Writing in Nature

Smell

Writing in Nature Tip #6: Strong smells can lead to vivid memories. If you associate a smell with your scene, it makes that scene come alive like a fully-realized memory. Get into nature for the earth’s deepest perfumes!

Autumn is brimming with the rich, musky smells of harvest, falling leaves, and smoke. Rain enhances fragrances, while wind swirls them under your nose. Some are unpleasant—smog or a rotting animal—and others are addictive to the nose—grass and trees and flowers and plants. Wildlife habitats such as forests, prairies, and bodies of water offer a myriad of fragrances.

Some smells are obvious and well-known, while others hide. If you take the seed head of a coneflower and crumble the individual seeds into your hand, a strong citrus odor will fill your nose. Find these hidden smells and describe them to bring life to your story.

Kids in Nature Tip #6: Have your child close her eyes as you hold various things from nature—leaves, flowers, grass, tree bark, seeds—under her nose. See if she can guess what each one is!

Explain how everything in nature has a distinctive smell. Not all trees smell alike! Compare a dead tree to an alive tree, or a deciduous tree to a coniferous tree. The same goes for leaves and flowers. Urge your child to smell things he wouldn’t normally think of, like rocks or various plants. Then have him describe each smell. My son often comes up with silly descriptions that I love. A few examples: “The sun smells like yellow; that seed makes my nose laugh like the wind; the tree warmed my nose.”

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