On a Beach Walk: No. 52 (Sight)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

I think of our eyes – those two moveable spheres on the front of our face looking straight head while other organisms have them on top of their head.

I think about the importance of the eyes in balance – the way we keep our eyes on the single rail as we attempt a balanced walk on a railroad track.

I think of the eyes and the sense of sight that they initiate. That upside down, mirror-reversed image that red, green, and blue sensors on the retina of each eye detect – and these messages are the ones that our brain interprets and puts it together as the one image of what we see.

I think of sight as the one sense most of us fear losing. Some of us have lost the sight that others never had while others have experienced threats their eyesight. Ever wonder how people cope with losing vision after they had it?

Ever wonder what those with a visual abnormality see? The colorblind, whether red-green, blue-yellow, or even the monochromatic? Or the limited views caused by glaucoma or cataracts? It’s hard to imagine visual problems for those eyes aren’t mine.

Color is all around us. All the color we see is based on light signals received by those three sensors – yet we see so many colors. Somehow, a person with monochrome vision can be a painter of vibrant color.

Eyesight – that mechanism that puts a world in front of us to see – to interact with, to note danger, and more. But those are only true if we take the time to look – to notice the world and its detail found directly in front of us. Otherwise, we won’t notice what our eyes see. Then again, our biases, perceptions, and distractions influence our interpretation of the visual scene.

Whereas the eyes gather light’s input of our world, our vision is a gift from our mind that is a higher level and purpose of vision. Perhaps this is what Helen Keller meant when saying, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

The eyes – those two small spheres that show emotion, interest, confusion, confidence, insecurity, and more. The locking of eyes can be a special moment – that is transcending what one sees to another level of emotion.

No matter where we are, our lives are surrounded of things to see, but do we take time to notice what is around us – even directly in front of us. After all, awareness is a conscious activity. But for everything there is to see, we cannot see without light.

There is much to see when I walk the beach, and my observations are in many beach walks – but this remains unchanged – I like walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 51 (Hearing)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Hearing the sounds of the sea as I walk is relaxing. The sequence of the upswell at the start of the breaking waves to the clap of the crest’s splash to the shoosh gently fading away. I even hear the popping of the tiny bubbles as water caresses my feet.

That sound is repetitive and constant while dominating the beach’s soundscape – but both similar and different with each passing day.

Hearing – the only sense relying on vibrations. The shell of our outer ear captures the sound waves of the sea and then directs those waves that we don’t hear then to the eardrum – causing it to vibrate. – which causes the 3 bones of the middle ear to vibrate – yet we do not hear.

The vibrating bones cause another membrane to vibrate – which causes inner ear fluid to vibrate – then nerve endings specialized to a particular wavelength of sound detect the vibrations – yet we do not hear.

Nerves carry the detected messages to a specialized section in the brain that puts all the messages together into what we hear. Ahhhh … now I hear the sounds of the sea that I enjoy.

I think of the classic holiday song, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” because we apply our own perspective into interpreting sounds. What one enjoys, another may not.

Without hearing, sound is silence to the listener. They do not hear the emotions music conveys. They do not experience the sounds of nature. They cannot differentiate the soundscapes of the beach, the stream, the woods, and the meadow.

They do not hear the words of love, encouragement, support, enthusiasm, and wisdom. They do not hear the voice that gives one peace. On the plus side, they are protected from the political noise of partisan pickering, personal slander, and consistent vitriol.

I think of the animals in nature whose hearing mechanism is like ours – yet some are acutely more sensitive for protective purposes. Dogs have nerve endings for detecting frequencies beyond our upper range, so they painfully hear the dog whistle that we cannot hear. Deer, who detect a slight rustling of the ground caused by a seemingly quiet step by a human in the distance.

Hearing isn’t the same as listening. Some may say listening is sophisticated hearing. Listening is mindful attention to what is said. Listening is focusing on the spoken words, not on what to say in response. Listening is something we give someone – respect – a gift that connects us to others.

Listening stimulates our thoughts. Listening make one better. Listening leads to a great understanding. Listening connects humanity. Listening joins us with nature as we concentrate on the natural sounds while trying to apply meaning.

But, some favor being heard or hearing their own voice. Then again, maybe they simply favor telling over listening.

Hearing – a sense that we value – yet take for granted. Does listening to loud music through headphones at a high volume demonstrate a greater value for music than hearing? But what did I know then – or simply did I not listen to wisdom? Is this a reason for my hearing aids today?
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I have a choice when I walk. I can hear the wind or I can listen to it. Thinking about what the wind is saying or even letting the mind wander and wonder. After all, I like walking the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 50 (Smell)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

As I walk, air along the gulf coast has a certain freshness that vitalizes the soul. The salt and a bit of fish or other marine life seems to permeate the sense of smell.

