Our Senses Are Our Allies
We have access to the very life and intelligence of the universe through the superpowers of our senses.
My sense of smell has always been a source of pleasure and curiosity. When I was a young girl, I would head to the woods, my nose quivering (or so I imagined) as the smells of pine, leaves, damp moss, and soil were released by my footsteps. I’d stick my nose deep into my mother’s dark red, climbing roses — how fragrant they were! The spicy deliciousness of blousy peonies! And the unmistakable sign spring really was on the way: the scent of snow melt! It never occurred to me that losing my ability to smell (anosmia) was even a possibility.
But it happened (pre-Covid), beginning in the summer of 2018, the year I moved from Maine to New York to be closer to my sons and grandchildren, and to focus on making natural perfumes. In the beginning, there were times when I could smell and times when I couldn’t. Gradually the anosmic periods increased until my anosmia was total. All told, I experienced six months of intermittent loss and four months of complete anosmia.
I researched everything I could find on the subject. What caused it? Most often viral infections, sinus problems, polyps, head injury. Could it be cured? Sometimes, if you were lucky. It was terrifying; anosmia wasn’t considered a big deal and there was very little interest or money for research. (Thanks to Covid, this is starting to change.)
Anosmia is an invisible loss. People can still see, hear, drive. Unless their job depends on the ability to smell — as mine did — they can still live a “normal” life. There is some acknowledgement of the safety implications, but very little attention is given to the emotional impacts of being “nose blind.”
Yet, I felt as though a part of me had died. Waking up — no smell of coffee or even poop in the kitty litter. I loved cooking for my family, but no more. No smell of musk from damp earth. My daughter-in-law was pregnant and I feared I wouldn’t experience that beautiful new baby smell ever again. I lived in a bubble that separated me from everyone I loved, and even from myself. When I’d walk by the desk and shelves that serve as my perfumery, lined with hundreds of little bottles of aromatic delight, all I wanted to do was sweep my arm and smash them to tiny pieces.
No longer did a whiff of something bring back a memory of my grandmother’s dressing table, or a fleeting scent bring back in a flash a place or event so long forgotten it was like it didn’t exist. I felt like I was losing parts of my very being. As my life fell flat, joy receded. When I wasn’t actively doing something, I was depressed. There were times I simply did not want to live, as dramatic as it sounds.
Finally, in April 2019, my ENT appointment arrived and I was diagnosed with inflammatory polyps that responded well to non-surgical treatment. Within a few days my smell began to return. Within a month it was mostly restored, and when my new grandson was born I was blessed with that sweet new baby smell! Over the weeks and months that followed, my sense of smell grew keener until finally the intuitive connection between my olfactory abilities and my memory of scent returned.
Now I am the Goddess of Scent. Walking with my family in the woods, I draw their attention to the sweet balsam fragrance made so much sweeter by the heat of the summer sun. Or bend down, dig a hole, and invite their little noses to explore the damp, musky, mossy soil. Or — a favorite -— picking fungi and snapping it open to release its unmistakable dusky scent into the air. I draw attention to the myriad fragrances of a storm blowing in — sweet hay, resinous pine, blooming goldenrod, the musk of decomposing leaves, then lightning flashes and a metallic note releases as the wind picks up. All of these are gifts, our bodies tuned to the energy, our senses picking out the nuances, with every pore open in our being. We are living vessels of sensation and feeling, dancing with the joy and magic of it all. This is what it means to be human!
My experience with anosmia changed me and added a new dimension to my work and purpose in the world. I never take my ability to smell for granted, and I have a greater appreciation for my other senses that seem to be keener as well. Perhaps my nose has invited them to come along for the ride. This has enriched my life in countless ways, and enabled me to focus on beauty and promise, despite the constant barrage of frightening news. My senses are my biggest allies.
Facing Our Past, Moving Into The Future
Our ancient ancestors utilized their senses as a matter of course, and often relied on them for specific information, something most in this culture have long forgotten. One of the many strands of thought author Betty J. Kovács explores in Merchants of Light (The Kamlak Center, 2019) is our senses, and how they were deliberately maligned, along with traditional women’s ways of knowing. The true nature of our intimacy with Earth and all life, as well as our knowledge of spirit and consciousness, were literally stolen from us. This can be traced to when the Christian hierarchy consolidated power, land, and riches by persecuting land-based peoples — our ancient ancestors — destroying their sacred groves, caves, and other places of power.
When our ancestors were killed, or driven off their lands and forced into serfdom, whether in their own lands or forced onto ships to be sold into slavery, we lost more than conventional history teaches us. Over the centuries we forgot the real power of our senses — not because they are gone, as tonsils are removed with surgery — but through neglect and denial. Our ears lost the ability to hear other-than-human voices, our eyes no longer saw the life force in all beings. We could no longer perceive the deep sonorous tones of rocks, or the intelligence of plants. The living world of minerals, plants, dirt and water became just so much material stuff — resources and commodities, not living beings as the gifts they truly are.
But our senses have not disappeared. Their keenest intuitive perceptions are still available to us, simply hibernating, waiting to be awakened. Ask the wind when it’s wild and when it’s calm. Sit with rocks and boulders; lie on them. Honor the waters. Marvel at the life in soil, the myriad varieties of moss and lichens and fungi; let them nourish your spirit. No matter where you live, there is beauty and nature. Even a weed pushing through a small crack in cement matters, and may have a message for you. Delve deep. Feel. Listen. Keep your heart open. Let the energy flow in and through and out. Do this over and over, in different places at different times until it becomes second nature — and it will.
Everyone and everything we come into contact with vibrates with energy that we not only perceive but dance with. For example, in addition to hearing with our physical ears, we hear telepathically or intuitively as well. I converse with trees and have since childhood, and I mean that quite literally. At the corner of our driveway lived a huge white pine that split into two about 10 feet up. I loved this tree and took my sadness and joy to her. Mostly my communication with trees is in words that I hear with my inner ear, though I often talk to the tree out loud.
Communicating with non-human elements of our world are often denigrated as figments of our imagination, but children are born with this intuitive sight, hearing, knowing and will retain these abilities if they are acknowledged and respected. Unfortunately, our culture teaches well-meaning parents to slam the door on this aspect of being human, ultimately teaching our children they cannot trust themselves.
In order to hear what Earth is saying, we need to believe it is possible, desire that it happen, and let the love flow. When doubts creep in and you wonder, “Was that real or my imagination?”, let the doubts go and share your experiences with others, which can help them recognize their own experiences. Note: Sometimes you may feel the land itself is sharing something with you, or you may feel pain or discomfort. When I witnessed my first clear cut in the Pacific Northwest, I felt as though I had been kicked hard in the stomach, and the emotional pain was intense. Earth is in pain now, and many places especially need our love and healing energy. If this happens to you, share it widely!
My intuition tells me more people are waking up now than ever before to who we are and why we are here. Awakened, we are strong. We are resilient. We have access to the wisdom and the love of all who have preceded us, and to the very life and intelligence of the universe through the superpowers of our senses. We are more than our physical bodies, as Earth is more than inert elements, and we don’t have a moment to waste.
Susan Meeker-Lowry is an herb and fragrance lover, and owner of Gaia’s Garden Herbals, a home-based business offering hand-crafted, small-batch herbal skin care products, creams, salves, serums, and natural perfumes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her shop at www.etsy.com/shop/GaiasGardenHerbals.