Sniffing Out What’s Special About Autumn Using This Sense (Outdoor Diary)

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episode humans outside 330

Have you ever noticed certain seasons smell more strongly than others? I’ve been working to lean into my five senses — hearing, smell, taste, sight, touch — during my daily outdoor time, inspired by a recent conversation with Gretchen Rubin, author of “Life in Five Senses.” Taking time for a little extra intentionality has enriched my outdoor time, and left me noticing something special about my sense of smell and this time of year.

Listen now!

Some of the good stuff:

[:35] The problem with seasons around here

[1:17] Here’s autumn

[1:35] Fall has this smell

[1:55] Here are some examples

[2:20] How leaning into noticing helped and is helping

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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

If you blink, it feels like you might miss them.

Other than winter, seasons in Alaska seem so short it feels impossible to really take advantage of them, and it’s absolutely true that if you don’t hustle towards making the most of them, they really will pass you by. The growth and buds that we associate with spring might last a few weeks before BAM it feels like summer. And the colors and changing of fall are often just a few short weeks as well, since so often the season is truncated by October snowfall. Summer feels a little longer, but is frequently punctuated by dreary spates of rain, so it feels like when the nice days are here but better them or be sorry.

We’re in the middle of the brief autumn season as Im recording this, and I’ve been making a more purposeful effort to notice my five senses while outside thanks to a conversation I had with Gretchen Rubin a few months ago — Ill link it in the show notes for you. I’ve noticed something about fall that I simply didn’t notice about the other seasons.

Fall has a smell.

OK, there are smells in the spring and early summer too, like the really strong smell of some flowers. But in the fall smells seem to be everywhere in way they’re not at other times. Im hoping you’ve noticed this too. I wish I could give you an audio version of smellavision right now so you could smell these things with me.

There’s a tart, pungent smell on some paths around here — it’s the smell of high bush cranberries.

The air smells crisp. I don’t know if you can really say that temperature smells, but I think it does.

There’s a smell of wet undergrowth — kind of damp and decomposing-ish, but not in a bad way.

There’s the scent of wood fires as neighbors heat their house, burn leaves in the backyard or have bonfires.

I know this is something others around me in Alaska notice too, such as podcast listener and friend Dawn, who is probably listening to this and remembering how we just chatted about it recently. I’d love to hear from more of you on this — is it something you notice where you live?

Fall also feels like one of those times we associate with smells more so than other times of year. Pumpkin spice everything, baking, cinnamon, nutmeg, hot soups cooking all day … ok, my mouth is watering. Let’s stop talking about that.

Before leaning into this experiment, I didn’t really notice that fall has a smell more so than the other seasons, at least as far as I’ve noticed. And giving attention to experiencing that has enriched my outdoor time in the same way that stopping to add any noticing to any activity does. I like to think that this daily practice of noticing new things is helping me be extra observant or appreciative of other things around me.

You can see photos of fall in Alaska plus many other outdoor adventures on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. I want to see photos of your adventures, too. Share them with me #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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