SENSORS OPERATIONAL / SOCK HUFFING / GRASS DEFENSE / DANK JAR WITH OLD FIRE / WORF SOUP / HEALING WITH WHOLE FOODS / RESOLVING GRIEF AND SADNESS / SOCK HUFFING REVISITED / ME AND MINE / LINKS
In the first few months of the pandemic, when I was combing through data trying to pick out the meaningful and the helpful, and not get overwhelmed by the dire and hopeless, I read that a sudden loss of smell is potentially an early indicator that you have it, even absent of any other symptoms. It isn't this way all the time or for everyone, but it was something to look out for. I seized on it, and held onto it.
This was about the same time that I started washing and drying my laundry at home, and my socks were hanging on the line, so I grabbed one and took a deep whiff. At first I was alarmed-- I couldn't smell it. But then I realized that the correct feeling was pride-- the reason I couldn't smell the sock was because I did a good job washing. So I went to the kitchen and stuck my face in the coffee beans. Smell was flowing no problem.
Since then, smelling things has been a great comfort to me. And even when the smell is bad, my thoughts quickly move from "yuck" to "still got it". Moving around outside with the mask on limits the sorts of smells I'm exposed to, which is a drag, but when I get home and take the mask off, all the smells pop even more, and it's delightful. It's like when you take off your rollerskates and it feels like you can jump super high, or when you leave a movie theatre in the daytime. I've never really prioritized "household smell" before, but now I'm leaning into it, and taking deep whiffs at any opportune moment. I recommend you do the same. Some recent indoor hits:
I started growing wheatgrass in the kitchen, for juicing purposes, but partly to experiment with or take baby steps towards the idea of growing food indoors (?). Wheatgrass is easy to grow, the juice is suprisingly sweet (considering I barely eat sugar nowadays), and the smell of fresh cut grass is a classic. In one of my nature shows they said that the smell of fresh cut plants is a defensive alarm that the plants put out, to attract that which feeds on that which feeds on them. Like if fish are munching on plankton on the surface of the sea, the bruised plankton release a "fresh cut grass" smell that sea birds pick up on, miles away, and they zip over to eat the fish. This saves the plankton from being over-eaten. It's a pretty good system! I'm guessing the same thing happens regarding bugs that eat grass, and the birds that eat them. Luckily there isn't a bird alive that could eat me, so the smell of fresh cut grass is simply pleasant and that's all.
Unrelated to the smell of cut grass is the smell of a nice little terrarium- it's a jar with dirt and plants in it and every now and then you open it up and take a deeeeeeeeep whiff, it's great. Cut grass is airy and sweet but this is dark and dank and substantial, intoxicating. I'll put a link in the bottom for a how-to vid but basically the terrarium is like this:
It's moss, growing on dirt, which has a drainage layer to prevent it from getting too soggy. To keep the dirt out of the drainage layer use a piece of window screen, or if you don't have that, a piece of thin plastic with holes poked in it. The moss you get outside somewhere, just find some moss and take a little bit of it. The drainage layer is a half inch of small rocks but you could use anything that won't soak up water- dice, broken up pieces of GI Joes, etc.. The charcoal you can get at a hardware store or grocery (lumpwood charcoal, with no accellerant added) or get the good stuff at a garden store, or you could just like, burn a small log outside then let the coals cool off and use that. Smash the charcoal into little pieces first. The screen keeps the soil separate from the drainage- without it the soil will wick up moisture and your drainage layer just won't work.
I put a few kinds of moss all together because I'm assuming some of them aren't going to make it in the long hall, and others might, and I don't know who's who. Water it enough that water just starts to drips down to the drainage layer, then put the lid on. It should be ok without another watering for a while, because the water evaporates up, condenses on the inside of the jar, and drips down again. The charcoal filters the water on each pass of this cycle, and also prevents mold from growing.
