Nature is without doubt beautiful, but if using your eyes is the only way you experience it, then you’re missing out on about 4/5th of it.
I decided to put my five senses to the test during a walk along the Meewasin River Valley in Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada.
This delightful walk is accessible from the centre of town and my starting point was the majestic Delta Bessborough Hotel just a few minutes walk from the river path…
My eyes soak up the beauty of the river, sunlight glinting off the water, surrounded by the golds and reds of the trees as they begin to turn to autumn. As I walk I’m accompanied by the honking symphony of Canada Geese. I can feel the warm sunshine on my skin and a slight breeze mussing with my hair. My lungs fill with air that smells fresh, not city stale.
As the trail continues I enter a wooded area and the light changes to a speckled dance along the path. A rustling in the undergrowth delivers my very first sighting of a wild chipmunk.
Something I would have missed if I hadn’t been using my ears as well as my eyes.
As I walk along I can feel the leaves brushing my arms and the subtle change in temperature as I move between patches of sunlight.
Further along the sounds of the geese are drowned out by the rushing water of the weir, where I stand soaking up the sunshine and admiring the grace of fishing cormorants. Pelicans can often be spotted here but I’m not lucky enough to see one.
The insistent cheep-cheep of small birds alerts me to their presence and as I stand motionless on the path they flitter around me – tantalisingly close. I have no idea what species they are, but that doesn’t diminish my enjoyment.
I start walking again breathing in the light scent of clean air, vegetation and slightly damp soil. And then I am stopped in my tracks by a glorious yellow furry caterpillar with large black fur “spines”.
He is soft and fuzzy to the touch (although I have been warned in the past that you shouldn’t touch them as they can cause allergic reactions – but it seems worth the risk to me).
As I emerge from the trees I am confronted by jewel-like berries hanging from the bushes; bright reds and oranges. The berries are firm but soft to the touch, the leaves cool and smooth and the nearby tree trunks rough and hard.
It’s time to cross the river by means of wooden bridge high above the rushing water and on the other side my senses are rewarded with a whole new set of experiences.
I am now in open fields surrounded by a sea of golden grass. The sun is strong and I can feel perspiration forming on my back. As I walk along I can hear the drone of grasshoppers and the swish of the breeze in the grass.
Then a strange clicking sound rushing past my ears alerts me to a very large grasshopper-cum-moth. Over an inch long, as it sits on the ground it looks like a grasshopper with folded moth wings, but when it flies (not jumps) it looks more like a dark moth with white wing tips. Its wings beat very fast and its flight is quite short and erratic.As I move along the path dozens of them dance in front of me marking my way.
The scent here is drier and faintly tinged with grass. I then suddenly I am surrounded by a thousand gossamer winged fairies as the breeze releases the floating seeds of the field thistles.
As I head back along the eastern side of the river I dive deep into a densely wooded area with tiny streams crossing the path. I almost trip over a small polecat – who looks as surprised as I do to see him there!
Its quiet here – the odd rustle in the undergrowth, the call of small birds, the tinkle of water cascading down, the leaves moving in the breeze. I breathe deeply and feel my lungs filling with cool air. The sun is hot on my neck. I feel calm and full of life as I soak up the beauty of nature, in all its forms and am thankful that I have five senses with which to experience such a wonderful place.
However you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned taste – well, I’ll be honest, the main taste I enjoyed on my walk was the memories of the delicious cinnamon, maple syrup and cranberry French toast I ate for breakfast.
About the Author: Chantal Cooke is a professional journalist, author and co-founder of PASSION for the PLANET