Sometimes I just pause and take in all the colors, textures and patterns around me. For instance, right now, here, beneath the 15-ft-high ceiling the room's walls are painted gold. The doorframe, the pipes bracketed to the walls carrying electrical wiring, and the metal bars across my high windows are all blue. The ceiling is white concrete between 26 closely spaced, rusty-red metal joists. The ceiling fan is white. The tiled floor, cool to my feet, is a mosaic of patterns -- green, pink, cream, brown, gray tiles, and a few multicolored tiles with snowflake designs and arabesques.

The room's stone walls are nearly three feet thick, so windows and doors are inset amid their own dark shadows. The ten-ft-high, dark brown, doors are of heavy, rough wood, and opening them occasions scraping and screeching appropriate for a medieval dungeon. The sunlight pouring through, though, undoes the roomsl heaviness and gloom, and the floor tiles shine like a cheerful song. On the patio floor just outside, a sunning green snake slips into the shadows of a thicket of bamboo palms. A yellow, black and white Great Kiskadee shrieks from a banana tree with glossy, green leaves.

Drinking in all these sensations, it seems to me that I could hardly live without them. Yet most people would say that they could hardly live without central heating and cooling, soft beds, sealed windows and plush carpets, even though the main effect of these items is to cushion, muffle, tone down, make tepid, sanitize and generally drain from our lives the sensations that right now I cherish and need.

In fact, in my opinion, one reason so many people in our society are neurotic or basically unhappy is that they live sensory deprived lives. Maybe obsessions with immoderate booze, drugs and sex are unhealthy attempts to reclaim the sensations our ancestors felt when they so exquisitely experienced the changing seasons, dawn and dusk, and the sensations of simple living.

When it gets cold, there are reasons other than for sustainability to put on a sweater and crack the window to experience the season's briskness and freshness, instead of turning up the thermostat. There are more reasons for long walks and weekends at the park than exercise and cheap fun. And there are more reasons to fill one's head with flower anatomy and bird fieldmarks than merely to identify what is at hand.