“Our language is of no use when it comes to describing the smellable world.”
Our sense of smell is complex and powerful, with the ability to detect
thousands of different odors. It is the most developed of our
continually functioning senses since it is activated every time we
breathe. With each breath our sense of smell sends signals through five
million cells to the brain’s olfactory neurons. Perceived in this way,
smells are forever lodged in our long term memories, and that is why
they help us assimilate more information when combined with the learning
process. Our nose is magical: when we smell something familiar, it
awakens the associated memories. Doesn’t the smell of earth remind us of
tasty carrots from the garden or those comforting potatoes?
Knowledgeable gardeners and farmers know that the smell of earth depends
on the season, the weather, and its composition. Just for fun, have you
ever taken a whiff of potting soil, sand, or pebbles? This particular
odor, commonly called geosmin, is very strong after a heavy rain or
storm. Geosmin, a molecule produced by ground bacteria and fungus,
smells especially pleasant after a storm, but has a very unpleasant
taste in water and wine.
Using our senses gives us a special kind of contact with nature every
day. After the next rain, go outside and take the time to titillate your
sense of smell!
“Life is tasted through everyday appetites.”
The earth nourishes us. Its harvests feed and sustain us. The art of
preparing food constantly evolves as our tastes become increasingly
refined. We humans have a unique relationship with our sense of taste
because it can save our lives. For example the bitterness of a dangerous
fruit instantly stifles our desire to eat any more of it. Eating has
become a social act that we do joyfully because it is a pleasure that is
renewed with every meal. As omnivores we like to taste everything!
Wine is one of the many foods that celebrate this sense. To fully
appreciate it, you have to sip it slowly to stay in rhythm with your
tastebuds! Our mouths are filled with taste receptors, three quarters of
them on the tongue and one quarter on the soft palate and pharynx.
Contrary to popular belief, flavor detection doesn’t occur in specific
regions of the tongue. Rather all tastebuds can detect the seven basic
tastes: bitter, sour, sweet, salty, umami, astringent, and pungent.
Umami is the last taste discovered in 1908 by a Japanese scientist.
Related to glutamates, it is found in cheese, mushrooms, and some teas.
Other taste nuances are perceived through the nose. The sense of smell
plays a primary role in our tasting abilities. Go ahead and give in!
“True music is silence and all the notes are only framing this silence.”
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a hymn to life in communion with nature. Every
time I hear it, I am overwhelmed with respect and admiration. For me
the highlight is always the third movement, Summer. It represents
tempests, storms, and upheaval of the elements. I am moved by such
harmony between the music and what it evokes.
Sounds originate from a transfer of energy because they are a product of
movement and are able to spread in all directions as they travel
through air molecules. The planet produces a countless number of sounds
as it turns on its axis. The sea moves with the tides and produces a
regular concert that is always there. The wind blows, knocking into
obstacles as it passes, and brings a constant melody to our ears. The
environmental elements vibrate in us and comfort us with their
existence. It’s not an accident that some relaxation music is
interspersed with animal and nature sounds. The sounds we hear, whether
they originate from music or our environment, kindle impressions and
memories within us.
Noises pollute our world, making silence a precious and rare resource.
Noise is ever present! Absolute silence therefore doesn’t exist for most
hearing people. Without silence, how can we hear? Calmness and the
absence of unwanted noise allow our bodies to refocus as we become more
peaceful and receptive to the life in us.
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”
Isn’t it wonderful to get a hug? The transfer of energy also benefits
the giver. Comfort frequently manifests itself through touch, and humans
need it to survive.
We enter into communion with the earth in this way. What a pleasure to
walk around barefoot in the warm sand and feel the waves splashing over
What a joy to feel the first snowflakes on our faces! The wind, this
great earthly force, constantly caresses us, like a welcome message from
the planet that carries us. The benefits of touch can take many forms:
sleeping on sun-baked rocks, rolling around in the springtime grass, or
taking a dip in a river in the middle of a forest. Touch is one of our
most personal and beneficial senses.
Touch can also be fun! Textures become games for us as little children.
Our mothers’ clothes are among our first tactile discoveries. Who hasn’t
slipped into a fur coat left on the bed during a holiday party? The
intertwining of pleasurably soft, heavy, and light scents would lure us
The sensations of touch are orchestrated by a complex range of
receptors. We can live cut off from our other senses (with some
difficulty), but touch deprivation results in major and irreversible
psychological problems. So let’s all share a heartfelt hug!
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
No one, aside from a few lucky space explorers, has really seen the
earth (in its entirety). The picture we have of it comes from
illustrations or satellite or rocket photos. One of the most popular
photographs of the earth was taken by the Apollo 17 crew on December 7,
1972. It is entitled The Blue Marble. The astronauts named the picture
as such because their perception of the earth at that particular moment
reminded them of childhood marbles. And if you look at this photo, you
can’t help but be touched by such beauty and grandeur. This blue planet
that is our home is a treasure trove of landscapes and locations, each
one more stunning than the last. And it is our vision that enables us to
admire all these masterpieces.
Our vision allows us to distinguish colors, shapes, textures, movement,
distance, and depth. Watching the life that unfolds beneath our eyes and
marveling at nature’s riches all around us is especially beneficial.
Its beauty and perfection inspire us.
But what is beautiful, and what is ugly? Beauty comes from the pleasure
we get from a sensory experience. Painters decode, in their own way,
living colors to reproduce a picture of its creation and lead people to
see things in a different light. Sculptors take movements and freeze
them. They hone the three-dimensional aspect of their art to give
audiences different perspectives. Observing, examining, discerning—since
the dawn of time, humankind has wanted to see beyond what is. But what
if all we wanted to perceive was actually there, right in front of us,
and we were simply blind to its existence?
“Our eyes, our ears, our sense of smell, our taste, are all
different, and create as many ideas of truth as there are men on the
Guy de Maupassant
The senses are open doors leading to the life that takes place around
us. They tie us to our essence and take part naturally in the universe’s
concert by allowing us to feel everything that inhabits it. Let’s allow
ourselves to be carried away by them and their symphony! Let’s stop for
a moment. Let’s feel with our senses and consciously experience these
unique moments that the earth shares with us all.