I just got back from 2 ½ weeks traveling around Alaska with Tom. We tasted Alaskan foods (seafood, salmon, reindeer, fireweed and honey ice cream); walked on the land; cruised on the water; rode a tram up a mountain; heard native stories, drumming and dancing; spent a day at the Alaska State Fair; and had numerous conversations with a variety of people.

We saw mountains, glaciers, icebergs, rivers, ocean, waterfalls, forest, tundra, eagles, puffins, sea lions, harbor seals, porpoises, sea otters, beluga whales, humpbacks, bears, salmon, cranes, and a variety of sea birds.

In our visual-centric culture of television, videos, facebook, and Instagram, What did you see? is usually our first (and often last) question.

Although what I saw was gorgeous, it was when I was startled awake by other sensations that I was most awed:

  • listening to the delicate plick of raindrops dropping on wet leaves in the Alaskan rain forest;
  • hearing sea lions grunting and roaring to each other as they lay on rock shelves in the sea;
  • taking in the scent of greenery, river and crisp mountain air mingled with the stink of dead fish (in pristine salmon streams in Alaska you must have both, since the salmon die after spawning);
  • being startled by the sharp crack crack as a sea otter breaks open a crab for its meal;
  • catching the distinctive prehistoric call of cranes as they fly high overhead on their seasonal migration;
  • listening for the explosive exhale of humpback whales, and to the living silence they create as they fish, dive and flash their huge tails without a sound;
  • sensing the air grow colder as we approach a glacier, even from over a mile away;
  • hearing a glacier as it breathes and shifts: periodic thunderous booms and audible currents of water flowing around and within it.

Perhaps because I am usually so visually oriented, it seems that if I get beyond my eyes, especially to my sense of smell, touch or sound, then I can find my heart.

I enjoy seeing the hummingbird that visits my back yard, but when talking and lawn mowers cease so I can also hear the whirring of her wings, then I am filled with wonder and a sense of true encounter.

When have you been energized by an encounter beyond the visual?