Lately my nose has been persecuted by a terrible smell in Holland, MI.
One word: skunk.
The majorly nauseating stink of skunk is especially pungeant when I walk into my townhouse complex. I shouldn’t be too quick to blame our little black-and-white friends, though, because I never see skunks around here (black squirrels are a much more common sight, and I’m pretty sure those adorable darlings don’t emit terrible odors). No. I think the trees planted in the island between the townhouse units might be at fault. Last spring, my housemates and I noticed a terrible fishy smell when the weather started to warm. Someone suggested it could be these trees, which bloom lovely white flowers. I thought it was more plausible to assume a family of skunks had taken up residence under our front steps, but soon had to concede that this smell was too permeating, too constant, to be skunks.
And after Google-searching “stinky trees,” I was comforted to know that neighborhoods plagued by stinky trees are not uncommon, like in this article about ginkgo trees in Birmingham, Alabama which had me laughing over it’s headline: “Stinky trees have residents seeking city help.”
I am seeking tree help, too! Someone please, bring an axe and relieve us from olfactory terrorism!
It seems counterintuitive that a tree, rooted in the soil, growing and being nourished, is emitting such a sickening stink. And yet smelly trees are much more common than I even knew. This excerpt from a newspaper article on pear trees is especially interesting:
Which brings us finally to this: why does this tree smell so horrible? As far as I can tell, there isn’t any research on why exactly the trees stink. However, I did come up with this: all of the approximately 30 species of pear contain the aroma compound pentyl butanoate. I will spare you the biochemistry — this is the compound that makes pears and apricots smell as they do. One (of) the precursors of pentyl butanoate is butyric acid, which is present in butter, parmesan cheese and… vomit.
But it appears that nobody has investigated the exact origins of P. calleryana’s scent. And I don’t blame anybody for not trying.
Whatever trees we have planted by our house, I don’t like their constant stink.
To turn this slightly scientific blog post in a more personal direction, I should share that lately, I’ve had more in common with these trees – whatever they are – than I would like. Yes, I’ve been a stinky person, specifically my attitude and my mood. Have you smelled it? If you have, friends, I’m so sorry. Anything that stinks is a constant turn-off, a very strong suggestion to get away from whatever’s causing the smell.
School started, and I love school, I love learning, I love friends, I love it all! But life gets busy, and it’s easy to let my attitude slide unchecked amidst academic pressure and the daily challenges of college. My leaves have been emitting a terrible smell lately: complaining, pessimism, constant stress, and negativity have been my smell. Yuck. I don’t like it, but I someone can’t escape it. And like those trees, I’ve been getting by with just looking nice on the outside to try to mask the smell.
You know what?
I’m tired of being smelly.
And unlike a tree which produces a smell due to its biological makeup, I can change my aroma. I’m not a tree, and I’m called to be a sweet aroma of Christ in a world that is stinking to high heaven in its sin. I’m called to cease and desist the stinky sins. The New Testament cites Christ’s sacrifice for us as a “fragrant offering” (Eph. 5:2). I’m pretty sure Paul is not referencing “fragrant” in a negative way here.
This week I want to smell sweet, not repulsive. I want to draw people towards me, not push them away – to be a rose bush or a pumpkin spice latte or your favorite perfume.
To just smell like Christ. Not skunky trees.