Every day I check in with a calendar I keep on my desk. It’s called “30 Days of Gratitude” and consists of 30 days of just that: thinking of things one day at a time that you are grateful for. Each day asks a simple question like “what book are you grateful for,” “what knowledge are you grateful for,” “what tradition are you grateful for,” and so on and so on. Five of them individually and randomly ask what taste, sight, touch, sound, and smell are you grateful for. I gotta say, I love these kinds of uncomplicated yet thought provoking ponderings.
Taste on the day I read it happened to be lettuce wraps as our daughter was home for the weekend and requested them for dinner. It’s not so much that I love lettuce wraps, although I do, it was more that she was home and cooking them for her warmed my heart. As for what sound I was grateful for on the day it was presented? It was the sound of thousands of boats filled with happy people on a lake. Touch came on a day that I visited the classroom I’d taught in for many years but was stepping away from. I went in to clean out all my personal items and say goodbye to what brought me so much joy for so many years. Touching the people and things in it is something I was very grateful for that day and will be forever. When prompted what sight I was grateful for, it was finding one of our Beagles sound asleep right inside our daughter’s suitcase. Precious! The last query was “What smell are you grateful for?” And although I didn’t have an immediate answer for it, it proved very timely.
It just so happened that very day I listened to a podcast by Emily P. Freeman who posed the question, “If hope had a smell, what would it be?” I’ve always loved the name Hope for a girl and try to never give up hope but I’ve never thought for one minute how it would smell. But, I also love Freeman, who has written several amazing books and her “The Next Right Thing” podcast is one of my go-to’s so when she presented that question, I had to stop and think.
So, what does hope smell like? What does it smell like to you? Is it always the same smell or does it vary?
My first thought was Easter lilies. They are one of my favorite flowers, smell uh-mazing, and what presents more hope than Easter? I also thought of lemons cuz they smell great and I love everything lemon. Then I went to my favorite smells – roasting garlic, a new can of tennis balls, Play-Do, my favorite candles, and even my dogs – but none of them seemed to fit the “smell of hope” qualifier. I dug deeper and was motivated by some of Freeman’s followers’ replies:
- Sweat, because you have to work hard at it
- Sea salt and lavender
- The air on a fall morning
- When the ocean is just around the corner or over that last dune and you can’t see it but you can smell it
- A new baby
- Long awaited rain on dusty soil
- Fresh cut grass
- When I first open the door to my new classroom after summer break and have equal parts nostalgia and possibility.
- The first smell of morning coffee
- Fresh squeezed lemons
- Chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven
- Sautéing butter and onions
- Rain before or after a storm
I agree with so many of those…the ocean, rain, butter and onions, grass, and yes, coffee. The possibilities are endless!
As luck would have it, spiritual mamma and mentor Susie Davis had also listened to the podcast and naturally had the perfect answer: baking bread. Bingo! What a fabulous smell, right? But her reason had so much more than just something yummy baking. Susie wrote:
“Because it’s that same smell I remember from my second grade field trip to Mrs. Baird’s Bakery on Airport, hoping I would get my hands on a slice of freshly baked bread. And it’s the smell I distinctly remember in my sister’s first kitchen in her first tiny little house in her early years of marriage. I hoped I would grow up to be a wife and mama just like her. It also reminds me of how I used to make sourdough bread for my son every week of his senior year in high school because he loved it – and I realized he wouldn’t be living in my house much longer. And now, I make bread for my parents and deliver it to them on their front porch. Fresh baked bread reminds my dad of his mom who used to make it for him when he was a boy.”
Now that’s an answer, right?
Once again and as always, she inspired me and I’m going with my first choice of Easter lilies.
If hope had a smell, it would be Easter lilies, those bright white, single-bud, and fabulous smelling blooms. Hope, because when you buy one, they are closed but you hold out hope knowing they will soon open up and share that glorious smell with whatever room they are in. Hope because they come in the spring, which is when the earth is hopeful and opening up to blooming and warmer weather. Hope because you can replant them once all their blooms are gone and they will grow again next year, bringing all that hope back again. And hope because they come at Easter, the holiday where all of our hopes are realized and true hope is back.
Hope is something we so desperately need right now as our country and culture decays more and more each day. If hope had a smell, it would be that everyone would stop and smell the Easter lilies and stop seeing hate and hearing deception. We can only hope.