Wednesday, August 4, 2010

30 Days of Smell

Day 13: Organic sweat

With record-breaking temperatures and humidity oppressing large areas of our country, it’s no wonder today’s smell is one my husband described as “organic sweat.” We went for a walk early this morning, and though it was before 8 am, the temperature felt in the 90’s with 99% humidity. As we slogged along our usual loop, I asked David how he would describe the smell outside. About that time, we caught a very strong whiff of steamy compost coming up from the ground and then he named it—organic sweat. Yes. Very apropos.

It’s the smell of wet, earthy, decomposing plant matter. It’s heavy in the air; hanging like a damp sheet on a line, unable to dry. Another name for it might be humus—an organic brew of decayed plants and animal excrement that gardeners add to soil to enrich it. (Not to be confused with hummus—a wonderful, Middle Eastern dish made from chickpeas and tahini.) As we smelled organic sweat, it had this intense quality—natural but not all together pleasant.

For that matter, human sweat is no different. Our bodies have a built-in cooling system that excretes moisture to decrease our body temperature. The moisture we produce is a combination of oily, glandular, stinky, sweaty smells—natural but not all together pleasant. Among both vegetation and humanity, sweat helps maintain life and keep us hydrated. Today’s smell leads me to the question, “What do I learn about life in the Spirit from sweat, organic or human?”

I think of times when life around me feels humid, hot and heavy. Circumstances, expectations, schedules lay on me like a wet, cumbersome blanket. The temperature of my life situation feels like a pressure-cooker. During a heat wave, nature compensates by becoming very still--you can almost feel it's breath. In the same way, I need to become still and resist unnecessary movement. I need to conserve my energy and preserve a spiritual and emotional temperature that enables me to remain calm and hydrated.

When the heat is turned up in our life, we won’t be able to throw it off by brute force any more than we can throw off this oppressive heat. Rather, we must find shade, a place where we can wait it out, until the oppressive temperature lifts. So, where do you find shade? How can God become your shelter? Take some time to meditate on the image in this Psalm and see where God invites you to rest: “The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night." Psalm 121: 5, 6

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