maji ya chai, tanzania // remember to smell

As we hike through the Tanzanian jungle, it would be an understatement to say that my senses are overloaded.  I want to see, touch, smell, and hear (not taste, because I think that would end badly) everything.  I am then reminded why we are here: our On Assignment projects.  I can’t take everything in—I don’t have the time.  I have to focus on one thing and one thing only: my photography.

This chain of thought continues for a while, until one of our leaders, Alex, stops me.  “What do you smell?” She asks me.

I don’t know.  I haven’t been paying attention.

“Um…I smell…grass?” I reply, furiously trying to have my brain tell my nose to kick it into high gear.  “Remember to smell,” she tells me.

Remember to smell.

So often, we focus on one sense and one sense only, neglecting the others in an attempt to heighten the one we choose.  When I photograph, I focus on my sight: what do I see through my camera lens?  How can I frame it better?  Is there something in the frame that shouldn’t be in there?  Is there something better that I could take a picture of?

I forget to listen to what’s around me; ironically, what the On Assignment Wildlife group is most interested in.  I forget to touch the various leaves, feeling their texture and guessing what they are. Most importantly, I forget to smell.  I forget to smell if it is good or bad, sweet or bitter, tangy or flowery.  I’m walking through the forest surrounding Lake Duluti (the name makes this Minnesota girl very happy), focusing on nothing but what’s through my camera lens.  I realize what a waste this is.

Because I am on assignment, I cannot simply stop taking photographs.  It doesn’t work this way.  Instead, I try to find a balance.

Look around.  Know where you are.  Take everything in.  Use every single one of your senses.  Unless you are in the middle of the Tanzanian forest.  Then please don’t use taste.  Don’t let one sense overtake all the others.

And most importantly, remember to smell.

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