A Natural History
of the Senses
by Diane Ackerman
"Even as I think of smells, my nose if full of
scents that start awake sweet memories of summers gone and ripening
fields far away - Helen Keller.
It is appropriate that a book on the senses should
start by with a quote from a woman who had lost two senses only
to increase her awareness of the intensity of those that remained.
Humans seek to absorb the word, we invigorate and
indulge our senses. In the modern era it has never been so accessible
to create a world filled with indulgences for all of our senses.
Music overflows from our cars, luxurious velvet shirts fill our
closets, vibrant colors are splashed upon our living room walls,
mint and rosemary infuse our shampoo, Godiva chocolates.. everywhere
we go, in everything we touch we seek to tantalize our senses.
As pagans we seek connection to our world. Our world
is explored and interpreted through our senses. In an ever increasingly
isolated world we must seek awareness of and explore our senses
or risk becoming numb to the most basic and precious of gifts. The
gift of being.
Diane Ackerman expounds on the senses through sensual
exploration. Allowing history, poetry, science, psychology, and
culture to weave into a tapestry that seeks to share an understand
and appreciation of each sense in its purity. She passionately meanders
through each chapter, not so much leading us to an statement as
much as creating an experience for us to wander through like a garden.
Stopping to look, feel, taste, touch and listen.
Often combining fact after fact, which in any other
writer would be frustrating, Ackerman's style and command is rather
like watching an artist put brushstroke after brushstroke onto a
canvas. We get lost in the process, it is not always clear how each
part connects to the previous part but slowly the sense takes shape
within our understanding. It gains personality and dimension. We
begin to experience and take notice of the world in a more vibrant
way. We pay attention.
Reviewed by Trinity