Unusually for me I feel a little under the weather. I woke up in Plymouth last Thursday, the final day of my south west coast walk, with a sore throat. At home later that evening the boringly familiar symptoms of the common cold made their unwelcome appearance: coughing, sneezing, headache, a general feeling of lassitude and a complete lack of sympathy from anyone else in the house. Nothing unusual there, you might think. What is he complaining about?
Well, actually I'm rarely ill, and the last time I was unwell - the only time since I began blogging over three years ago - was also when I'd just returned from a long hike. (I blogged about it here.) Could there be a connection? Any theories, anyone? Myself, I believe that multi-week trekking can be hard work, and can be stressful, even if we don't fully realise it when we're transported by the strangeness, the beauty and the freedom of it all; and this, plus the sudden, depressing jolt back into routine reality when the trip's over and done, can trigger an adverse reaction. (Then again it's probably simply down to the prosaic germs of a virus - there are always hundreds going around, especially at this time of year.)
However the real point of this post is not to gripe about a minor ailment affecting millions at the moment, or even to crave a smidgen of sympathy from cyber-buddies. No, the motivation behind the piece is to say: let's all be gratefully aware every minute of the day for our five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell - and the sixth 'sense' of our mind, which coordinates them all! Because of my cold I've temporarily lost two of these - the interlinked senses of taste and smell - and I miss them acutely. The savour of food and drink, the scent of a late summer breeze in piney woods, the bitter tang of woodsmoke, the redolence of herbs, the taste of tarragon chicken, lamb with rosemary, garlic-roasted vegetables - all these things are lost to me. Why is it we often seem to need to lose things - our health, our senses - before we can really appreciate what we have and take for granted?
(Awareness going out to all those who have either temporarily or permanently lost the use of either one or more of their senses.)
(Zen exercise: try to imagine what it must be like without first one, then two, then three etc, then finally all your senses.)
(Nowadays we recognise many more senses than the traditional five senses: eg the sense of pain, of balance, of motion and acceleration, of time, of temperature, of direction etc.)