I use this title because the things Max actually stops to smell are not so pleasant and I don’t think I should follow my teacher in sniffing poop or dead animals. Maybe I just have a lot more to learn (finding some sort of beauty even in the nastiest of things? Embracing waste and death as a natural part of life? Finding a story plopped on top of every blade of grass? Or finding a little blade of grass growing through the plop plopped on top of it?), but I’ll focus on the act of stopping and smelling in general for now.
When Max and I go on walks I try to cover as much ground as possible. Sometimes I go fast to get back and do things I need to get done.
Actually, make that a lot of times. Most times. Almost all the time.
Even at night, I feel the need to rush and get back to go to sleep so that I can get up on time (never happens, no matter how early I go to sleep) and get going for the next day.
But Max is in no rush. He is cooped up all day and those walks are all he has to get fresh air and enjoy nature. So he gets out and makes the most of it.
In fact, I think he sometimes stops to sniff just to stay out longer. He can tell when I’m rushing back and wants to prolong his outside time as much as possible. And to be honest I don’t blame him. I love being outside too and prefer it to being inside just about all the time.
Max is quite infuriating when I am in the midst of my rushing. He’s just stubborn and strong enough to be able to stop over and over again before I can pull him on.
But my good ole teacher is just leading by example. Max challenges my pace of life by spending the time to smell things and really take it all in.
When I do follow Max’s lead, I see the importance of stopping and smelling. On one level I mean just taking it all in, examining the beauty all around me, appreciating the wonders of creation.
I usually do that with my eyes. I see beauty easier than hearing it. I hear it better than tasting it. I taste it better than touch it. And I touch it better than smell it. That may be partly because I have a terrible nose and bad allergies. But there’s something about stopping and smelling that really makes me a part of what’s around me in a way the other senses cannot.
When I smell, something outside of me literally enters my body – something more tangible than waves of sound or rays of light. That can happen with taste too, if I swallow it, but smell necessitates me welcoming foreign particles into my body. In that way it is a very vulnerable activity. I open myself up to something outside of myself (and I don’t always know that it will be pleasant). I become closer to the world around me, literally.
Max has thus taught me that stopping to smell the roses is more than just an activity to take me out of my crazy life and force me to experience the world around me. It is an act of becoming vulnerable and bringing that beautiful and stinky world into myself.
(Since there is apparently no clip of Gus using his super sniffer on the internet, I am forced to leave you with this instead…I apologize in advance.)
So thank you Max, for teaching me that it is worth it to stop and smell. Thank you for teaching me to open myself up in a basic rhythm of vulnerability (for this happens even when I breathe), and not to ignore the opportunity to unite with the beauty, and stink, around me.