Just before I would start a hike with a bunch of energetic 6th graders I would ask them ” Who would like to see some animals?” and of course everyone raises their hand, who doesn’t want to see animals in nature. I then ask them the difference between predator and prey. I then ask ” Of your five senses which ones does a predator use to find its prey?”. We come up with sight, sound and smell. Touch and taste come into play with catching and eating. I’ll give them plenty to touch and taste on the hike. We come up with having to use our eyes, our ears and our nose. Unfortunately we are not like Mr. Coyote who is able to smell the rabbit. Again, I’ll give them plenty to smell. What this all points to is that we must use our senses to discover what is around us. I tell the kids this in an effort to settle them down and let them be able to OBSERVE nature. If they are talking about the ball game coming up, or their favorite show, or whatever, they will not see much at all. Our senses are used to OBSERVE things. To gain information about the world around us. This is where the ART comes in, how one uses their senses to OBSERVE what’s around them. Millennia ago if we weren’t paying attention to our surroundings we would end up as somebody’s dinner! We have lost a lot of that capacity because of our modern lives. We are not as connected to nature anymore.
We have all heard the talk about a “sixth sense”. Well I think we have one, our brain. We use our brain to analyze and perceive the world around us. Isn’t that just like one of our senses? However, this intellect of ours is our boon, but also our bane. Anthropologist say we are the only primate to almost never be here in the moment. We are always thinking about what has happened and what’s going to happen, totally missing out on what IS happening! In order to use this “sixth sense” we must quite our mind. Make it still. When I was doing a great deal of backpacking I never liked going out for 5 days or less. I liked at least 8 days and 10, or more, was the best. That was because it took me until the morning of the third day for my mind to finally release all the crap from our modern lives. I always woke up feeling different on that third morning and now I have a whole week to savor that feeling instead of only a couple of days. My mind was quiet! This I think is the real ART to enjoying nature. Put yourself in that place, use your senses and enjoy!
Yours in Nature,