“Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful.” ~ Helen Keller
I’d never seen anything like it. The blooms were the color of Florida tangerines. Like my favorite throw blanket, it looked soft and fuzzy. I had to feel it. As soon as I did, regret set in, as did a piercing pain in my right hand. Lesson learned – you can’t touch everything you see in the desert.
This wolf in sheep’s clothing was a desert plant named Cylindropuntia Fulgida, also known as a “jumping cholla or the “teddybear cholla.” The name comes from the ease the stems detach when brushed or when someone like me is unlucky (dumb) enough to touch it.
After I extracted the needles from my swollen palm, I realized at first glance, the desert appears lifeless and brown, void of life. I was wrong. The Arizona desert explodes with flora and fauna. By only relying on my sight, I was limiting myself to the beauty the desert has to offer.
As a beginning writer, I’ve discovered how important it is to use all five senses. I want the reader to smell the story’s reality, to feel it, to taste it, to see it, and to hear it. If I can make them feel as though they’re a fly on the wall, I’ve done my job.
While reading, I love to have my memory sparked by a description that uses one or more of the five senses. If it’s a pleasant memory, that’s an added bonus. It’s nice to read what a scene looks like, but including the sound of the coyote’s howl or the smell of the desert air after the monsoon rains, pulls the reader closer and they become more than an observer of the writer’s fictional world.
A lesson was learned that first day in the desert. The sense of touch can not only be pleasurable, but it can be painful. During the rest of my time in Arizona, I saw more beautiful chollas, but I resisted the urge to touch. Instead, I enjoyed the sweet smell of the blooms from a distance because there’s a reason they call them “jumping cholla.”