18 Nov 2021
When we were children, my Kinmen grandma had the practice of waving smokes from burning sandal wood towards us.
My brother and I in our clean pyjamas would stand obediently facing her as the comforting aromas filled the space. We did not choke nor feel suffocated.
As a result, juniper incense makes me feel at home in Nepal.
The caregiver of the animal shelter gives me the chance to make a burning sage offering for the resident cats and dogs whenever I’m there.
As I move about the shelter systematically & wave the sage smokes towards each refugee animal and offer words of blessings and aspirations of finding good homes, a number of them will start gathering around me.
At such a moment I sometimes feel I’m my grandma and the animals are my brothers and me. 😊
At a recent visit, one elderly dog perked up when I passed the sage smoke over her head. Alexi is 16 and feeling disorientated. She used to be the first animal to toddle towards me and place her head below my palm to take in the sage blessings. After that she and one of her cat sidekicks would follow me around as I moved from enclosure to enclosure, as if to assure everyone of my benevolent intentions.
That day after the blessing, HK helped Alexi put on her wheels and took her to walk the shelter grounds like in the old days.
Perhaps despite Alexi’s aging form and neurological issues, the sage smoke reminds her that all is not lost.
However, olfactory memories can hurt too.
Adeline Yen Mah of “Chinese Cinderalla,” couldn’t bear the fragrance of magnolia flowers. In her childhood she had to bury her only pet chick whom she had named PLT ( Precious Little Treasure) under the Magnolia Tree after it was killed by her father’s german shepherd.
It is my wish that no children or anyone will ever have to hold such tragic olfactory associations. And for those who do, may they be guided to transform traumas to peace.
And may all cherished olfactory memories heal & comfort us when time renders all other senses unreliable.