Scents of Boundaries


Scents are strong clingers. I mean, our brains catalog scents, attach them to memory cards/moments, distinguish them from mere smells.

What smells good seems to be a universal reaction. Same as what smells bad. Seldom (if ever) have I heard disputes between people about one particular stench being another’s particular perfumey bouquet.

On an evolutionary scale, I guess there’s a reason for it. Bad or offensive odors can be nature’s way of keeping us on our guard against what might be harmful, as well as, repugnant – warnings or signs of ill-health or diminished well-being; quick ways that babies can communicate the need for a diaper change before a rash gets ‘em.

Relationships have been manipulated by pleasant wafting smells of good eats – fanciful enticements to spend more money at festival booths (or movie theaters), encouraging thoughts of matrimony or invoking memories of times of security, love and care. There are the signature fragrances of smell-goods of varying strengths and varying cost that would define personalities, characters, or presences of those unwilling to be forgotten or unable to shower regularly.

Today, as I was sitting in a contemplative space in a not so (automatically) contemplative place, I completed my practice with a mostly peaceful few moments of awareness of my surroundings. I felt the chill of the a/c on my face, specifically the tip of my nose. I heard the random ramblings of voices around me. And all of a sudden, a very strong whiff of cologne – VERY strong. It made me look around for its origin – a mister, an open applicator. There was nothing like that. So I thought about how often I have noticed the after-scent of persons who wear too much smell-good and why it doesn’t seem to dawn on anyone that this uninvited wafting seems to be culturally ok i.e. that the same persons would not be allowed to haphazardly come over and physically slap me in the face but that it was perfectly fine for their unnatural scent to crossover into my personal boundary without question.

How many times have I lingered in the bounds of a stranger’s sacred perimeter without invitation? Even the seemingly lesser powerful can be assertive – apparently. Makes me wonder what the real message might be – cosmic equity of sorts?


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