October 3, 2008

Pure Air

An odd juxtaposition of wildly disparate circumstances struck me lately, out of a couple of news stories relating to the sense of smell. We know that the purity of the air supports our ability to experience the sense of smell fully. Anything that interferes with it is fundamentally not good for you. It has been found that air pollution even has a noticeable effect on the inner workings of the body, especially its chemistry, and even our brains' electrical impulses.

An interesting and alarming news story comes from China about certain people who have been training their sense of smell. These people have proved that the more exposure you have to a certain smell, the more you will be able to discern its components and nuances. You become more sensitized to the presence of particular elements the more frequently and deeply you experience them. I think we already knew this intuitively, but these current studies have found experimental proof. Unfortunately, this is a sad story because the rotating band of twelve people who have volunteered for such training are going to be used to hunt for the sources of dangerous pollution in a heavily industrialized part of China. It's alarming that human beings will deliberately be exposing themselves to very toxic substances by breathing them in. There are machines that can do this job, perfectly and fairly inexpensively, instead.

It is inexplicable. Or maybe we are not getting the whole story.

My world of scent is so much luckier, I know.

In my local area, a woman known as "the butterfly lady" started a project to attract more butterflies to my neighborhood, and to support their seasonal migrations, by planting "greenways". Butterflies need pure air to live. They disappear in places that are polluted. Butterflies have a particular preference for certain shrubs and plants. Flowers that produce a lot of nectar are very attractive to them. Instead of planting the usual impatiens and marigolds in window boxes, or the other typical tough city annuals that are cheerful but not particularly attractive to butterflies or birds, the butterfly lady is promoting the heavily nectar producing ornamental plants. She helps with suggestions for window box or front garden plantings or even comes over and put together plantings for people. She has encouraged dozens of neighbors to get involved, and their efforts have begun to show noticeable results. They are attracting many more varieties and numbers of butterflies and birds to our neighborhood.

While the economy may have us feeling a little poor, the world is still rich in experiences...

Mp3 story on the sniffers in China.

Our Butterfly lady of Brooklyn, above photo from Daily News Brooklyn edition.


ScentScelf said...

Hooray for the butterfly lady, and good for you for knowing what is "rich."

Your senses, and your sense of your senses, really are busy these days, aren't they? I'm glad you are taking the time to share thoughts/impressions via your blog.

Lucy said...

Thanks scentscelf!
If you want to read something really lovely, about the beauties of the end of summer, Ann Raver at the NYT really has outdone herself this time --


Incredibly beautiful writing about this very moment....


Olfacta said...

Hi Lucy -- I've picked you as one of my "tags" in the blog-tag I got from Helg at Perfume Shrine -- hope you don't mind. My post goes up at 1:30 16 Oct pm, Eastern time.

Best, Pat (aka Olfacta)

Lucy said...

Olfacta/Pat, this sounds intriguing, I am curious to see what it's all about ---