The Longest Day

summer solstice longest dayLast week was a tough one for our country. Especially for African-Americans. What happened in Charleston, South Carolina left me numb. I had to just sit to get my bearings.

I still haven’t processed it. Maybe I will never get my head around what happened. It was too violent. Too senseless. And we know that something similar will happen again. This country needs to address the past to get to the healing. We need to address so many things.

But none of us will make it through the day if we only think about the bad. So we go on and look for the good.

Today was the longest day of the year. The summer solstice. It was also Father’s Day. Those are two very good things in one day. I spent time with my family and had a nice meal.

When I was driving home, it was after 8pm and still light. I decided to chase the last of the light on this one day of the year when we have the most daylight. There’s something special about a day like this and I wanted to savor every last drop.

It started out raining in the morning, then cleared up and got warm and sunny. A perfect first day of summer. I took pictures of the sunset near an open field. The light remained.

It was also the first International Yoga Day. I didn’t get to do any yoga today, but I am almost done with my annual listing of free yoga classes in Boston. It should be up on the blog within the next day or so all new for 2015!

The last bit of light was looking at the Boston skyline from Wollaston Beach in Quincy. It was a beautiful sunset and smelled like the sea. Now I’ll do a bit of meditating and hope for a peaceful week for us all.


Scent and the City: Urban Planning Using Smellscapes

urban planningn using smellscapes

When I went on a smellwalk in Boston, I was interested to learn about how smell impacts our daily life. As someone with a keen sense of smell, this has always fascinated me.

Kate McLean, the leader of our smellwalk, recently wrote a paper with some other folks called Smelly Maps: The Digital Life of Urban Smellscapes.

Sadly, it doesn’t appear that the data from the Boston smellwalk was used in the paper. But it’s interesting to think about the possibilities of urban planning with a different approach to designing cities.

It’s not just physical landscapes that should be considered. Smellscapes should also be taken into account with urban planning. I love how they note “good fragrances” like in Japan. Below (with edits) are the recommendations to city planners.
One hundred sites in Japan have been declared as protected because of their ‘good fragrance’. However, the general situation in the rest of the world greatly differs. Urban planners to date have tended to think about smells in terms of management of bad odors, rarely considering preserving and celebrating the smells that people like. There are a number of ways that the urban smellscape can be altered; manipulating the air flow by changing the street layout, pedestrianization to alter traffic emissions, the creation of restorative environments through the planting of trees, greenspaces and waterways, and the strategic placement of car stopping points are just a few examples. City officials do not fully consider the opportunities presented by the sense of smell simply because they have been the victims of a discipline’s negative perspective. We hope that our work might help them rethink their approaches and use olfactory opportunities to create stimulating multisensory places.

I recall so many good smells while walking around Boston. If you’ve ever walked through the North End, you know what I mean! We do have large green spaces and a beautiful clean waterfront, but I wonder if even more could be done using smellscapes to make Boston an even better city.

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Image: Boston’s Smellwalk Map Route