MY BROTHER AND I were walking up a flight of stairs somewhere when I suddenly stopped and asked him what the smell reminded him of. Without a moment's hesitation he said our grandparents' house in Pittsburgh when we were children, and he was right. It was a comforting kind of smell, faint but unmistakable—freshly laundered sheets, applesauce simmering with nutmeg in it, old picture books. More than any sight or taste or sound, it brought back in its totality the feeling of being a child there all those years ago—the excitement of it, the peace of it, the unutterable magic of it.
Dogs have it right. Frantically zigzagging along, their tails in a frenzy, they miss nothing as they go, not a hydrant or trash can or curbstone, not a tree or hedge or flower pot. And it's not just the good smells that send them into raptures either, but smells we would recoil from in horror. "O taste and see that the Lord is good," says the Psalmist (34:8), to which their refrain is, "Oh sniff and smell!" More fragrant even than grandparents' houses is the Quarry they track with their noses to the ground.
-Originally published in Beyond Words