Sunday, October 26, 2008

Perception and Memory

Memory and our senses seem inextricably linked. Why else does a gray windy day make me think that it's cold outside even though the temperature might be hot? Why do I think of my grandmother's bedroom when I hear the metallic plink of venetian blinds? How is it that listening to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vita takes me straight back to my high school boyfriend's Rambler? Why are mashed potatoes, meatloaf and macaroni and cheese the quintessential American comfort food?

While there are many mysteries our basic senses can not prove, they do provide us with a pretty clear picture of the physical world. I hear, I see, I touch, I taste, I smell, therefore I am. Each of us uses our senses to help us make decisions, to formulate opinions and to navigate through our day to day affairs. We have likes and dislikes, things that make us happy and sad. We laugh when we hear certain things and we remember events that took place long ago when we smell certain aromas. Seeing pictures of loved ones can invoke feelings of warmth, security and love.

What sorts of things appeal to your senses? What are some of your cherished memories? Here are a few of mine.

  • the satiny smooth feel of good paper and soft leather
  • clean crisp air-bleached sheets
  • the dirty smell of rain in the air
  • the ring of church bells on a quiet Sunday morning
  • the Saturday morning sound and smell of grass being mown
  • the earthy taste of mushrooms
  • the fresh apple smell of a baby's breathe
  • golden rays of sunshine stabbing the earth in the early morning
  • the head prickling nose snorting rush you get from egg rolls dipped in horseradish sauce
  • cicada songs on hot summer nights
  • thumb sucking babies
  • the soft enveloping feel of air before rain
  • leaves rustling in the wind
  • a train whistle's lonesome cry in the darkness of night
  • the sky and its many moods
  • the gentle eyes of a kind man
  • a child's smile of understanding and wonder
  • the soft sleeping inhalation and exhalation of a loved one
  • the soul stirring realization of the unknowable immensity of the God of the Universe
photo courtesy of Flickr

Now it's your turn. What appeals to your senses?


  1. the smell of good coffee
    the tinkling of glass wind chimes
    train whistles
    cool sheets
    touching and being touched
    the sound of the ocean
    the smell of jasmine
    or cinnamon
    or vanilla
    or sandalwood
    or pine
    chamber music
    gregorian chant

    I can stop now.

  2. Debby, ditto to thunder, the sound of the ocean, cinnamon, vanilla and gregorian chants.

  3. The way the air smells on the first warm day after a long, cold winter.

    The smell and sound of a crackling fire.

    The sound of a baby breathing in sleep.

    The sound and taste of biting into a crisp apple.

    The taste of anything chocolate.

    The taste and feel of a mixed drink creating fire in your throat.

    The feel of searing hot sunshine on my cold skin.

    The feel and sight of a kitten in my arms.

    The sight of my children when they were still young, walking through my mind's eye.

    The sight and smell of a scented candle burning in an otherwise dark room.

  4. Hilary, my great granddaddy lived in a house without indoor plumbing or modern heating. What I remember the most about visiting him was the way all his comfortable chairs surrounded the fireplace. Everyone talked and visited while getting crackling hot on our front sides, but our backsides stayed cold.

  5. There have been some good ones posted! I'll have to add
    --the way the ocean breeze makes you feel so relaxed you are exhausted and haven't done anything all day
    --a purring cat
    --a baby cracking a smile in their sleep
    --the swaying of a porch swing
    --the feeling of slipping into clean sheets straight from a hot bath
    --the crackling of a fire

    ahhh...ok ...feeling happy and relaxed now.....

  6. Ahh.... I'm not going to think. I'm just going to savor the sensations that all these lists have stirred ...
    Wonderful post.

    (The deep inhale and then the long exhaling breath you breathe when, after a long day, your body finally relaxes into a perfect bed made up with clean soft sheets ....)

  7. The sound and smell of autumn leaves cracking underfoot.

    The piney smell of the Christmas tree.

    The tinkling trickle of ice melting in the spring

    The wind that carries in the scent of rain

    The scratchy sound of a fountain pen on paper

    The faraway sounds of the world as I drift off to sleep

    The sound of rain on a tin roof

    The scents of the herb garden

    That first sip of coffee on a quiet morning

    Finding the first bright shoots of snowdrops and crocus under the snow

    And all the others mentioned above!

