07/24/2012 05:05 EDT | Updated 09/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Get Out of the Office and Come to Your Senses


Those of us who spend a lot of time on computers know their value, not only for fast production, but the buzz we get from the incredible visuals, immediacy of emails from around the globe, and satisfaction of finding long-lost friends through Facebook. This little box is as much of an incredible addition to the human experience as telephone and television.

And yet, at the end of the day, the cyber world falls short of fulfilling our personal needs. Sure, Google Images and HD television can provide stirring images of Niagara Falls, until we want to step back from the edge, and yet they don't allow us the true roar of the falls and seagulls squawking over our shoulder, the smell of seaweed (ahh!) and the touch and taste of soft mist on our lips.

One of the problems in our fast-progressing society is that our brains have begun to dominate. I believe that thought is our sixth sense, and a magnificent one at that, capable of splitting the atom and blocking out a splitting headache, but it's cornered a monopoly over the five others senses, even dulled them, sometimes making us rush through life and forget to touch and smell and taste the old experiences.

For our healthy enrichment, we must leave the office and the living room for that factory of senses -- Mother Nature.

In an earlier blog, I described how I have been living, off and on, in a homemade fort (Red Pines) in my backyard at the edge of a deep woods. Going into nature doesn't automatically slow you down and I often find myself in a rush through the brambles (ouch!). When that happens, I grab my camera and start capturing things which know how to go through life in a natural way.

Hey, there's a monarch butterfly, fluttering over a field of wildflowers without a care in the world. Click, click. I watch it flirt with me, then land briefly on the back of my hand, trembling with life.

Then there's a male turkey, strutting around a gaggle of hens, but they're not into one-night stands. Easy, big guy.

I'm graduating into one-frame-at-a-time living. I've learned to sweat the small stuff, and stop taking the special little things of life for granted.

Focusing my camera stops me long enough to let my five other senses have their moment. And I get to learn about things first-hand. To be sure, I miss my iPhone going off every five or 10 minutes, but slowly, I learn to stop the rat race, unlock my senses and fascinate at the breeze playing high in the pines.

Even without my camera, I'm learning to stop what I'm doing and focus on something -- that old oak leaf sticking up through a puddle -- capture it with my mind and enjoy it. Maybe we ought to live one frame at a time and let our minds go still. They ought to issue cameras to schools with instructions: Stop. Focus. Capture. Experience.

Out in the fort, I'm starting to listen for things beyond my iPhone. I've never heard the birds so much, big voices for beings you can hardly see, somewhere all around me in the trees and meadow, turning the air even sweeter: friendly robins, blue jays with often prickly personalities, canaries without cages, white-crowned sparrows, blackbirds with red wings, chirping, singing, calling to one another and to me, Romeos doing their thing from perches -- even the shrills seem content in the feathered philharmonic.

Living in an airless building most of your life, you sometimes forget that real birds exist -- this combination of soloists, duets and ensembles, charmers with their own rich sound, crooning as they have done long before we came along, before there were human ears to hear and appreciate them.

Who wrote these melodies? Try to duplicate them on Broadway! There's a theory that early humans mimicked bird songs, then refined them into spoken languages we know today.

One day this past spring, after the birds' happy hour was over and my untrained voice was hoarse from singing along with them, I walked to a stream near the fort, which was building into a creek flowing high and fast, forcing a green-backed Mallard duck to tread water just to stay put in a bushy tunnel where the stream passed through part of the woods.

The air had a warm feeling running through it, not needing the sun to have charisma. The grass was wet -- not in a soaked-to-the-skin way, but warm and wet and life-offering.

All of a sudden, on that day in late April, everything seemed in unison -- the bird orchestra, the pools in the low areas of the meadow, the chipmunk race, faces of woodland creatures peering out of the woods, the moody sky with its clouds and invisible stars, the red pines glowing burnt orange in the moisture and the stream transporting ducks, silt, minnows and pike from vast regions across the valleys and dells and the road near the fort, recharging groundwater, picking up speed all the way into the pond to give the ducks a thrill, struggling through a beaver dam and, finally as always, dumping its findings and gifts into the vast lake.

The stream of consciousness in nature is a stream. The stream of consciousness in our world is becoming too much of an electronic one, without the joys of smell, taste and touch. Treat your senses to time outdoors!

For more on the senses and my fort, please check this video out on Youtube