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Sensations

There are five senses.

Sight. Smell. Taste. Hearing. Touch.

Touch is the only sensory system that gives two sets of “data” to my brain. If I run my hands through my hair, my scalp feels the hair pull back and I feel the hair run through my fingers. If I smack a mosquito, I feel the slap against my leg and my hand. The other sensory systems are single data entry points…..or so it seems.

Dinner tonight was a Wedge Salad and Ahi Tuna. Cold iceberg lettuce with crumbled bacon and a buttermilk bleu cheese dressing. The salad is tart and salty, cold and crunchy. The tuna was seared on both sides and served with warm Yoshida’s Original and shredded pickled ginger. I slice it into strips. Sweet heat. Your mouth feels all tingly. Emeril calls it “happy”.

It is amazing how much we tune out. There is an abundance of sound and noise that we hear. We process all of it, even if we are not cognitively aware of it. I think that the brain lumps all the “data” from sound we collect (but don’t register) in to a type of buffer file. Eventually, that buffer fills up and then we stop “hearing”. I can become immune to the sounds around me until I actually “tune in”. In the movie Contact, there is a blind character that heard patterns buried in what seemed like static. Are we all missing the delicate patterns because we are incapable of synthesizing the stream of sound? We call it noise but is it really noise? I sit here listening to the sounds in my house. The bubbling fish tank, that needs water. The TV (of course). The airplane flying overheard. The air conditioner return. The grandfather clock. The cat pawing the food container. The alarm in the back of the house that chimes every hour. I close my eyes and tease out each sound and the noise becomes clearly NOT noise. 

Smell is much more subtle. In general, we separate smells into pleasant and offensive. We avoid those smells that offend us. Stale cigarette smoke on someone. Sour laundry. The foul smell of spilled beer the morning after a bar closes. Then there are those amazing smells. I swear I could pick my children out of a crowd simply by how they smell. The way almost every baby’s head smells. Fresh roses or gardenias. In South Miami, as a child, the Holsum Bread factory was the smell of rapture. On the Saturday mornings we went to my Dad’s office at Comco, the bread was baking and all of that neighborhood was blanketed in fresh baked bread. An old letter sprayed with perfume or cologne, tucked into a book can regenerate potent memories even decades later.

We see so little of what passes before us. In Rome, we reached a point of sensory overload. My eyes and brain could not process one more exquisite thing. It was spectacular and overwhelming. Unfortunately, most of the time, we barely see anything. It is as if our lenses are out of focus. Is that on purpose? Do we purposely filter all the extraneous data to avoid overload? Life is unbelievably beautiful. Even catastrophe can be stunning. I have the most vivid image indeliably seared into my mind of an entire grove of mango trees wrapped in the aluminum siding of an entire trailer park. After Hurricane Andrew, the trailers imploded and their sidings wrapped around these trees like tin foil around baked potatoes. It was as if God had done his own version of Cristo’s Pink Islands.

Sensation requires data collection AND data processing. If we don’t allow ourselves time to process, we just purge that data and never, ever see it, feel it, taste it or hear it, or smell it.

Our sensations conjure the most potent of memories. I want to slow down and feel all that stuff.

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