I think about how smell and taste influence each other. The sommelier smells the wine first, then tastes – and smell influences that taste – then the sommelier may smell again, followed by another sip to taste, and then even repeating this cycle of experiencing enhancement.

I think about the times when walking into the house from the outside to be greeted by the aroma of a food feast is in the midst of preparation for a family meal. Smells that we recognize – smells that trigger memories – smell that make our mouths water in anticipation.

I think of the smells many of us recognize – burning leaves of autumn – grilling steaks – newly cut grass – freshness of a flower.

I think of chemistry class as a teacher taught us to wave one hand over a beaker or test tube toward our nose to catch a scent – especially wonderful esters that are part of the flavor industry.

I think of products with distinct smells – whether roses, leather goods, pungent ammonia, or many more in nature and as manufactured products.

I think about how smell and taste are two senses working in tandem to enhance the other. We have many more different specialized sensors detecting smell than taste – yet the wine sommelier uses both to develop descriptors for that wonderful fruit of the vine.

I think about pheromones – the chemicals that living things release outside the body for a variety of reasons as attracting a mate, defense, marking territory, alarm, and more. Although we humans also have natural pheromones, sometimes we chose to add a scent of our choice.

I think about those who cannot smell. What a world they are missing. Yes, they are fortunate to miss the bad and unpleasant – but smells absence is a misfortunate when encountering the flowery, the essence of a spice, the sensuality of freshly-cleaned skin, and more.

I think about how smells are personal. Not only can smells trigger memories, each of us can smell something different from the same object as each of our brains interpret those smells differently. Each of us may associate a smell with a different event in our past – some pleasant, others no so.

Yet, we have something in common. Our smell sensors are in the same location. After detection, the sensory impulses travel to the same part of the brain, which interprets that smell for our analysis – yet we may perceive the smell differently in the analysis

We can walk in the same air, but smell is personal. Each of us my detect something different or interpret the same smell differently.

I enjoy smelling the sea air when I walk, after all walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 49 (Taste)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Take your pick – think about your favorite food – or your most recent meal – or what are you going to eat at your next meal. Better yet, how would you describe its taste? Think beyond a mere similarity and contrast statement as it tastes like chicken.

Taste is not superfluous – taste is both serious and fun. Chefs pride themselves on achieving a certain taste in their culinary creation, yet how many of us take time to taste beyond the obvious that is associated with chewing and swallowing?

We make conclusion statements as I like it or not – but can explain why? Can we distinguish and describe flavors? That’s when taste is serious and fun!

I think about how taste serves as a protection mechanism against poisons while serving as a basis for cravings. Babies not like bitter, but over time, the same person may end up enjoying coffee.

I think about how a sommelier is trained to distinguish flavors in wine – while to some wine drinkers, simple terms in tasting notes as fruity, dry, oaky, citrus, and more may be reasons to like or dislike a wine. In school we learned about taste as sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Today, we add savory (umami) to that list. However, have you ever tried to describe the taste of a cherry to someone who can’t distinguish tastes? Better yet, to someone without a sense of taste?

Taste is serious and fun – yet to living things with that ability, taste is about meeting nutritional and survival needs. For we humans, taste starts with nerve endings primarily located on the tongue.

I like black licorice – and that means I also enjoy raw fennel – but that distinct taste is not for everyone. On the other hand, I consider the taste of caraway seeds as evil – but others love it. I didn’t enjoy sauerkraut as a kid – but today I have ways of accepting the taste. So I wonder, how much of our personal preferences lie in our DNA versus how much is learned?

I’m of Italian descent, so some automatically assume I’m a lover of garlic. Well, that’s not true for me, but I also believe garlic’s overabundance in food masks other flavors.

The sense of taste delivers the joys of culinary delights. The sense of taste distinguishes excellence from mediocrity. The sense of taste is an important aspect of what makes a meal memorable. Yet, taste is personal – but deeply personal for those who use it.

As I walk on the beach, there are days I believe I can taste sea salt from the ocean in the air – then again, maybe that’s the smell influencing that thought. Nevertheless, I like walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 48 (Touch)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

I feel the firm sand with each step. My feet enable me to distinguish degrees of wetness – yet, I cannot feel individual grains of sand – but I do love the water’s smooth caress. Ahhhhh … the sense of touch.

As I walk I can tell when I step on a fine gritty layer of fine shells – or when I step on a single shell. My eyes tell me to slow down and be careful as I cross a dense area of shells – or even advise me to detour. Yet, I am impressed how the touch on the bottom of my feet causes me to retract my step when encountering a shell’s sharp edge. Cheers to the sense of touch.

I think about the sense of touch on my feet when they are not on this beach – but in a sock that’s in a shoe. I not only feel the sock on these feet, but I can also distinguish the inside of my shoe. Better yet, I can also feel the floor upon where I stand, and the bottom of each shoe between the floor and my feet. I can distinguishing levels of hardness of the floor from plush carpet to wood to tile or concrete. Yes – the marvels of the sense of touch.

