Making Sense of Scents

Helen Keller was deaf  and blind. Because of this she appeared to have  a more acute sense of smell. Here’s one quote:

“Touch sensations are permanent and definite. Odors deviate and are fugitive, changing in their shades, degrees, and location. There is something else in odor which gives me a sense of distance. I should call it horizon–the line where odor and fancy meet at the farthest limit of scent. Smell gives me more idea than touch or taste of the manner in which sight and hearing probably discharge their functions. Touch seems to reside in the object touched, because there us a contact of surfaces. In smell there is no notion of relief, and odor seems to reside not in the object smelt, but in the organ. Since I smell a tree at a distance, it is comprehensible to me that a person sees it without touching it.” 

However,  later tests with her demonstrated that she appeared to have no more a sense of smell than others in possession of all five senses,  it may simply be that the loss of two senses- the two dominant ones in humans of vision and hearing, may provide for a different kind of “appreciative mechanism.”

Simply put, she was more aware of her sense of smell as she didn’t have to cope with the blizzard of information hitting all five senses at once.

Use it or lose it. Stop and smell the roses. Close your eyes every now and then and smell the life of the garden.

Other comments she made:

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived.

The odors of fruits waft me to my southern home, to my childhood frolics in the peach orchard.

Other odors, instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief.

Even as I think of smells my nose is full of scents that start awake sweet memories of summers gone and ripening fields far away”.

Helen Keller

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