    Well, I certainly feel nice and relaxed now. Thanks for stirring up all these lovely thoughts!

  8. Such wonderful sense images
    a few of mine:

    smell of fresh mown grass
    feel of crisp sheets
    a dog's rough fur
    sound of music in a minor key
    rain falling when I'm snug in bed

    RupertBrooke's poem "The GREAT LOVER" is a treasure trove of excellent ones!
    Greetings from New York

  9. Great topic, now I must think for a minute...

    The tick tick tick of heat coming on in the early morning
    Opening a new bag of chips
    The sound of my daughter's footsteps as she runs up the front stairs
    Golden streams of sunlight from a fall sun
    Quietness of a night time snowstorm
    My father's saw starting down in the cellar
    The warmth of a hot summer night

    Thanks for the topic, I think I will do a little more thinking on this subject. It is a good subject to throw out at a party.

  10. The sound of a waterfall appeals to my senses.
    The pinks and orange colors of a sunset...
    Soft soothing music
    Smell of cinnamon on a cold morning
    but so does sauted onions and garlic!
    Ohhh, new car smell appeals to my senses
    Watching a veggie garden grow
    The feel of turning a page on a good book...
    Allowing a poem to trip across my tongue..
    Coming in the room and seeing the cat and dog curled up together...
    Putting my head on Greg's chest and hearing his heartbeat...

  11. Thanks for the memories Steviewren. For me the smell of spring flowers, and the comfort of my cat curled up on my knee. There must be lots of others... - Dave

  12. Elizabeth: I forgot lilacs...

    Muse Swings: I forgot rain on a tin roof.

    Betsy: Purring cats...yes!

    What about the ticking of a key wound clock in a quiet room.


    "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens..."

  13. Hi Steviewren..first...I love your new blog! list:

    the smell of fall leaves burning
    the feeling of a "new" kiss
    the smell of brownies
    the breeze off of a lake on my face


  14. Many of your list appeal to me too! Great post---you're such an intellectual, with an intellectual's curiousity and quest for the elements of the human condition. My list would include:

    -In a fabric store, running my hands over the various fabrics, and feeling the softness of flannel and polar fleece, the smoothness of satins, etc.

    -The smell of damp clumps of autumn leaves after a rainfall


    -The fizzy sound of coca cola pouring into a glass over ice cubes

    -The first fresh foam and lather of the soap in the shower

    -The snuggly warmth of bedclothes on a frosty morning, especially if its raining outside

  15. I think I will try the Watergate Pudding...can't go wrong I like all the ingredients! I have been on a low carb diet for the seven days. I was on it for a year an a half a while ago. I laugh and think I must of been in a coma! There is just too much good food to eat! I stopped my diet today! Too bad my muffins are all gone. I did sample a little piece. Again, they may be a little dry.
    I loved reading all the comments you had today.

  16. Everyone, thank you so much for contributing to the list. You've thought of some favorites that had slipped my mind. Gregorian chants, the smell and sound of a crackling fire, the sound of music in a minor key, opening a new bag of chips, the feel of turning a page on a good book, the scratchy sound of a fountain pen on paper, a kiss, the fizzy sound of coca cola pouring into a glass over ice cubes....these too are some of my favorite things.

  17. The smell of Coppertone suntan lotion takes me back to holidays on the beach when I was a little girl. My daddy would absolutely slather me in the stuff! I was very fair, you see. I sometimes take the tops of the plastic bottles in the grocery store just to get that whiff of childhood!

  18. I love this post! Here's some of my favorites:
    The feel of my momma's wet apron when she had been cooking and hugged me. It also smelled so crisp.

    I love to smell White Rain hair spray. My mother always used it.

    The smell when the crock pot has cooked a yummy dish all day.

    Cold pillows and warm quilts.

    Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks--taste, smell, the whole experience.

    Cracking open a brand new book.

    A warmed towel after my shower.

    Hugs from sweet friends.

  19. The smell of ginger always takes me back to my grandmothers kitchen. She used to make huge pots of melon and ginger jam which she was renowned for. I can see myself just tall enough to see into the pot if I stretched up on my tippy toes.


I'm glad you stopped by and I look forward to your comments. As Dr. Fraser Crane would say, "Hello, I'm listening."