It wasn’t a dark and stormy day when I entered the Barnes and Noble bookstore but when departing an hour later the streets were damp, glossy and a bit steamy. There had been a sprinkle. On the first step out the door my nose was struck by the slight pungency of newly moistened dirt. I felt a mild exultation as I looked up at the passing cumulonimbus and smiled and intentionally slowly took in another breath hoping for a little more ecstasy. But, no … it was gone.

Why had my nose failed me in so simple a request? I slowly drew in another long breath through my nose only and kept on drawing but there was no new pungency, no smell at all and no pleasure but there was a growing frustration. I don’t like being denied my simple pleasures! I have learned to stifle my negative feelings at being blocked at the grander human pleasures, like the hoped for respect of my fellow human beings for discovering and revealing new ideas to them. That’s no surprise and it’s perhaps too much to ask of this world but not being able to sniff the air for a second whiff of sweetly scented soil … that’s something that needs to be looked into and corrected.

After reminiscing on those sordid thoughts for a few seconds I began experimenting with different ways to sniff the air and soon discovered that the velocity of air going through my nostrils was proportional to the intensity of the pungency of the air. If the velocity was slow, even if I paid close attention to the sensation, I couldn’t smell a thing. If I inhaled quickly the scent was clear and distinctly pungent. And if I inhaled moderately quickly the pungency was in between. Furthermore, I could only perceive the pungent odor while the air was flowing and the instant I stopped inhaling I stopped perceiving the odor.

That pungency experience is very different from eating chocolate where the odor can be very slow to begin being sensed, sometimes taking half a minute to be perceived but once it is, it can be continuously enjoyed for over a minute. However, I discovered that eating a single bite of banana before chocolate will destroy the goodness of the chocolate experience and make it like eating unflavored paraffin.

Raw peppermint oil, which my family farmed commercially in the 1960s – 70s, is very different in its qualities of perception from pungency of chocolate. Peppermint smells good at a very slight concentration even when barely perceptible and when you bring a stick dipped in the raw oil closer to your nose it smells even better. However, at some point where it is smelling really good it is also starting to bite the nose and so you naturally push it away. The interesting thing with this oil is that if you can endure the pain the peppermint sensation becomes even stronger and even better. But the pain after a while would stop even Jack Bauer.

After inhaling any of these odors it helps to exhale slowly through the nose, which then has little or no sensation of odor, as that gives the nose a chance to recover from the previously perceived smells.

My dog Tiger taught me, You can’t trust your eyes, and not always your ears but you can always trust your nose. The nose knows!