|Vintage Picture of Niagara Falls, 1954|
Of the five senses I always thought I would be terrified of losing, the gift of sight has always come to mind. The ability to see those old photographs, to see family and friends, to visually be able to experience the beauty and wonder of nature, and to be able to read; these are all joys that would be an unbearable loss I thought if ever I should lose my eyesight. When it comes to family photos, it is no wonder that most of us would rescue our photographs should we be forced to flee our homes during a disaster. Sometimes though all that is left to some of us is in the mind's eye-that wonderful place of imagination or recollection.
There are times that I miss certain places. I can visualize, hear, smell, and almost taste those places. It is as though I am longing for a place I need to return to for a short period of time. Usually these places are my hometown or other locales that hold particularly good memories for me like Rockport. Sometimes while visiting for the first time another city, state, or country, certain people feel a strange familiarity that often equates with feelings of "home." Some have suggested that this feeling is like dejavu but perhaps it is rather a case of feeling comfortable with ones' senses in a particular place and time. This happened to me once when I was in Geneva, Switzerland as a young woman. I felt at home and had a feeling like I had been there before which was not the case. There is an old Beatles song with these lines that illustrate the expression "Sense of Place" which has to do with what some call the sixth sense and has a relationship to childhood memories of home. The first few lines lines are from the song In My Life:
There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain……
Recently I was thinking of my hometown of San Antonio and realized that I was recalling certain scents. It seemed as though I were actually smelling San Antonio-the patches of sweet scented clover growing in the spring near my house where I grew up, the fresh smell of recently mowed grass at the track near my school, the mouth watering aromas coming from Mexican restaurants along the river. Memories are not just about what someone has seen with the eyes of course but, more often than not, involves all of the senses. I hope to enjoy and experience many more years of my life with all of my senses intact. When not traveling myself, I have vicariously experienced other states and countries by way of trips made by family members and others. Listening to their stories, while they try to paint a picture in words of their adventure, is exciting and interesting but certainly not like being there myself and seeing it in person. I am sure they feel the same way when I relate to them some details of my exciting trips or share pictures of exquisite scenery. However, something has stayed with me a long time and all it took was receiving a phone call.
My oldest son went on many adventurous trips in and out of the country during his college years with friends as well as with his two brothers. Often he visited with friends where he could crash at their place or where he could find affordable accommodations or even camp somewhere. "Camping" was an unexpected adventure with his brothers on a European trip when they traveled to the Basque region of Spain where some of the ancestors came from on their father's paternal side. They visited the town of Elizondo which was meaningful to them and they were made to feel at home by the locals. Near Pamplona they could not find a room and had to spend the night in a park with others made miserable when a cold front came in! There was one adventure this oldest son had, though, that was chronicled in phone calls and postcards. One summer he was working on a construction job with a friend whose father owned a company up East. He relayed funny anecdotes to us about life in New York and New Jersey, the day to day contact with construction crews, and he and his friend driving around the city in an old beat-up pickup truck bearing Texas license plates. Sometimes he would sit in Central Park in awe of the natural beauty that surrounded him not too far from what he called in postcards the proverbial "concrete jungle."
During this time away from Texas he called me one day and I was having difficulty hearing him. His words were drowned out by the sound of rushing water. It was a much stronger noise than the mere sound of a bathroom shower which was my first thought. It was different than the sound of a torrential rain. When he said, "Hey, Mom, I'm calling from Niagara Falls on the Canadian side," it was then that I understood. This mighty roar made me feel like I was right there, or maybe even going over the top in a barrel, or standing directly under the falls! I was thrilled to hear his excited and happy voice sharing this experience with me. I knew then that I might not ever get a chance to see Niagara Falls but I sure did hear it that day! That is enough for me now because in recent years I was able to stand alone with my grandson, his oldest son, under Bridal Veil Waterfall in Yosemite. That was something that I experienced with all of my senses and something that I will not soon forget.