Sep 22 2013

Seeing Creation With All Five Senses

WY-Yellowstone-NP-Grand-Prismatic-SpringThomas Dubay once wrote: “Creation is a book proclaiming the Creator.  It is a book of beauty that our intellect reads, but through the passageways of our five senses.”  Regular readers of this blog know that we speak often of Creation being God’s “other Book” so Dubay’s opening sentence is nothing new for us.  Neither is his claim that Creation is a “book of beauty that our intellect reads.”  We have spoken innumerable times of the beauty of the natural world and our obligation to study it.  What is perhaps new is Dubay’s reminder that we read the book of Creation “through the passageways of our five senses.”

CRG-fallsAs the title of this blog suggests, Rob and I tend to focus on the sense of sight.  Most of our reflections offer encouragement to “see” God in Creation.  We offer suggestions on how we can all see God in the natural world He has made.  There is certainly nothing wrong with having this particular focus but it would prove helpful if we stopped from time to time to remember that our experience of God in Creation is also enhanced by the use of our other four senses.

The sense of hearing has greatly increased my love for both the Creation and God.  I have had the chance to watch glaciers calve in Alaska but in some ways it was the sound of the glacier calving that created a sense of awe and wonder in me.  I have viewed countless waterfalls over the years but the roar of the waters excites me just as much as the visual stimulation created by the falls.  I have watched sandhill cranes take off, fly, and land many times but for some reason when I think of sandhill cranes it is the unique sound they make that stirs my soul.

Bosque-140091The sense of smell certainly is a vital part of my experience of nature.  Oceans, deserts, old growth forests and places like Yellowstone National Park all have particular smells that make beholding them even more special.  The beautiful flowers I see and photograph along trails are wonders to behold but I also know that the scents emitted from these flowers make my experience of them all the more enjoyable.  In the Old Testament we learn that God desired incense offerings from humans.  It would seem in Creation God made sure that there would always be such offerings for His own enjoyment and ours too.

For me the sense of touch also plays a vital role in my enjoyment of and experience in nature.  I cannot resist the temptation at times to just reach out and touch the trunk of a tree.  I like feeling the various textures of rocks.  If I am near a stream I invariably reach down to touch its waters.  In my less sane moments I might even touch the needles of a cactus just to see what they feel like.  Touch is so important in our human relationships, why would it not be in our relationship with Creation?

ONP-058The sense of taste is probably the one I make the least use of in the natural world.  But even here it is not unusual for my experience of Creation to be enhanced by the use of my taste buds.  The taste of salt at the ocean, wild blueberries picked on the tundra, and even a snowflake on the tongue on a cold winter’s day can make one feel more alive and connected to both Creation and Creation’s Maker.

I would encourage you to explore ways that you can use all five of your senses to read God’s book of Creation.  They are, after all, God’s gifts to us and should be used in ways that will benefit us, both physically and spiritually.  One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 34:8.  Here the Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  I think he could just as well have said,  “Taste, feel, listen, smell and see that God is good.”  By using all of our senses we will, indeed, come to see the goodness of God.  When it comes to “seeing Creation” our other senses will help enable us to see God more clearly than the use of our eyes alone.


(I took the first image at Yellowstone NP, the second at Columbia River Gorge, the third at Bosque del Apache NWR, and the fourth at Olympic National Park.)


Oct 21 2009

The Smells of Nature

Yellowstone NP Giant GeyserIn my last blog I wrote about how my experience in nature goes well beyond the visual realm.  I noted how important sounds were as well.  To this I would also add smells.  Although all the scents of nature may not be pleasant, there are many which have added immensely to my enjoyment of nature.  I even buy candles with some of these scents to remind me of being outdoors or in special places. 

I love the smell of sagebrush and always look forward to catching a whiff of sage when I travel west.  I love a lot of the woody scents—balsam, cedar and pine.  Other favorite scents include honeysuckle, eucalyptus trees, the ocean, tilled earth, and any number of flowers.  Even though I don’t particularly like the sulfur smell one encounters in Yellowstone National Park, that scent also helps to make Yellowstone special to me. 

The sense of smell is important to us.  Interestingly enough, the Bible indicates that God has this sense as well.  Nearly forty times in the Old Testament reference is made to God smelling the pleasing odor of a burnt offering.  There were various aromas associated with the sacrifices used in the worship of God.  Aromatic incense was also used in worship.  Incense eventually came to be associated with prayer.  In Psalm 141:2 David asked “May my prayer be set before you like incense…” (see also Revelation 5:8)  In the Gospel of John there is a beautiful story of a woman who poured out “a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume” on Jesus feet.  This costly act was, likewise, an expression of worship. 

Sunday I wrote about how the sounds of nature join together in offering praise to God.  Would it be going too far to say that the smells of nature—both the good and the bad—are likewise a part of Creation’s worship of the Creator?  Personally, I don’t have a problem with that at all. 


 (The image above is of Giant Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.)