I think about the sensitivity of our fingertips and how much we rely on them. While touch sensing ability of the skin on our back is much less sensitive than our fingers, but our lips are even more sensitive as noted in a soft, sensuous kiss. Ahhh – the sense of touch.

The sense of touch allows us to distinguish an apple from a pear when biting into them by differentiating the texture of their flesh. It’s the sense of touch that allows the blind to read through the Braille system.

Touch is related to our mood and the situation. Think about the differences of touch in a loving couple while amorous and the “don’t touch me” feeling during an argument.

Touch differs between cultures – let alone among people. Some show touch as an acceptance or appreciation, but others react to touch as an infringement of their space. Those that are tactile oriented must learn to change because others are not.

Touch, that complex feedback system linking behaviors and emotions. Touch, that therapeutic message that is a sign of assurance, friendliness, encouragement, and comfort. Touch, the sense we associate with erogenous.

Of all the senses, I imagine touch is the least researched, yet, psychologists approach different aspects of touch, but not its absence or loss.

We can close our eyes to simulate blindness, plug our ears to limit sound, or hold our nose to limit smell – but can you imagine not being able to feel? Can you imagine a life without that sense of touch that protects us? Can you imagine being unable to detect the caress by a loved one that gives us a feeling of comfort?

Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy the current feeling the beach gives me because I like walking the beach for it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 47 (Senses)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Ever think about your senses? Yes – the senses – that collective that we associated with sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste, and balance.

The senses – the cooperative making us aware of our external and internal environments.

The senses – the cumulative sensory devices gathering information that is sent to our brain, which integrates the message into our personal reality that we shape into our individualized personal perspective.

The senses – something all living things have – maybe not all to the same degree of sensitivity – but they have senses. After all, detecting and reacting to environmental conditions is important to all life forms. Maybe not all the same senses as us, but they have senses with the same purposes as ours – to make the organism aware of their surroundings.

The sensory devices may be as simple as to detect light – that is, to either seek it or avoid it. Others see well enough to detect movement – but even our vision isn’t that of an eagle, hawk or falcon.

Some sensory mechanisms seek a desired pH. Others trigger movement. Some detects temperatures to guide the organism toward the preferred temperature.

I look at the shells on the sand thinking that they once housed a living thing that had senses. Not as the specialized organs that may be in our minds, but as specialized nerve endings sensitive to touch so a reflex action can quickly occur.

I pass a jellyfish washed ashore and its their sensory ability that reacts with a sting. Since it may still be alive, I watch my step.

I see a pelican diving because their sensory eyes spotted a prey below the water’s surface – a fish who can also see with eyes and detect other senses with its lateral line on the side of its body – a structure that our eyes can see – but they still may fall prey to the pelican – but maybe not.

The senses – those detection system that constantly bombard our brain with information – many of which are unconscious to us – so we are oblivious to their usefulness. Many others we choose to ignore – yet some get logged as future memory recall. Some create a moment in time that sticks with us. Maybe a learning situation because I wonder – is there any learning that doesn’t start with a sense?

I think of the technologies that assist our senses. The corrective lenses that I wear for better eyesight; a hearing aid to detect and amplify lost sounds. Oh the wonders of how Braille transforms touch into visual words so the visually impaired can read.

I think of the blind who can’t see the graph, but can interpret the data through technology transforming the data into audible sound.

I think of technologies that extend our senses. From the simple stethoscope to a sonogram and beyond.

The bottom line is simple – our senses are vital for survival of all living things – yet to we humans, senses are also personal.

As I walk, my senses are simultaneously at work, and thinking about this wonderful collective that we may take for granted are good thoughts for this day. After all, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Perception

Look at the images below. Which image do you see first in each of four images in the gallery below? (To help, there is a question below each image.)

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Look at them again. Can you see the other?

Perception: The recognition and interpretation of sensory information mainly on memory

Perception: The nerve processes of recognition and interpretation

Perception: The insight, intuition, or knowledge gained by perceiving

Perception: The capacity for such insight

Watch the video below.

As humans we encounter many things each day as our senses are constantly processing data. For example, the bottom of our feet can simultaneously distinguish contact with a sock, the inside of the shoe, the surface on which one is standing or moving.

Our senses allow us to experience the world around us. Take a moment to think of all the things you perceive on a daily basis.

Perception is about our sensory experience of the world around us and involves both the recognition of environmental stimuli and actions in response to these stimuli.

Perceptions include the organization, identification and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment.

What the short video below.

All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs.

Perception depends on complex functions of the nervous system, but subjectively seems mostly effortless because this processing happens outside conscious awareness.

Perception is influenced by past experiences, the situation, the expectation, and the intensity of the perception.

Watch the last video for the final test.

What do you think?