Does it hit you with a punch like it hits me? The rainy, mineralic smell of spring as you step outside these days? It’s spring, new smells are all around, and it’s a great time to celebrate our sense of smell.
Many of us will have learned about anosmia, the loss of smell, from the early days of Covid when the loss of smell was one of the symptoms of the disease. Anosmia can be complete or partial, in which case your sensitivity to all smells is blunted. The loss of smell can have a much wider impact than your nose: it also affects your ability to taste; many who lose smell also lose their appetite; some even suffer from depression. Anosmia can result from both disease and from chronic conditions like nasal polyps, which affect 4% of Canadians. If you have noticed either a partial or total loss of smell, talk to your doctor. You can learn more about anosmia and nasal polyps here.
Celebrate a Scent Memory
A campaign to raise awareness about anosmia recently paired Canadians who have lost their sense of smell with artists who brought their scent memories to life. Jeff Preyra shared his scent memories of the skating rink from when he was in middle school, and I was so grateful for his take on the smells he associates with the arena. He described the crisp smell of the ice, the smell of hot dogs from the concession stand, the sensation of flying as he learned to skate faster and faster, and the taste of watery hot chocolate that was a treat after coming off of the ice. I found these memories so powerful because, as a mother of three hockey players, my scent associations at the rink are far less pleasant! His take on the smells of the arena helped me appreciate all of the more positive facets of that scent space, and the art that Ryan Helstern created underscored the joy so cheerfully. The image is all the more poignant for how the concrete images seem to emerge from a fog, and this, too, drove home to me the importance of treasuring the health of my sense of smell.
Inspired by this event to appreciate and to celebrate my own sense of smell, I have been diving into the scents around me: home fragrance and the smells on my walks.
I was thrilled to get the chance to make a custom candle at Kandl Artistique’s newest candle-making workshop Glowness Lab, which emphasizes wellness through essential oils.
At Glowness Lab, you begin by setting an intention for your scent space. I loved this step because it helps to narrow the purpose of the fragrance you’re creating. A scent to stimulate will be very different from a scent to calm. Next, you smell your way through five crown, five heart and five root notes for your candle. Your custom candle with be a combination of three of these fragrances. You learn the properties of each fragrance as they are introduced, and you have time to explore the facets of the aromas. My favourite part was noting my response to each fragrance as I made my selection. (Top tip: listen to the sounds you make when you smell something. If you find yourself groaning with pleasure, that’s the one for you!) The expert chandlers make a potentially overwhelming selection of fragrances feel rich in choice without feeling overwhelming. Finally, you combine your fragrances with the molten wax and pour it into your 10 oz glass vessel. For a finishing touch, you choose a name for your fragrance that gets printed onto your custom label.
I chose lemongrass, basil and oakmoss for a bright and earthy candle I called Lift. That’s exactly what it does: it lifts my spirits delightfully and it makes me immeasurably happy!
Glowness Lab is the newest addition to Kandle’s custom candle creating workshops. It’s such a fun hands-on experience that would be great for a date night, a class to share with a girlfriend or a teen. With a 10 oz candle, you go home with many hours of burning time to extend the experience in space and time. Classes are $110 and include a welcome cocktail. Learn more here. Kandl also has a huge range of scented candles for sale, and I found many new brands and fragrances to love on their shelves. (Looking at you Boy Smells Gardener!)
Take a Scent Walk
From home fragrance to the great outdoors!
As a way to celebrate and exercise your sense of smell, try taking a walk in which your focus is to pay attention to all the smells you encounter: from the first smell on your doorstep, to the smell of wet earth, to the exhaust from cars on the road, to the smells from the doors of stores, to the smells from the trails you’re walking. The mental health benefits of mindfulness are well established, and mindfulness has been much on our minds as we emerge from the depths of winter. One way to focus your mindfulness practice is through smell. It’s so surprising how many smells are out there once you begin to pay close attention.
The host of one of my favourite podcasts about perfume asks all of her guests to say what their home cities smell like, and I’m always astounded that they can narrow it down to one smell. If I had to choose just one, my favourite Toronto smell is of linden blossom in June; it wafts across the whole neighbourhood, it’s familiar and fleeting, and it’s the sign that summer has arrived.
I put mindfulness about smell into practice on my March Break holiday in San Diego, and in addition to capturing memories of our trip in pictures, I focused on noting the smells I encountered as we went on hikes and as I walked through the markets. It made me slow down and take notice in a new way. I have come back from San Diego with profoundly joyful memories of the black sage and lemon blossom and eucalyptus I smelled on my walks.
However you choose to celebrate it, our sense of smell can bring so much pleasure and add so much dimension to our enjoyment of our spaces. Cheers to our noses!