often overwhelm us—right up until we feed.  Then a good meal whether it be lunch or dinner can surprise us.  However, we often give little heed to it.


We rush about here and there feeling we can't keep the pace.  Then we come home.  It's our refuge.  Believe it or not, the first thing isn't merely the sight of home.  We know we have arrived only after we open the door and stride inside, embraced by our own lair.  There is no place like home.  Dorothy come lately from Oz proclaimed it and it is so.  No hovel is so drab that relief and welcome doesn't meet us at the door.


Two days ago we began a winter thaw.  It's been terrifically frigid for weeks.  The air was so cold that breathing burned the nose and isolated any outdoor scents.  The weather warmed and invited me to air my laundry rather than stuff it into the dryer.  Frugal though I am, I prefer the fragrance of the open air touched to my laundry and linens rather than the dryer.  Over a month ago I had to give it up.  The days had become too short and the nights too cold.  Nothing would dry properly, so I awaited my chance.


As far as scents in my life that were all encompassing to me were myriad.  However, a few I'll share with you.  The smell of snuggling with my mother when I was little, the bower of honeysuckle at my grandmother's house out in the sticks, the English Boxwoods/Upright Yews in the church yard, and the smell of Mom's kitchen when she was baking breads or cooking any of her signature dishes—or rather anything she was cooking at all.  There was also the tang of the brackish water of low tide on the river as we tried to shove the old boat off into the icky mess.  The scent of security was Daddy and his shirts with refrigerant chemicals. 


It was all of those things and many more appeared just as you opened the door of the house and came inside.  There were all there, somewhere.  It was an indefinable sort of thing.  Nothing has the smell of home unless it is yours.  Each is individual.  You know it when you've visited elsewhere.  Your nose does know and filters it all instantly.  You aren't home but it will attempt to discern what you know and what you don't in order to set you at ease or to alarm you.


There are foods that will either beckon us or put us off as with places and people too.  Yet one thing stands fully apart and individual to me—separate somehow from all the rest.  As my mother and father are no more and my family home is gone and my own home seems relatively stable, the one thing that sends me into the heavens is my linens.  No dryer sheet or laundry softener can recreate the perfume of freshly aired sheets and blankets.  They can fragrance the entire house. 


They now sell the 'fragrance' of fresh linen in bath/shower scents, household disinfectant, and laundry detergents/softeners—yet they will never recreate it.  Yesterday, under rain-promised but warmer skies, I hung out my sheets and blankets from the washer.  I held my breath for hours with hope that I wouldn't have to stuff them back into the dryer.  I managed to bring them in dry just before the rains came.


This wasn't the savings of a few dollars in electricity.  Tight though I am, I'm not that stingy.  What I managed was a gift in January.  It was fresh and sweet and almost heavy in want.  The sudden warming had unleashed any earthy warming from the ground.  The skies may have been gray but there offerings were great.  The house was warm and scented with candles and food.  Somehow it was augmented and overrun with the clean, clear scent of freshness.  It was sweet and innocence.  High summer can't offer this.  Normally it can only be garnered in spring or fall.  In winter it's a rare gift.  It's a gift I accepted gratefully.  The perfume lasts only a few hours and never until the next morning.  God's gifts are fleeting and we should never refuse them.  Awake tomorrow and devour the goodness of innocence. 



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