Measuring the Senses in the Golden Season

What we at Spruce Point Inn call “the golden season” is one built of sensory impressions. We see the golden color of the leaves, autumn sunshine and mass plantings of chrysanthemums at Coastal Maine Botanical. We hear the raucous blue jays on the woodland path, emerging from the deep upland forests with the calls of iconic chickadees and punctuated by the cry of red-tailed hawks and seagulls. There’s the new smell of woodsmoke mixing with the tang of sea air. We’re wrapped in familiar touchstones of wool and fallen leaves and bracing ocean in the spray of a tack to windward. And Chef Krunkkala is in his glory, giving us tastes of the rich flavors of the season: roasted vegetables, grilled smoked meats and fishes, crispy apples (and apple crisp), cider and cider doughnuts. Ruby wines from Cellardoor and craft ales from Boothbay Brewery.

The five senses of convention are anything but conventional here on the Midcoast as we turn past the equinox and the harvest moon into full autumn.

But there are other senses at work here, too. The sense of anticipation. The sense of wonder. The sense of discovery and excitement and the open heart that comes from gathering friends and family and the friends-we-just-haven’t-met-yet into the circle of a moment shared.

What are these but senses? Things the mind converts from raw data into impressions. Memories.

There are many voices defending the liberal arts by trying to measure the equivalent value of History, Art and Literature to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  And there’s a new novel by Helen DeWitt about a single mother in London, raising her 4-year-old reading The Iliad in the original Greek.  As one reviewer explained, the story is “infused with the belief that any human mind is capable of feats we tend to associate with the lesson is to avoid the trap of those who “have gone out of their way, most of the time, to avoid difficult things, like thinking.” Or sensing. Or imagining.

We once thought of dimensions as three, defined geometrically with measures of width, length and depth (we’re ocean people; some might here say ‘height.’) But then Einstein came along and added time as a dimension and our world view changed. Eighty years ago physicists confounded our understanding of reality by saying subatomic particles could be in the same place at the same time, although British physicist Sir Roger Penrose explains that gravity keeps larger objects like us from being able to perform that trick.

We’ll join with the theoretical physicists and suggest there is a way we can be in two places at once. Perhaps, in marrying those extra-quintuple senses of thought we were just conjuring, we can get to the dimension where these things are possible?

Where we create “oceanside memories made in Maine” and carry them home in our heads to imagine ourselves here, in full sensory appreciation, some evening hence, while we remain there at the same time.

And defining that, Charlie Brown, is what “the liberal arts” are for.

Photo by David Marx