Thursday, March 23, 2017

Put On Your Listening Ears and Use Your Five Senses

by Ruth Ann Dell

Cosmos in my garden

Want a surefire way to pull your readers into your story world? Want to make your book pop? Sizzle with life? Then appeal to your readers' senses by including telling details of sound, taste, smell, and touch, as well as the obvious ones of sight. So say the many articles, writing craft books and blogs that I've read. They're right.

But what about God's world? Do we use all our senses to appreciate and immerse ourselves in His creation? It's easy to be captivated by spectacular scenery such as awesome sunsets over the mountains, but what about going to our ordinary outside on an ordinary day, and really experiencing the wonder of our Father's handiwork?

I pondered on this after discovering a beautiful old hymn, This is My Father's World, by Maltbie D. Babcock. Here is the first verse:

"This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears,
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought."

I am very aware of God in His creation. This weekend we drove through roads edged with cosmos in full bloom against the background of grasslands. Who can see such beauty and doubt that God exists?

Earlier today I put on my "listening ears" and went outside to experience the world intentionally instead to taking it for granted. I stood barefoot on the grass, shut my eyes and concentrated on listening. I heard doves cooing nearby and the sound of a crested barbet trilling—remember the dialing tone of an old-fashioned telephone? That's this spectacular garden bird's call. A rustle of leaves indicated a lizard scurrying by as pigeon wings clapped overhead. Bees buzzed and a soft padding in the sandy soil told of Boris, my son's dog, a handsome Rhodesian Ridgeback, following me. Our pets are a treasured part of our Father's creation.

My other senses soon jostled for my attention. I felt the touch of a breeze cool on my arms and the sun warm on my face. My bare feet felt the roughness of the grass. Soft fur brushed against my ankles accompanied by a light purring—my velvet cat, Misty.

I opened my eyes and after watching a bee collecting nectar, I discovered a little bug, the like of which I had never seen before, clambering through pollen grains on a cosmos petal. Whitish dots and dashes in perfect symmetry on his wings fascinated me, and then he moved so that the sun caught them, and in that instant they flashed with iridescent greens.

The little bug with a pattern of dots and dashes

A bumble bee with wide white bands  on his abdomen landed nearby and I spotted a
fly—not just any old housefly, but one that looked as though it was a gleaming bronze sculpture.

Lastly I took the time to smell flowers and enjoy fragrances so light and delicate that normally they would pass unnoticed. I ruffled the grass with my hand and delighted in the newly cut lawn scent.

Truly our Father's world is one of beauty and delight, but we need to put on our "listening ears" and engage all our senses to appreciate it, else we will miss so many wonders. 

To use a cliche, let's take the time to stop and smell the roses every day, and then thank and praise God our Father for His wonderful creation.


  1. Ruth, lovely post. I'm only beginning to better appreciate sounds. As I meditate each day I focus on what I can hear. Usually I hear the birds singing a tune and other times like now I hear a noisy whipper snipper and/or my dogs barking. But it's all part of God's amazing world that He has so graciously given us to enjoy and experience.

    1. Thank you, Ian. I just love the phrase "listening ears". In South Africa our gardens are alive with birds, so we have many different songs to listen to.

  2. So true and such a vivid reminder! I love the photos Ruth. Well done!

  3. Thanks for the reminder, Ruth. This is probably our most under-developed sense as writers.

    1. Thank you for the comment. I find smell is my most under-developed sense as a writer.

  4. Beautifully written, Ruth, and an awesome reminder ... especially with us heading off overseas soon and part of my trip being writing research. I will definitely do my utmost to take in each experience with all of my senses.

  5. Thank you Marion. Could I perhaps hide in your suitcase when you on your wonderful holiday?