Wednesday, June 9, 2010


All the senses have both an exterior and interior reality. I hear, taste, see and smell many things at once, but I register only a few of my perceptions in a given moment and select which ones to think about and store in my memory. The locus of each of four of these senses is in my head. My ears, mouth, eyes and nose send information directly to my brain. The rest of my body remains relatively uninvolved in what I hear, taste, see and smell unless I choose to involve it. With feeling it is right away obvious it is different because my entire body is covered with the organ that feels. My skin is the largest organ in my body and sends more messages to my brain in a given second than any of my other senses. This creates a challenge when I become conscious of what I am feeling. I am a bundle of nerves! It takes more for this organ to get my attention than the other three senses because it would be information overload to register all of it at once. Starting out on a hike in the redwood forest that is adjacent to the retreat center, I notice there is precipitation in the air. Thousands of tiny little droplets are pummeling my skin. I see the cat has caught a bird and is prancing around with it very proudly. I feel sad for the bird, but feel no blame for the cat. That is its way. It looks so proud of itself. Overhead a hawk is circling. It has a lizard in its beak. I wonder about the coincidence of two proud hunters showing off their catch and think it must be the time of day that makes this a good time for hunting. The overcast skies means the hunters have no shadows to forewarn the prey. A breeze begins to whirl out of the northwest. I have only gone a few meters down the trail when I feel a sharp vibration under my feet and the air thrums with some deep \ loud creaking noise. My feelings serve to alert me to look and listen to discover more about what I am feeling. The vibration continues but grows fainter. I take a few more steps and there is another trembling under foot followed by a loud creak. This time I realize that it is the sound of a large tree creaking in the wind. All the trees are swaying in the wind and I don’t know which one is pushing against another to make the sound. The vibration I feel must be from the ground where the roots are. The wind picks up, the ground quakes under my feet and the air begins to vibrate around me. Birds swirl overhead. One more creak, prolonged this time, and the tops of some of the trees in the forest begin to tumble away from me, down into the ravine. Crash, crash, crash, boom! A tree has fallen and the ground is still. Inside I have a new feeling of reverent awe at being present at the death of a tree. Chickadees and Jays come swirling around me. They look in my eyes and sing out as if to say “Did you see that?!” They swirl ahead of me down trail and off in the direction of the tree that fell. I cannot follow them although they seem to invite me to go deeper into the woods off the trail into the ravine. I know in my bones it would unsafe. All is still and I feel grateful to be alive.