A child's sense of smell by Alice Christiana Thompson Meynell



Gabriel Ferrier (1847-1914), jeune bergère algérienne
It is not in vain that the senses of children in their simplicity are familiar with delicate shows and scents. While we walk, breathing at the levels of lilac-trees and hawthorn, they have to breathe the fresh and strange odour of moss in the woods. Nor is there a breath of the breathing undergrowth that does not find its way to the spirit of a child, to create memories there. Either those wild and most homely scents that are close to the ground have in themselves more significance than have all the richer sweets that blossom breast-high, or else it is their direct communication with childhood that makes them magical. A child without a sense of the earth would miss as much as a child—if one could be—without a sense of the past.
Children poring over the ground make friends of a thousand little creatures that the elders elders have long ago forgotten. The child knows the spiritual-rustic scent of small daisies, though probably a great number of grown-up people have not been for many consecutive springs at the trouble of smelling a quite small wild daisy; one poet has had so short a memory as to call the daisies "smell-less"; and so with other kinds of growth. There are ways of the clinging of ivy, many footed, to be known only on the terms of childhood, and so with the little animals that find their way in the green twilight of blades of grass. Their fortunes are watched by children, who are so near them, and who would— if they might but know something of the work in hand—think themselves happy to use their superior strength and larger outlook in helping the industries of little ants and beetles. This may never be; the errands of the hurry of insects are not to be shared. And even in his consciousness of greater size and all other human conditions, the child is aware of his own one disproportionate disadvantage—he knows well that the ants and beetles are grown up. Only in the business of feeding he finds that he can come to an understanding with all kinds, or nearly all kinds, of small animals, and be useful. *fc He finds a city of ants most pleasantly responsive; there are no mistakes or misapprehensions.
A child's sense of smell by Alice Christiana Thompson Meynell