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.

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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 a Beach Walk: No. 46 (Heart)

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

Today I think about the heart, that 11 ounce (310 g) fist-sized hollow muscular organ whose sounds we associate with life. The heart whose sounds debatably marks the beginning of life, yet unquestionably noting the end.

The heart whose steady sounds are as regular as the rhythm of the waves that come ashore. The heart whose EKG charts of peaks and valleys I see in the waterline formed ahead of me on the beach as I walk.

The steady sounds of my feet striking the sand with each stride creates a steady bass drum beat that resembles my heart steadily pumping waves of blood – but I think the sea must have its own heart pumping a steady rhythm of waves coming ashore.

The heart – that symbol for behavioral standards as empathy, appreciation, enthusiasm, and love.

The heart – whose action descriptors include aches, breaks, explodes, touches, and hardens.

The heart – that symbol showing its power in numerous idioms as have a heart, pour out your heart, heart of a lion, heart-to-heart talks, a heart of gold, wearing their heart on their sleeve, a warrior’s heart, and a heart of stone – a hardened heart.

The heart can be young, untamed, lonely, broken, hungry, crossed, and mended – yet have a mind of its own.

Thoughts of heart-and-soul touches us deep within – but its Cupid who delivers the greatest heart of them all – love -love with the heart being the psychological center of a relationship. Yes, the heart – that source of tears of joy – tears of hurt – tears of pride – tears of endearment – tears of certain moments of beauty and sentimentality.

While the heart also delivers passions, blessings, prayers, hope, and forgiveness; the heart is about grace and peace of mind.

The heart shares, listens, consoles, and gives genuine kindness. The heart promises and trusts while also having a sense of justice.

Now I wonder – Is there a more powerful symbol than the heart? Is the heart our soul? Something to think about – but perhaps on another day. Thinking about the heart today delivers a smile because walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 45 (Windows)

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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, I look at the buildings. Regardless of the size and location, all have windows – those panes of glass providing light, views, and protection to those inside.

The windows are different sizes and orientations. The vast majority are rectangular while the multi-sided and circular are few – yet, all these windows trigger my thoughts on this day. Yes, windows – those mere openings in a wall covered by glass.

My head turns away from the buildings and toward the water where I spot the horizon – that line where the water meets the sky as I wonder what lies beyond that metaphoric window.

On this day many clouds fill the sky while serving as a translucent window allowing light through while blocking what lies above. The occasional hole of blue serves as a reminder of other days while blue patches serve as a window beyond the clouds.

Even on the cloudless days, the blue sky serves as a window shade to what lies beyond for night is what allows us to raise the shade to examine and dream about what lies beyond.

The water’s surface serves as a window to the beauty and history to what lies below. However, one seldom sees that world until they pass through that window’s opening into the aquatic underworld.

I think of medical equipment as various scans and tests that allow medical professors to peer through the opaque window of our skin and bones into our internal world of normalcy and abnormality.

I think of microscopes allowing us to pass through a window into a world where our eyes cannot naturally go. I also think about telescopes taking us beyond our atmospheric window into a distant world that we try to imagine.

I think of other windows such as poems – a collection of a poet’s words causing us to reach deep into our soul for understanding of the poet’s world – a world that the poet allows us to discover by looking through the window of their words.

I think of books as windows – both fiction and nonfiction for they allow us to expand our world by travelling through the window of knowledge and creativity with reflection, learning, and fantasy.

I think of learning a process taking us through the window of a world that we do not know that works to close the window to ignorance while opening a seemingly infinite number of windows into a new world.

I think of windows are an interval of time – a span providing an opportunity – that golden hour – whether planned or by chance, that optimal moment for something to happen.

Windows – whether open or closed – real or metaphor – windows are worth pondering. Thinking about windows is a reason why walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 44 (A Community of People)

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

Today is a Friday. The morning is cool – even cold to some – but, I am confident this afternoon will be comfortable for all. No matter how cold it is here, it is still warmer than home – but today I think about that distant place I call home.

There, our normal Friday night routine is ballroom dancing. We won’t be that here – but I think about that home dance community on this day.

The Friday night crowd is typically 50-75 people gathering for dancing and socializing. Most are regulars – many I’ve gotten to know – other I have not. It is an interesting collection of people that make it work.

Dance abilities range from A to Z. Only several compete, while others don’t hear the beat or the timing well. Most are in between.

Some dance with a variety of people while others dance with only their partner – but everyone has a good time.

There are married couples and married solos. Others are single, divorced, widowed, or re-married. There are parents, grandparents, and the kidless. There are American born and foreign born. Ages vary – but most are over 40. Those over 60 and 70 say, “Dancing keeps them young by keeping us moving.”

There are the tall, the short, and the in-between. The overweight, underweight, and the just about right. The fit and the not-so-fit. Introverts and extroverts. Locals and transplants.

There are the retired, still working, and about to retire. A wide range of professional skills including engineers, electricians, teachers, doctors, realtors, lawyers, technicians, pharmacists, firemen, scientists, accountants, physical therapists, service industry workers, managers, customer service representatives, carpenters, IT professionals, machinists, and the self-employed.

There are certainly Protestant and Catholic Christians, Jews, and Agnostics – and I will assume some Atheists. Surely a wide range of thoughts exist about creation.

There are Democrats and Republicans, while others are unaffiliated or don’t vote. Throughout the room are conservatives, liberals, ubers of each, and moderates. Nationalists and globalists are also present.

The music plays – people smile and dance. They laugh and converse. A wide variety of people with variety of backgrounds, personalities, interests, and personal philosophies that make it work despite their differences.

As I walk, thinking about this group at home causes me to smile. It also reinforces my belief that the majority of humanity is good – and this is a good feeling to accompany me because 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. 42 (After the Storm)

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

The past few days have been warm, but the strong winds and threat of rain kept my feet off the sand, therefore moving my walks to the treadmill, the city trails, or even the back of the building.

The storm front passed bringing a cold morning with gloomy skies. By noon, the sun accompanied a blue sky and a normal breeze – so the sands called me to walk.

Ahhhh … I missed my feet being here.

I go to the west without knowing my final destination – but it is into the wind. The air is still brisk, so I’m dressed accordingly. I laugh when a gentleman passes by because we are both in shorts – but he is shirtless while I feel comfortable with three layers and a hat.

More debris is present on the beach today. Not only brought ashore by the turbulent water, but the dredging project at the nearby channel exacerbates the litter. I watch for shiny metallic bits to avoid.

The sand is extra smooth from the winds and the roaring waves of recent days. The sand at the waterline is how I like it – firm and with minimal slope.

The firmness makes walking easier as more energy transforms into forward motion. There’s no forced lifting from sinking into the muck.

The relative flatness allows the water to glide ashore, then gently wash over my feet, then back to the sea. The slow retreat allows time for the sandpipers and sanderlings to forage for food in the freshly washed sand.

The sea foam slowly returns to the water as it adheres to the shore as legs of a full-bodied wine clinging to the inner sides of an oenophile’s glass.

Human presence on the beach today is sparse. Besides shirtless guy, I see only four fishermen on my trek and a handful of others. Turns out this is my first walk of the year to the point with the and the channel – about 2 miles (3.2 km) before turning for the return trip.

Although the morning conditions limited me to the fitness room, I still smile. My hands are cool – but not cold. I clothed with the shorts, three layers and a hat. What a beautiful day to return to the beach and my walking routine.

After all, I like walking the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.