Smell is a whole body experience


This week I have completely run out of spoons. Are you familiar with the spoon analogy and chronic illness? For this reason, I am unable to catalogue my studio. So, I am working with what I have. Rewilding the project is based in the need to look after myself after all. As well as being neuro-divergent I experience chronic health difficulties. We have heard a lot about Long Covid recently, I experience the equivalent in relation to Swine Flu. Some days I work from bed at least up until lunch time. This week I also have the added challenge of some building work (much needed) happening on our house. I am currently writing this blog from my bed, with my cat (Queen Moo / Mrs Moo / Moomin / The Moo or simply Moo), her food and litter tray, my ear plugs and ear defenders with me. This week has got me thinking about other additional sensory input around the house external to the room that is my studio. It can be overwhelming and dominate my experience in the house to the point that it is difficult to focus on anything else. I cannot tune them out, they are in my consciousness all the time. Two of the most dominating smells over the last week have been wet render and wet rug.

Wet Render

Newly applied plaster is just heavenly. I put my nose as close as possible as I can to the wall and inhale deeply repeatedly, unable to draw myself away. This I call the TCP effect. Once I smell TCP, I must keep breathing in the ‘fragrance’. It is very difficult to stop once started and can take 15-20mins to do so.

The smell of wet render is similar to wet plaster however, render has another smell alongside it that is not so pleasant, so I do not smell it up close. The imagined texture though is glorious, like spreadable raku clay full of gritty grog. Heavily moist, plump, and sumptuous. I feel inside me the damp texture, the edge of the grooves created for surface adherence, ample highways of emptiness on the tips of my fingers. I want to touch it but do not as from experience, I know that render is drying and irritating to the skin. Nothing like my whole-body experience tells me.

Wet Rug 

The other most prolific smell that I am experiencing this week is a wet rug hung unceremoniously over a white plastic-coated metal airer after its return from the washing line. The washing line is faithful but not a great deal of use for drying what is trusted to it in the storms we often experience in West Wales. The rug is created from stripes of plaited sari fabric interspersed with stripes of jute (also plaited). It has been my favourite rug adding the uplift of colour to our home that I require. However now it’s wet after being washed due to Moo depositing her breakfast on it a few days ago. It is unlikely that the rug ever desired to be washed and probably said so on it’s helpful label however washed it is and now it smells. The Smell is a damp, woody, muddy, musty brown that penetrates your nostrils and refuses to leave. While it is lurking in the bathroom however it also makes its presence known on the landing, in our bedroom and as you reach the halfway point of the stairs. 

In my experience neuro-divergent sensory experience is a complicated whole body affair that needs to be navigated with care and wonderment. Some things require much celebration others need to be avoided. All have a daily impact, and some remove daily spoons, sometimes a whole days’ worth at a time.