Of course you can get creative with it and put other kinds of plants in other than moss, but I recommend doing one that's just moss, simply because moss rules. In my experience other tiny plants will start growing too, they tend to ride in with the moss.
The important part here is opening it up every now and then and taking a deeeeeeeeep whiiiiiiiiiff, which is very nice.
I checked in on Healing With Whole Foods last Autumn, just to like, make a game plan for lung support. You guys ever get into this book? It's the best. It's kind of a shame that when you say "Whole Foods" now people immediately think of the Bezos-owned hellchain of the same name, which is to be avoided, but the book is unrelated, from 1993, and a great resource for people interested in traditional Chinese medicine and/or just eating good and being healthy. Anyway there was a great bit on the lungs, in re: Autumn, and in re: grief:
Resolving Grief and Sadness
Grief is the emotion associated with the lungs and colon. Grief that is expressed and resolved strengthens the internal basis of health, but repressed grief causes long-term contraction in the lungs, which interferes with their function of dispersing nutrients and qi; ultimately, the lungs become congested with undistributed matter. Virtually everyone with lung and colon problems, regardless of the source of the problem, has unresolved sadness that needs to be cleared. Understanding the inward nature of this emotion offers a clue to working with it.
The contracting force of grief, if used constructively, clears repression: it encourages us to look within, to identify unresolved sorrows, and to transform them by simply being mindful of them. Sharing such feelings with others can also help dissipate them. By focusing internally, one heals those areas where deep illness may otherwise develop. Turbid emotions and thoughts can be cleansed by long, deep breathing. The expansive quality of pungent foods, the ﬂavor that ﬁrst “enters” the lungs, can assist in clearing grief.
"The flavor that first enters the lungs"-- that's a great riff on rich food well seasoned and cooked for a long time, and it got me thinking about filling the house with delicious smells as not just a side effect of cooking but a secondary goal, one that promotes deep breathing and assists in the clearing of grief. To that end I've been really enjoying black bean soup with tomatoes potatoes oregano sage garlic cayenne salt and fresh ground pepper, cooked all day if possible. At first it was just another "soup made with food that's around" but it came out so good I had to name it to refer to it later. Without really thinking why, I called it Worf Soup. Well I know why, because of Worf from Star Trek: the Next Generation, but the why behind that is more subtle. I mean it's not like he eats this on the show-- he eats gagh and bregit lung and rokeg blood pie and so on. But I guess he's similar to the soup in that he's also strong and deep and we love him, and his sweetness is revealed only after a long time.
I know this is going to seem perverse but every now and then I still take a li'l sniff from the socks drying on the line in the window. Partly it's to see if my hand laundry skills are waning, partly it's just to jam on wet wool, a smell of adventure and coming home. There are many outside smells I miss-- I didn't get that autumn smell of teenagers passing a jellybean blunt down the street, because puff puff pass is temporarily outlawed. Same thing with the romantic winter smell of far away perfume and cigarettes when it's so cold your boogers freeze-- you can't catch that one with all the clubs closed. I'm not going sledding or walking home through slush from my friend's house, but I'm happy I can still find that "outerwear drying over the heater" smell, even if it's coming from a different vector. Even if it's a little melancholic, it's still nice. It's a nice smell. If we get snow this week I'm going to go out there.
If you guys are jamming on any all-time smells, drop me a line, I'd love to hear about it! Classics, combos, rare variants, whatever.
links / misc
I know I mentioned Healing With Whole Foods before, it's great. It's a big book but it's well-organized so you can zip right to the part you want to read. And it's written in clear, concise language. If you're at all interested in Chinese medicine or the health benefits of food I strongly recommend it. Here's a link to an ebay search, looks like as of this writing there are a couple available for under $20-- [ebay]
I linked to this before but I think this is the best terrarium/vivarium guy on youtube - [youtube].
Oh yeah, a few people wrote to me asking if I still have the door patches that I announced last week, the answer is yes, I had a bunch made so I'll have them for a long time. If you want one just hit up the temple area: [link]