The Senses in Autumn

Fall ColorThe rains came today, after too long an absence. Here in the great valley, most of the trees are just now turning; the rain left intact most of the leaves.

The sound of autumn rain is evocative, bring to the surface many memories. Our aural environment is a powerful source of recollection, although, given the sound pollution we live with on a daily basis, we may not notice this. Consider the authority music has in our emotional lives; think for a moment about the ability of pop music to transport us back in time and place, to awaken memory.

Taste and smell are also powerful sources of emotion, as Proust so famously noted. Dogs live aroma driven lives. Generally, amongst us humans, women are more fragrance conscious than men; men respond to smell, yet are often unconscious of doing so. The same may be true of taste, in part due to the neurological link between smell and taste.

Experiences that engage all of our bodily senses are often profoundly moving. Black Elk’s description of his great, life shaping vision is replete with kinesthetic, aural, and visual imagery. The most healing moments in hypnosis or journey work often arise from deeply engaged multisensory experiencing. Frequently, these moments are grounded in Nature.

In ceremony we engage sound, smell, visual perception, kinesthetic experience, and often, taste. The feast that follows ceremony is a fundamental aspect of ceremony, honoring the Creator, spirits, and participants, building an extended community based on shared experience. My South American teachers said the spirits join the feast by “eating” the aroma of the food. They also love the colors of the flowers and cloth, the smell of he incense, the play of fire. While the spirits may be disembodied, they lead a rich sensory life.

Here in the northeastern U.S., Autumn brings a delicious palate of sensory stimuli. The foliage turns bright colors, the aroma of decaying apples and wood smoke drifts across the valley, and the air takes on a chill. Even the sound of rain striking leaf and roof changes. It is a good time to be present to the world.


4 thoughts on “The Senses in Autumn

  1. Beautifully written, Michael. And so true. My memories from childhood are strongest of rainy days in the forests of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Predominantly Birch, Oak, and Maple, the paths were lit by a almost otherworldly fire of yellow, red, and orange. I remember the delicate loneliness of the rain-soaked trails; the acrid tea smell rising from the decaying leaves.

    Your post brings me back to these introspective and powerful times.

    I’m grateful for this. . .

    1. Ben, I am immensely thankful for this as well. Autumn is such a good turning inside time, yet it welcomes us to go out into the world and enjoy the colors and the foraging. Perfect! And fewer mosquitoes! We were at the Audubon Center on Saturday and the woods was filled with the scent of those decaying apples. We just had to buy a pie.

  2. Yeah. . .

    I think of my sun worshiping twenties, and the hours I spent on the beach. The hotter, the better was my motto back then. Now, I’m all about the mild days and chilly nights. The beautiful transitions of green to red to brown. The smell of wood smoke and the tangy earthiness of local cider. . .

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