Scent can seal a moment and rewind time with one sniff.

An ineffable elixir, invisible, and hard to hold, yet smell can be a solid, guiding principle.

Just ask our puppy, Mae. She’s a tracker, and she follows her nose. Dogs live by their senses, and olfactories reign supreme.

Mae interacts with the world through her sniffer. Purely instinctual, no apologies. Her brown, damp schnozz, presses into everything, indiscriminate. No intellect, just genuine curiosity.

Her nostrils quiver in utter wonder. There is no self-consciousness in breathing in the most alien of objects, deeply. She wants to know this thing, and know its very essence.

Mae’s first time sniffing salt and sea


Some ancient peoples (Hawaiians, included) greet one another by coming face to face, breathing in each other’s breath. In this full and intimate introduction, one cannot hide. An exhale, empty of words, can’t lie.

Scent speaks. It is felt to the bones. Scent ignites the mind, yet is not of it.

I’ve been on my own interior trail, following my nose, listening to instinct. As an artist, as a writer, I thought I’d lost the scent there for a while. I was circling, just sniffing around, unsure.

But then the winds shifted, and there was a trace of something in the air. I dared to follow.

Attending a writing workshop this past weekend seemed to set me back upon my path. When asked to bring a piece of writing to the class with us, I chose William Stafford’s “The Way it Is.” One, because the poem is an anchor for me in my storytelling quest. And, two, because I was beginning to wonder if I had simply lost my personal thread. I hoped that through reciting the words, I may find my way again.

Gratefully, in the small room of writers with huge talent, I caught up with the thread that’s never left me. Their generously kind hearts and the keen insight of our instructor, Cheryl Strayed, reminded me to the familiar fragrance of my truest self.

We’ve all got the thread. The trail we’re tracking with all of our senses, mind, body and heart. We may get stalled, circle, or lose the scent, but maybe we are never truly lost. We just have to keep poking around, with utter curiosity, no apologies…following our noses.

“The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

~ William Stafford ~”

2 thoughts on “Tracking the Thread

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