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.)


Sep 1 2009

Partially Blind?

morning gloryRachel Carson is probably best known for her environmental classic Silent Spring.  One of her other books that I have enjoyed is The Sense of Wonder.  Here she writes, “For most of us, knowledge of our world comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind.   One way to open your eyes to unnoticed beauty is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before?  What if I knew I would never see it again?’”

Something tells me that if we asked Carson’s two questions more often we would definitely begin to look at things differently.  Far too many of us are guilty of taking our surrounding for granted.  Numerous times I have presented slide shows featuring the beauty of the area I live in to local folks who afterwards say they can’t believe that such beauty exists all around them.  They have quit seeing what is there.

Getting into photography seventeen years ago literally gave me a new set of eyes through which to see the world.  I have become far more observant of my surroundings than I was before.  Still, I have no doubt that there is much I miss every day.  It would help me if I would remember to ask Carson’s two questions more often.

Being able to see truly is a gift from God.  The scriptures teach us that with gift comes responsibility.  Does it not, then, make sense that failure to see all God wants us to see is a sin?   That we are expected to be good stewards of our vision?  In the Gospels we read of various blind people seeking Jesus’ healing touch.  Perhaps some of us who are “partially blind” need to ask for his healing touch as well.


(The photo of the morning glory seen above was recently taken in my yard.)