First Person

God’s nose

When COVID took my sense of smell, I was drawn to the Bible’s description of God’s.

I wait for the bright smell to punch through the air from a tomato’s green stem. The plant, nestled here in my garden, emits a scent through its hairlike trichomes, cautioning creatures to retreat. But today my ability to assess this warning is gone.

In July I lost my sense of smell, one casualty of a breakthrough COVID-19 infection that swept through my family. I’ve since learned that smell is the most overlooked of my five senses. I don’t know when I stopped being able to judge if fruit was ripe or the laundry in need of immediate attention. But five days after my diagnosis, I twisted the cap off a bottle of vinegar and breathed in the strange sensation of nothing.

“Smell this,” I commanded my daughter, with an urgency she responded to without question. The acetic acid wafting from the bottle caused her to leap back with a jolt, the presence of fermentation registering through her whole body.