With the luck of my second marriage, I acquired a ‘Special Mom’. She has a quiet, accepting presence that I appreciate whenever I get the chance to be with her. I watch her and discover nuggets of wisdom. She has lived long enough to share many treasures, among them, common sense.
Many might agree with the notion regarding ‘common sense’ as being anything but common. It’s a sense that seems to grow as the traditional senses diminish. Caution is part of this sense as well as patience. I feel for those who have lost one or more of the tradition five: Taste, Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell. Losing one of these gems will necessitate adjustments I don’t know if I’m brave enough to face. But age does create new challenges to overcome.
I remember a childhood talking game that proffered which sense you could manage without. In order to help us decide, we might playact with a blindfold, stuff Kleenex up our noses, plug up our ears, or wear thick gloves. We were young scientists and needed props to facilitate our silly investigation. I felt that being blind would create the greatest amount of trauma. I’m mildly claustrophobic and being without vision added to that closed in feeling. In fact I remember feeling fear the first time I saw someone walking on the street with a cane.
In that way I think Emotion is a sense. It comes from the heart. When we speak of feeling something, it is beyond our physical senses. I feel that Emotion is the sixth sense that is so often stated in fiction. If it is suggested you are using your sixth sense you are likely tapped into something you can’t quite explain yet you know there is truth to what you are experiencing. You are engaging with intuition, such a misunderstood sense. Like an ‘Empath’ in some space SciFi story you are sensing something ‘out beyond’ even though others can’t detect it with their lesser senses. Spiderman would know what I’m talking about.
We link our senses to our emotions with our language choices. We might have a ‘Bad taste in our mouth’ after an uncomfortable event. We could be ‘blinded’ by love. Perhaps we feel that we are ‘out of touch’ with a current reality. Someone’s idea may illicit, “That smells fishy to me.” At the end of a tiring experience we can feel we have ‘carried the weight of the world’ on our shoulders. Western medicine is slowly becoming aware of what Eastern practitioners have know all along: our sensual experience can focus attention where it is needed.
We know we are alive when our senses are engaged. Depression is often characterized as a state where senses were numbed. Depression is the closest we get to death while still breathing. I think the experience of the senses is the whole reason for living.
My mother-in-law has poor vision and weak hearing yet I haven’t sensed that her reality has got her down. That’s a comforting thing for me to witness.
My skin has been aging. It’s getting that thin parchment paper look that I remember when my parents got older. When I look at the onion skin on the top of my hand I immediately think of my father. I’m not alarmed. I play with this loose skin the same joyous way I grasp the tiny fresh finger buds on my baby grandchildren.
Skin is the covering of the soul. It is not immortal yet it is valuable as the body’s first line of defence. Humans carry almost 4 kilograms of skin, making it the biggest organ in the body. A soft exoskeleton to be sure yet it protects us from chemical and biological invasion. Early concerns for our skin came after a ‘Booboo’ or an ‘Owie’. A simple skinned knee often caused a rush of welcomed attention as we were attended to by loving hands. We watched with wonder as a scab formed. Some of us learned to develop a thicker skin to repel hurtful words.
I used to hate being called a skinflint, but if you want to have skin in the game you have to acquire a level of toughness. We embellished stories of how we survived by the skin of our teeth. Maybe we later grinned in the mirror to see if there actually was skin on them. And maybe that’s why we brushed!
And what’s the skinny on mule skinners? Such expressions and meanings we give to words can be baffling when they pop in your head as a skinny little snippet from your long ago past. My grandad used to ask me for some news with the phrase, “What’s the skinny son?” I used to own a mule skinner’s knife when I was a boy scout. I kept it in a leather holster that fastened to my belt for easy access on canoe trips. My dad referred to hard labour work he did in WWII as mule skinning, yet I’m sure he was never put in charge of a team of mules.
I have an urge to launch into a debate when someone tosses off the cliché; Beauty is only skin deep. Or the similar platitude; You can’t judge a book by its cover. I love the beauty of a person’s skin and I love the beauty of their character. The meaning and wonder of Martin Luther King Junior’s speech notwithstanding, I have a dream that we celebrate both skin and soul for the gifts that they are.
The sight of skin often brings me in for a closer examination. I was never a pudding lover as a kid, but one look at the caramel skin on a baked rice pudding drew me in for a delicious taste. I pet fruit in grocery stores. It’s something I miss as a result of Covid19 restrictions. It’s intimidating to see a sign next to the melons, ‘Please take the one you touch.’ I like to stroke a nectarine before choosing. I’ll palpate for softness on a cantaloupe skin. I can’t resist.
There is a certain pathos with thoughts of time, especially when you realize, like I do, that you have less time left, than the time you have already lived. There are some parts of my life I return to in memory, but mostly I focus on the present. Sometimes I’ve wanted to save time in a bottle as Jim Croce once wished. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnWWj6xOleY
I have seen Time as a friend when I have been grieving or ill and as an enemy when I have had to meet a deadline or complete a test in school. I’ve enjoyed the thrill of meeting someone at just the right time and, on another occasion, I felt the disappointment of recognizing that the timing wasn’t right for a lasting bond. I’m old enough to have experienced a change in societal culture called the ‘end of an era’. I’ve impatiently timed contractions during the birth of my sons, measuring minutes as though they were hours. I’ve learned how to use time to make the most of a bad situation. Most of the time I think I use my time wisely.
I used to be quite fanatical about man-made time. My first watch, a practical Timex with a brown leather strap, was a gift from my parents on my tenth birthday. This timepiece removed uncertainty from my day. I could plan my away time and become less reliant on others. My friends and family began to rely on my timekeeping abilities. I put my third watch in a drawer on my thirtieth birthday and haven’t worn one regularly since. As I grew older I became resentful of my timepiece, and clocks in general, since I found them a reminder of responsibility and the sadness that can come from reflecting on time passages. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCJkbrQF88A
We celebrate anniversaries and birthdays as milestones in our lives. Numbers represent years, then decades, somehow giving us a sense of personal achievement, however unwarranted. Nature wins out in the end. We only have a lifetime, which can’t be predicted on a calendar. These days I respect nature’s symbols of time more than the programmable kind. I’m close enough to an ocean to enjoy the magic of tidal rhythm. I love being aware of the seasons. I pay homage to the moon cycles and delight in the change in daylight hours marked by solstice and equinox.
I’ve come to see time as a gift rather than a goal. I chuckle now when it seems to fly by. Then I marvel when it slows to the natural rhythm of my breathing. I like seeing my lifetime as compartments: Many separate moments that have created the current me. Time can take you on a journey as vivid as a train trip. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdQY7BusJNU
Time has wonderful healing properties that have allowed me to put events into a broader perspective. Some of my memories have faded, making it easier to make peace with loss. I’m not necessarily wiser, just a bit calmer.