Moon over Three Ridges at dawn

See, hear, touch, taste and smell – the five senses help us experience the world. According to longevity studies, a quality life involves five different senses: physical, intellectual, spiritual, a close community of family and friends and the greater community – town, county, state, country and world.

After self-assessing my quality of life, I felt pretty confident about the time I spend with my communities, checking online newsfeeds and social networks, reading news magazines, email and blogs, welcoming guests, visiting and taking national and international trips. Online and in-person spiritual growth and gathering happen daily and weekly, too. Keith and I joined Bethany Lutheran Church in Waynesboro last week, and Dianne, a new friend, invited me to join a Bible Study group of women from various denominations meeting in nearby Nellysford. As for my mission, intellectual stimulation goes hand-in-hand with reading and writing, plus classes at and service to Writer House in Charlottesville.

What struck me, though, was how much time I spend with the first of the five senses for longevity – the physical aspects of food shopping (I grow almost nothing), preparation and consumption, exercise, rest and hygiene, clothing and shelter. Given the demands of mountain living, my physical life now takes about a third of my waking hours – much more if I include sleep, and more depending the season and how much the dogs shed. Getting ready for winter means cleaning leaves out of ditches, shoring up drainage areas, mulching new plantings and laying in firewood. It’s dirty work, great appetite-building exercise and, if done with intention, stimulating in all other senses.

Working with nature here on the mountain seems Sisyphean, with leaves and sticks blowing into the ditches and thus undoing one’s efforts almost overnight. Soil and rocks erode down the mountain clogging drainpipes. I labor to reverse the flow of inevitable change by digging up fallen rocks – the ones I can carry – hauling them back up the mountain and placing them in drain ditches. And I reclaim topsoil at the entrance to drain pipes, haul it back up the mountain and snug the nutrient rich organic matter around plantings. In the spring, I will repeat the unchanging process of undoing change.


Moon and Three Ridges at sunrise

But change was what Keith and I wanted to observe here in the mountains – to experience the world through the physical five senses in combination with the longevity five senses. When the dogs and I walk the mountain every morning, I smell and taste the air, touch and hear and see. The scene of the moon setting over the Three Ridges Wilderness area changes with the sunrise – a sight that sparks intellectual curiosity and spiritual wonder, which I share here with my close and greater communities.


  1. Carol Cutler

    What a beautiful picture of Three Ridges and we are so lucky to have this designated wilderness area in our backyards. Thanks for the wonderful reminder of so many ways we can be connected with nature and others.
    Congratulations of joining the church at Waynesboro–I was a Lutheran in Wytheville, Va from 1972-1992 and my three children were surrounded by a loving community as they grew up. The beautiful rituals of the church at Christmas will bring you deep joy and peace.

    • Carole Duff

      Thank you, Carol, for your comment about stewardship of the land, our souls and each other.


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