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The Smells of Walking

walking, benefits of walking
A jacaranda in spring bloom

When we first gave up car ownership and I started walking more, I discovered something that I’d been missing. My sense of smell.

Okay, the sense, itself, was never any worse than it’s ever been. But when you’re in a car all the time, you forget that there are smells all over the city.

I know what you’re thinking – that most of those smells are pretty grim. Okay, some are. But a lot aren’t. A lot of smells, like the scent of a flowering jacaranda tree, are pretty nice. Then there’s my fave and it’s everywhere in Southern California – star jasmine. It’s a shrub that’s very, very hardy and so it winds up in a lot of planters around here. It’s not technically a jasmine, but when its small white flowers bloom, oh, the smell is exquisite.

Then, of course, there’s another human-made smell: street food. I love street food. There’s a guy with a small little rig he pulls behind his truck, called El Ultimo Tren. He makes burgers and tacos and they’re delicious. And the smell… Oy, it’s gorgeous!

I sometimes wonder if my deadened sense of smell got that way because there was nothing to smell. If anything is going to get through the airflow of a car, it’s going to be pretty strong, like a skunk or diesel fumes. The more subtle scent of flowers? Not happening. So with nothing to smell, I stopped smelling.

So now, I’m out on the streets, letting my under-used sense of smell get a work-out and it’s been pretty good.

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