Blog #46: The Five Senses — Smell

Blog #46: The Five Senses — Smell

When I was a young boy, I liked the smell of gasoline. My family would drive to a gas station, and I would enjoy watching the air change, as the vapor of petroleum permeated the atmosphere with its thick, hazy ribbons of distilled crude oil. Perhaps it was a liking that I acquired through early exposure to combustion, rather than a "natural" attraction I was born with. I'm not sure. But I do remember the sensation vividly, and that memory has somehow tied itself into recovery and transcendence.

It's been said that smell is very much linked to memory, even more so than the other four senses. In the same way a hound dog can trace a scent across a long distance, so can the human mind be triggered into recalling a distant memory based on a particular smell. Maybe decades will pass after the occurrence of a certain event, but with the right kind of stimuli, it can be remembered as if it were yesterday.

My good friend recently gifted me a small vial of distilled Hawaiian sandalwood. The fragrance brought back memories of my time in San Francisco, when I lived next door to an incense maker. I would walk into his tiny shop and be overwhelmed by the potency of his concoctions. The room was curtained, smoky, dark, mysterious...just like him. When I would re-emerge into the courtyard, it was like coming back from another dimension. After I had spent a considerable amount of time around him and gained his trust, he told me that the shop was more than a storefront—it was a temple. He conducted rituals and supposedly acted as a spiritual medium to higher dimensions during the dark of night. There were hints of inviting me, but I moved back to Tampa before I had a chance to partake.

Recently, I learned that he tragically died in a house fire. The metaphorical and ceremonial style of his spiritual approach was very much on the edge...playing with flames, as it were. His death is a somber reminder for me to stay on guard with my own tendencies towards venturing into volatile places. In AYP, the art of self-pacing is very important. Knowing when to accelerate, knowing when to back off, and firmly balancing on the proverbial edge of the razor. Not that the path has to be dangerous, but that it requires vigilance and caution when confronting the elements, inside and out.

Walt Whitman wrote: "Houses and rooms are full of perfumes. The shelves are crowded with perfumes. I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it. The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it. The atmosphere is not a perfume; it has no taste of the distillation. It is odorless. It is for my mouth forever. I am in love with it."

There is a falling in love with the purity of untainted air. There is a wisdom to being wary of artificial alchemy that might intoxicate oneself into a delirious stupor. There is a call for cleanliness and natural consciousness.

In my pre-sobriety days, I smoked DMT only one time, and I distinctly remember how odd and unpleasant the smell of the chemical powder was. It was strange. There I was, exhaling a big toke from the bong, with my neighbor (a chemist who had synthesized the product himself) taking the pipe from my hand because I was unable to set it down due to the instant and ridiculously intense wave of inebriation that hit me like a lightning bolt. Unlike Whitman, I had let myself get intoxicated by "the distillation". And I zoomed off into what seemed to be a celestial realm, full of light, beauty, and sentient beings.

Was the place artificial, like the smell of burnt DMT? Or was it real and organic, like the hazy, mountain mist of the the warm breeze on a beach along the Gulf of the saturated air of a redwood forest in northern California?

I wish I could speak definitively on the matter, but like the aforementioned hound dog scampering along a winding and mysterious trail, I am still sniffing for answers and clues. But this time, the hints being dropped are much more promising, because they're coming from a trailblazer who's gone farther than I can possibly imagine or ascertain.

Day by day, my nose grows more acutely aware of where to find the elusive dream I've been seeking.


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