There was (still is?) a little roadside hamburger stand in Wallowa, Oregon where my mother would stop in with a car full of us kids for a post-game treat on our way home from the softball field. As I begin the telling of this story, the voice of Sauce is in my ear reminding me, “You have told me this story a million times”. Perhaps I have. But I will tell it again.
As we age (like a fine wine of course), this repeated story telling in an almost ritualistic fashion assures us that we’ve still got that glimmer of memories past. That we came from somewhere. And that we’re possibly even going somewhere. We see children practice this ritual in a similar fashion. Our three-year-old son tells us over and over a recounting of his daily events – trivial, complex, pleasant, and disturbing – it is all captured in his mind’s eye. The most trivial usually being bathroom and bodily function related. A more complex story covering emotions, questions concerning the universe and it’s existence, and long scenarios beginning with “once upon a time”. He is comforted in his relationship to his narrative.
Going back to The Little Bear. There was a vanilla soft serve kiddie cone for dessert. Their signature touch was a red gummy cinnamon bear on the top. It looked so appealing in that red-on-white cherry on top of a sundae sort of way. But it tasted like – FIRE!
A few decades later, the fire has settled down into a warm bed of coals and I find a cinnamon gummy bear to be a sticky sweet nostalgic confection. So where does this road lead me in terms of my Memory of Taste? It is but a short side jaunt on the larger supersensory highway of a Lifetime Palate. Retelling The Little Bear story in my own mind, and out loud just to tickle the Sauce nerves, reminds me that my best and most highly sensitive reception of taste was when I was a little girl, a baby even. Where something could be so delicious – or so offensive – that it would stick.
So that’s it? We have lost the sharp sensory abilities of our youth? The best wine quaffing opportunities passed us by when we were but babes on the breast? Not entirely. While I have not gone deep enough into the depths of science, I have a lukewarm assumption that as we age our perception of aromas and flavors does dull. However, if we tune into the world around us, our bank of sensory memories continues to expand which in turn gives us a greater capacity for interpreting the sensory perceptions we receive. To keep a sharp palate, we exercise beyond the physiology of tasting and smelling to log in to a longer term memory bank what otherwise would be a very short term experience.
And the how…It’s all just a presence of mind.
There are no “5 Easy Ways” or “10 Simple Steps” coming up, but rather suggestions for how your everyday sensory experiences can be heightened just by being present in the moment. Take yourself on mental field trips. Go to extremes and then contrast them. Try a few versions of the following:
- a hot & dry place and a cold & dry place (think desert vs. tundra)
- a cool & damp place and a warm & damp place (think Redwood Forest vs. Tropical Rainforest)
- a very empty space (think Vacant parking lot or warehouse or an open field)
- a very crowded space (think New York subway/sidewalk, Disneyland at Fireworks, Costco on Saturday, the I-5 any second of any day)
- a modern place (think Art Museum or Luxury Car Showroom)
- a rustic place (think Horse Stable, Mountain Lodge, Roadside Hamburger Stand, Tombstone Arizona)
swirl, sip, repeat