Nature: The ultimate sensory journey
OPINION: Heading into nature is a chance to enliven your senses.
Sight, sound, touch, smell and taste can all be stimulated as we step away from our usual surrounds and all the things that our senses have become conditioned to.
Perhaps this contributes to why we can feel more invigorated and refreshed when heading into the outdoors – in tandem with getting some exercise of course.
Whether you head into nature for exercise and adventure, some introspection, a chance to learn about flora and fauna or quality time with friends and family, make the most of your time in the wild by consciously engaging the senses.
Leave technology behind, create some space, and become present in the journey.
There is so much variety to see in nature's shapes, colours and forms. Flowing streams, waving branches, filtered sunlight on the forest floor, diversity in leaf shape, straight or curved lines of tree trunks, colours of bugs, sparkling dew on a spider web – the variety is endless.
Try putting your eyes or camera onto macro and observe the tiny things in the forest.
Ironically, sound is often something we don't give enough silence to. Walking and talking, chatting children or plugged into headphones, we can be oblivious to nature's noise around us.
Take some time to move silently together or have some time alone, and you'll be surprised how dynamic nature is. A bird call up high, the sound of water over rocks, the breeze in the tree tops or the buzz of bees can all be heard separately if we create the space to really listen.
Tuning into nature's noise can also quieten the dialogue of thought in our own head.
Children grow up being so tactile with touching, holding, turning, poking and squashing to better understand the world around them. As adults, we can take a leaf from their book.
When did you last feel the bark of a large tree, turn a rock over to see what lies beneath, squeeze water out of moss or take your shoes off to walk on the forest floor?
Walk through a beech forest and you're likely to wander through wafts of honeydew perfumed air or the smell of an earthy forest damp after rain.
Paddling around the coast the pungent smell of shag manure may alert you to their nests high in the trees above, or crush a leaf of a certain coprosma species and you'll find out why it's called stinkwood.
Pleasant or offensive, the messages the nose receives can lead you to discover the unseen.
Taste is a sense where more caution is required. While nature is full of edible plants, it is inadvisable to taste anything unless you are 100 per cent sure of its identity.
Many a sad story exists of medical dramas resulting from eating misidentified plants.
A readily recognised sweet taste of the forest is the honeydew droplets (don't be put off by the fact it is insect poo) take with care and leave the delicate tube it hangs from undisturbed.
Engaging the senses is free and there is something simple, connecting and refreshing about switching on and more fully immersing in your journey with nature.
- Brigid Graney is a community ranger with the Department of Conservation
- The Marlborough Express