Wordly Intoxication

This summer has been full of travel, moving, and relationships for me. There has been much to marvel at. (See below.) Two books have significantly added to my understanding and recognition of sensual experiences throughout the summer months. One was recommended by my mother, the other purchased for my upcoming Experience Design Course. The first was My Life in France by Julia Child, and the second A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman.

Incredible Mosiac work displayed in a Toledo museum.

Incredible mosiac work displayed in a Toledo museum.

These two women write enthusiastic and generous descriptions of scent, sound, tastes, and visual and tactile experiences. Not only do they describe experiences vividly, they take time to dwell on them in a personal way. The upshot of reading these books is that I am reminded to take a moment and notice how experiences travel through the senses. What does it feel and smell like to be at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon? What did the paella in Spain taste and look like?

Provence, France.

Provence, France. Full of scent, texture, and visual pleasure.

Although I don’t consider myself an especially acute “sensor,” it’s astounding how many sensual observations even I can make about experiences as mundane as washing dishes to exceptional experiences like a particularly fine meal. The key is to pay attention, especially to smells, tastes, and textures. While the Ackerman provides a history of senses and is packed with personal antidotes as well as a Bill Bryson-esque exploration, the Child provided a zest for life and learning through bubbling descriptions that was easy to get behind. Both are absorbing, and it is easy to loose oneself in their prose.

The next step: building specific sensual experiences for others.

“Our senses define the edge of consciousness, and because we are born explorers and questors after the unknown, we spend a lot of our lives pacing that windswept perimeter.”   -Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses