On a Beach Walk: #55 (Fog)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.
The morning is very foggy. As I walk, I feel an occasional mist. I see a wetness appearing on my glasses. Water collects and clings on my arms as a morning dew does on grass – but not as much as I recall from a prior year here on the coast.
The sand is smooth – unbothered by the extra low clouds. Besides, low tide was a short time ago. In many ways, it’s a good day for walking.
The thick fog seems to be keeping the birds grounded. The pelicans aren’t gliding by. The seagulls are absent – not even standing around on the beach. A sandpiper stands on one leg ahead – and hops away like a pogo stick as I approach.
The water feels good as it laps ashore and strokes my feet. Turning to look back, I notice that the buildings are difficult to see. Only their outlines faintly show, but I’m unable to count the floors. I wonder about spotting my turnaround point and my building when I return.
Thick fog is a metaphor for the unknown of what lies ahead. I imagine the Old World explorers making a journey across the ocean to an unknown land. The same feeling could be applied to the early astronauts or those trips to the Moon.
Fog is also a metaphor for a sense of my own mortality for I do not know what is in my future. Then again, none of us know what awaits un in the days ahead.
I forge ahead with my head more down than up. For whatever reason, my head rises and I notice my turning point. Somehow, the building is easy to see. Looking up I notice the sun appearing more like a moon behind a sheet of wax paper. Maybe the fog is about to clear. Maybe – or maybe not.
I change directions and soon feel a light glow from the sun warming the back of my neck – but as I look ahead – the thick fog remains – the feeling of mystery continues.
As my feet continue walking along the sand and occasionally in the water, the presence of birds remains minimal.
The location of our residence is unclear.
Fog is the gray between certainty and uncertainty. The unclear area between reality and the unreal. I’m on a moving line of the present that stands between the past and the future. Yes, the fog – a symbol of unclear thoughts and confusion – even frustration for some – but on this day, not me. I confidently trek ahead.
Later, with my back to the water, I stand looking at each faint outline of the buildings through the dense low clouds. A passer by asks if I’m trying to find my building, but I confidently define my location … then we laugh.
Because I’m near to my ending point, I return to the water’s edge for the remaining stroll. 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. 54 (Soundscapes)

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

How many layers of sounds do I hear as I walk? What if I could magically turn off all the sounds here; then bring them back one by one? In what order would they appear?

From the depth of silence, I would first return the sounds of the waves because they are the beach’s heartbeat. Ever present – always steady – sometimes louder – but the sounds of the sea serves as the conductor of the steady symphony I experience as I walk in this place.

As I stand facing the water and feeling the laps gently caressing my feet, I can hear the tiny bubbles of foam. That air trapped in the water being released into the atmosphere. Maybe that’s my transition sound.

Then comes the wind. The wind can greatly vary in its presence through direction and speed. The wind can pass my ears as a roar of a passing train. It can also be a soft whistle – or even the calming sound and feel of a gentle touch. But wait – the same wind sounds different depending on the direction as I walk.

The next layer would be the birds. As a whole, they are not a noisy lot. The seagulls squawk, but not constantly. The pelicans are stealth as they effortless soar just above the water’s surface. I occasionally hear the tweet of the sanderlings as they fly by.

I don’t hear insects or the sand crabs but it does not mean they don’t create sound. Nor do I hear human traffic or construction – but that may be a different soundscape.

I could add the sound of my feet. That steady bass drum that only I hear as I walk – or the splashing with each step as I walk through the passing water.

People would be the next sound. This time of year numbers are few. Humanity’s auditory presence is not constant – actually infrequent would be more accurate. The sounds in peak season would be different with the kids romping, teens playing beach volleyball, and radios blaring.

A soundscape at home in Ohio would be different than here. Would it be rural or urban? In a meadow or the woods? By day or at night?

Maybe I would start with rustling leaves; then add the gentle waters of a babbling stream. Insects would then buzz followed by birds chirping. Nightfall would remove the buzzing insects and chirping birds of the day, but replaced by the crickets, followed by the chorus of croaking frogs, then the occasional screeches of owls and the howling of mammals.

No matter where nature’s symphony plays, what if one of the sounds were eliminated. A concert with missing instruments. A piano concerto with missing keys.

I think about the lyrics in a Nat King Cole song – Mother Nature and Father time.

Every robin is my brother
They sing their songs to me
The tiny black-eyed daisies
The mighty red wood tree
There all my family

Then why do I feel so lonely
Like a king on an empty throne
There’s one thing that’s missing only
A true love to call my own

Won’t you listen mother nature
And listen father time
Please help me to find someone
To fill these arms of mine
Mother nature and father time

I wonder how many pictures can a soundscape paint? Thoughts of soundscapes are more complex than I imagined – but thinking about soundscapes is a good reason why walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

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. 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. 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.