I believe that John Henry Deutschendorf Jr. — you knew him as John Denver — was one of the greatest lyricists of my lifetime. As I struggled to come to terms with exactly what I wanted to write this week, I was walking in Shag Williams Park up in Shannon and listening to “Annie’s Song” and I got some clarity.
“Annie’s Song” was penned by Denver in about 10 minutes on a ski lift in Colorado. It was initially an ode expressing his love for his wife Annie Martell Denver. She later said that it had become as much of a prayer as it was a love song.
I won’t get into all of the lyrics with you, just the opening stanza.
You fill up my senses, like a night in a forest,
Like the mountains in spring time, like a walk in the rain.
Like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses, come fill me again.
What are your senses? Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Use your best imagination and conjure up something that fills those senses. Think of the passion invoked by filling those senses.
First, sight. What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
I’ve been blessed with incredible opportunities to travel over the last 20 years. I suspect the most beautiful picture I’ve ever taken was of Denali, the highest peak on the North American continent, in central Alaska. The peak itself is clearly visible less than 50% of the time. It’s so high, at 20,308 feet, that it creates its own weather, usually very cloudy. But on one of those rare crystal blue sky days, it’s unbelievable.
At the other end of that spectrum, I think the second most beautiful picture I’ve ever taken was of a sunrise at Jekyll Island. That was a very special morning!
Then sound. There’s nothing more frightening than the clap of lightning and immediate boom of thunder during a storm, whether it’s in the desert or at your home. One of the most incredible sounds I’ve ever experienced is the sound of a glacier calving. You’re looking at this vast expanse of ice and you hear something akin to a shotgun. The sound may come from far to your left and when you turn your head in that direction, the glacier is calving far to your right. I guess that’s one of Mother Nature’s little tricks.
There is something magically rhythmical about the sound of a slow, steady rain. What about the birds chipping away in your yard at sunrise. Don’t you wonder what they’re saying to each other?
Enter smell. I know you’ve been driving down the road with the window down when you saw storm clouds in the distance. As you get closer you say out loud, that’s the smell of rain.
Of course there’s the smell of bacon in the skillet. (Sense of smell full now I’ll bet.) Perhaps it’s the aroma of your loved one’s favorite essence. I remember when I worked breakfast in the dining hall of Magnolia Dorm years ago, there was one particular coed that you knew she was in line as soon as she stepped through the door. And believe me, you looked forward to seeing her as she got closer.
Taste. That’s something that really varies from person to person. Trying to stick to a natural theme here, I love the peppery taste of watercress. Generally speaking, when I’m out on a trail in the mountains I find watercress near natural springs and that’s the best watercress around. Generally, there is much less chance of it being tainted by the waste from farm animals.
Wild blackberries are also awesome. There is little that rivals catching a trout in a mountain stream and pan frying it over an open campfire.
And there’s nothing like fresh out of the garden veggies. I suspect that’s why farmers markets are so popular.
Finally, there’s touch. That’s the one sense that we all have been lacking a lot of over the last three or four months. There is nothing in this world quite as comforting as a hug. Hugs have been passe for a while and I suspect, regretfully, they will remain passe for a while.
When this COVID-19 thing is over, boy are there going to be some hugs passed around. Sometimes I’ll occasionally tease that I’m not going to let go.
Have you ever watched a small child reach out to touch the first fish they ever caught? That usually fills me up with laughter and joy.
Have you ever suffered a burn from the touch of a flame? That’s a touch you won’t likely forget for a while either.
Our senses have been out of kilter for the last three months.
The sense of touch has been almost nonexistent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The senses of sight and sound have been bludgeoned by acts of violence, vandalism and arson in cities across our nation. Let me be clear, what happened in Brunswick and Minneapolis, based on what we know at this point, was pure evil and should be condemned and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. However, the violence against communities and small businesses which had nothing to do with either case, or others across the country which people have just cause to protest, is just as wrong.
A peaceful protest with 10,000 people makes a mighty strong case. Looting and fires do not!
I thank God for senses that are restored by a peaceful night (or day) in the forest and walk in the rain.
Come fill me again.