The Smell of Things to Come

Every day I commute 60 km to and from the big city of Halifax to do the job that pays the bills (right now). With a view to a time when this won’t be the case, I’ve begun to treat my urban existence as thinking time. In a new mode of considering, I notice that the cityscape is rife with contradictions.

This morning on my stroll from the car to the office I was particularly aware of smells. My nose once resided in a state of relative oblivion – unless an odor was incredibly rank or delicious, it paid no attention. My nose grew up in the country amidst pollen, steaming horse poop, rotting fish guts, and the spray of salt when the sea kissed the air. I didn’t know allergies or respiratory problems – I guess that’s what they call “good clean living”.

When my nose followed me to the city, things changed. I lived in a mildewy basement apartment and discovered asthma. I spent my days in the photo lab and developed chemical sensitivities. I started eating foods of convenience, frozen dinners and take-out meals, and my body put on weight. It became obvious that this country mouse was not built for city living.

Along with the asthma and the allergies came a renewed awareness of smell. Strong scents that never bothered me before now make me feel queasy. Such was the case this morning as I wandered down to work behind a flowery stick of a woman in high heels, poufy hair, and WAY too much perfume.

Ah, the contradictions of the city. It’s illegal to keep chickens – too stinky and loud according to HRM Councillors. But where is the ban on ladies drowned in perfume, car exhaust, traffic noise, and yelling drunkards? It doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. I’ll be the first to admit that chicken shit is not something I’m going to spray behind my ears to enhance my attraction factor. If I wake up one morning crazy enough to try, though, I’ll likely offend the people around me, but at least I won’t be poisoning them!

The contradictions of the city. You can live 10 feet away from your neighbour with screaming children in leaky diapers and a blaring TV and nobody will bat an eyelid. Bring a goat into the mix so you can provide fresh milk for those kids? That’s worthy of a big fat fine. And if you happen to sell a bit of that raw milk to your neighbour? Well, that’s right up there with manslaughter! It’s fine and dandy to feed people McFat and McSugar. Those can’t possibly hurt you. But raw milk and unpasteurized eggs?!? They could make you sick! Never mind that I’ve been eating them daily for over 2 years without a single case of food poisoning. McFood makes me feel awful for days on end.

Good smells and bad smells are in the nose of the beholder. I save my morning shower until after I do my barn chores because I understand that not everyone wants to smell Eau de Horny Buck all day long. But I’m not crazy about Eau de Horny Cougar, either! Why do people think that everyone else wants to smell their presence?

I won’t be sad when I leave the city behind. I’ll visit occasionally for a sushi date or to bring healthy food to those who appreciate it. But I won’t miss the concrete imprisonment, the sensual assaults, and the frustrations of hypocritical rules and regulations. I’m looking forward to simplicity and getting back to a healthy lifestyle. It may seem like a contradiction to some, but my nose knows that the stink of a manure pile is one of the best smells in the world. There’s never been a perfume that smelled so much like freedom.

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