On Losing My Sense of Smell…

Hellen Keller called smell the “fallen angel” of our senses. Due to her inability to hear or see she valued her sense of smell and could smell a storm coming the day before. We as a society largely take this sense for granted.

I did not lose my sense of smell due to Covid-19. It started much earlier. A year ago I was horribly ill. It was the sort of illness that I thought I could die from. As I sat in bed with a high fever day after day and listened to my lungs gurgle it occurred to me that what I had contracted could be lethal. I got up and drove myself to the emergency room.

Both my daughters were away at school and although this felt extreme I had a very bad feeling in my heart. At the Emergency Room I was given a chest x-ray and oxygen. The doctor diagnosed me with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, more commonly known by its acronym COPD.

“Not possible. I have a personal trainer and she kicks my ass twice a week at the gym,” I told the doctor.

“You need to see a pulmonologist immediately,” he said as he disappeared into the hallway.

Then, I had a miraculous recovery.

Shortly after, I went to yoga with a friend. As my body warmed I was able to clear my lungs. As I coughed my good friend Suzette looked at me with concern. After class she suggested we go to Montclair to Sophie’s for Chinese Tea. I told the owner my lungs were healing from my illness and she made me a large glass of milky white tea. I drank the steaming liquid and from that day forward I returned to the gym and perfect health.

Since my time studying abroad in London I’ve loved Jo Malone cologne. For many years I had to buy it downstairs in the men’s department of Neiman Marcus in San Francisco. Then, there were only two choices; Lime Basil & Mandarin Orange or Grapefruit. I would mix them together. Later, as they expanded their line I had many bottles in my collection. After my illness they smelled funny and I threw them all away. All of them.

Slowly, I realized I couldn’t smell at all.

That was a year ago.

I’m the sort of person who is transported back in time by perfumes. I can walk through fragrance counters and like a secret passageway I would be back in time smelling the fragrances of my friends and lovers. Shalimar is one that brings back many memories as well as Polo by Ralph Lauren.

I’ve spent hideous sums of money on fragrant candles and French milled bath soap. I love the smell of a bouquet of fresh flowers, ground coffee, lavender dish soap, cookie dough, peanut butter and more.

Yesterday, I went to the park with my dog Polly and for the first time I could smell (just barely) the scent of fresh cut grass. If you’ve not smelled it lately it is a beautiful smell.

This morning, I pulled out my collection of essential oils to retrain my sense of smell. I’m starting with just a few to begin with; Geranium, Wild Chamomile and Lilac Blossom.

I am hoping to find once again the fallen angels that Hellen Keller knew so well.

Love and Blessings.

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