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Community Ag Alliance: Taking time to appreciate ‘sensory intelligence’

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my sense put in tune once more.” — John Burroughs

I was perusing the amazing book Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, when this quote hit on something I have been pondering lately. My senses: hearing, sight, taste, touch and smell. I followed my senses through a week to understand more fully how this valley I live in impacts my sensory “intelligence.” Do my surroundings offer my sense of hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch a stimulating environment where the senses are adapting and learning and improving their “intelligence,” or are my senses dulled into an everyday boredom?

My house is on a very busy street across from the high school. My yard is a “wild” oasis in a myriad of green lawns, parking lots and gravel. I have been out doing my spring chores in the gardens. When the road is streaming with cars of people dropping off and picking up students I find I absolutely turn off my senses. I do not listen to the cars roaring by, I do not smell the stinky exhaust and I ignore the gritty taste and dust in my eyes. As soon as the endless parade of cars eases up, I find myself breathing deeper, watching the bees in my crocuses, smelling the soil as I work in it and feeling the sunshine bathe my back. What a difference! I can tell that over the next hour, my sensory intelligence has slowly reawakened.



Taking a short walk through Butcherknife Canyon is like a sensory overload this spring. The birds are a symphony of sound, the rich smell of spring awakening has me closing my eyes for a moment to revel in how wonderful this experience is. I caress the new fuzzy catkins on the aspen and willows and listen to the cascade of snowmelt water. Then, I spy the ultimate harbingers of spring; glacier lilies. I take a seat next to the newly opened sunshine flowers and take in their sweet aroma. Nothing in this world brings more memories and joy than the first glacier lilies. Plucking a flower, I hold it to my nose and breathe in the eons of our natural world in this tiny ray of sun. I marvel at the color and textures of the flower, say thanks for its existence and the sharing of its joy with others, then I place it on my tongue. The sweet aroma is transferred to my taste buds as I take my first bite of pure sunshine. At that moment there is no time, no worries, just a pure connection to an amazing natural world that supports us. And my senses smile.

The message from my week is clear; we all need a connection to our natural world to de-stress and heal and to reawaken our senses. Not a structured “we have to see it all” connection, or an “I can ride the fastest and farthest connection.” We need unscheduled, unstructured, sensory-intelligence-building time. No cell phones, no modern techno gizmos; just you, that stream or flower or rock. We need to exercise our senses. There is no substitute for the real nature.



If you would like to enhance your sensory “intelligence,” join me during our annual Wild Edible Feast harvesting forays June 1, 2 and 3. And, don’t miss the annual Wild Edible Feast on June 4 at The Cabin at the Grand. This year’s sponsors include Carl Vail and “Essentrics: to Strengthen, Stretch and Heal the Entire Body,” offered locally by Susan Mead. Contact Yampatika at 970-871-9151 or yampatika.org for more information.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” — Rachel Carson

Karen Vail is a senior naturalist with Yampatika.


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