by Elizabeth Pass, Cohort VI
for the July 2022 issue of Headwaters Highlights
Welcome to July! Farmers’ Markets, backyard BBQs, fresh lemonade, and lazy afternoons under any shade you can find. Everything is blooming and buzzing so this month I want to share a couple of finds focusing on smells and sounds.
July Is for Smells
In Revelations in Air: A Guidebook to Smell, Jude Stewart states that “Learning to smell is all about noticing — tuning into an often-neglected sense that surrounds us daily.” In her book, she offers great ideas to tune into our smell.
Create a smell journal. Creating a smell journal doesn’t have to be fancy if you aren’t fond of journaling. It can be a text doc on your phone, a daily note in a Notes app, or a quick jot on a paper calendar.
The goal is to notice one smell daily and jot down some observations about that smell, don’t just identify the smell but describe it. For the author of Revelations in Air, this exercise gave an expected and unexpected benefit. Stewart states, “The expected benefit was what I was aiming for: It heightened my awareness of everyday smells. If you’re trying to notice just one smell every day, you will inevitably notice more than one . . . . Now for the unexpected benefit: noticing smells is a really emotionally evocative way to journal, period. Paging back through smell entries, you can’t help but remember other aspects of those days, the weather, the texture of the day, etc.”
Compare similar smells. If you want less commitment over time, this idea is interesting. Pull together several similar smells and compare them. For example, if you like to cook and have several types of a similar spice or seasoning/item (e.g., salt), take a pinch of each and put them in separate small bowls or spoons, and then sniff them in turn. At the first pass, they may smell similar but then you will start to notice differences among them. Stewart suggests to, “Take a minute to study those differences, then maybe test your knowledge blindfolded with a friend. This exercise built my confidence that I could actually improve at smelling.”
July Is for Sounds
I found two wonderful sites to listen to and also that you can add to!
tree.fm. I first learned of this site while reading Improvised Life and came across the article,
Tree.fm: Listen to Forests Around the World and Plant Some Trees. tree.fm is an easy-to-use site, with a Chrome extension, that lets you listen to amazing recordings of forests from all over the world. Each page has two links, Next Forest Please and Plant Some Trees. Not only can you listen to some beautiful sounds of forests but also you can do good. tree.fm has partnered with Ecosia, a search engine that uses profits from searches to plant trees where they are needed around the world.
earth.fm. A similar site calls itself “like Spotify, but for natural soundscapes.” This non-profit site has contributors collecting natural soundscapes from all over the world, from a Black Howler Monkey in Mexico to Gulls on the Ice in Russia to the Tierra de Fuego in Argentina. As you look at the world map and click on choices or search by types to listen to, you can choose to add a sound to a playlist to create your own unique playlists. You are also able to add to the natural soundscapes.
– Elizabeth Pass, Cohort VI, for the July 2022 edition of Headwaters Highlights