An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of January 14, 2018
Issued from Rancho Regenesis near Ek Balam ruins 20kms north of Valladolid, Yucat√°n, Mexico

KATRINA'S NOSE

Katrina sniffing

Katrina, the second-ranked dog of the rancho pack, and who sleeps at the hut, either has an exceptionally good sense of odor, or else is immoderately sensitive to what she smells. She's always displayed the curious habit of throughout the day raising her nose skyward and for minutes at a time sniffing in all directions.

About a month ago, one afternoon during one of her sniffings, suddenly her eyes got big, her nostrils became animated in a way I'd not see, she hunched her back, hooked her tail between her rear legs, and hurried into the hut's darkest corner, where she stood for a long time trembling. Since then this behavior has been repeated several times, and it's happening more frequently. The other dogs either smell nothing, or are unconcerned about it.

Maybe one day one of several poachers who work the surrounding woods shot at her, thinking she was a wild animal, so now when he's out stalking wildlife his odor scares here. Whatever the scent's source, it makes her more and more nervous. The other day a weather front was moving through with gusts that sent entire trees heaving and groaning. None of this bothered Katrina until one certain gust caught her nose, and she went to pieces, shaking uncontrollably, her eyes riveted on the trees' upper limbs as if the wind itself were after her.

At first all this got me to thinking along the usual channels, about how dogs live in a different world than we humans, because their sense of smell gives them a different view of reality than ours. However as the above story repeated again and again, my thoughts focused more and more on the fact that we are what we sense.

And, our human senses detect only a tiny fraction of what's really going on. Just think how vulnerable we all are to brain-formulated perceptions of what our human senses detect, keeping in mind that both our brains and our senses are a fickle set, whose functionality depends entirely on our bodies' often-wildly fluctuating hormonal and otherwise biochemical states. We are all as likely to be enlightened or unhinged as thoroughly by a few mobile little molecules as Katrina.

Almost as comic relief from this train of thought I let Katrina's nose point me to one of my pet notions, which is that maybe a Universal Mentality exists, with us individual sentient, thinking beings serving as its "nerve endings." The Universe is populated with innumerable star systems in which on a regular basis new planets similar to Earth are found. Since Life on Earth appeared and began evolving as readily as it did, why not assume that the Universe is populated with unimaginable numbers and kinds of sentient, thinking beings and, if that's so, then what can be the purpose of it all other than that we're all feeding our sensations into the Universal Mentality? Maybe our combined Earthly experiences contribute to a certain flavor on the tongue of the Universal Mentality, or causes a certain tickling like a flea wandering among the Mentality's leg hairs.

In the end, here's what Katrina's nose has done for me this week:

First, it's reminded me to be on guard against getting too serious about any belief at all, like's Katrina's belief that a certain smell means her doom.

The other insight has more meat to it. It's that, if we are all hooked into, or are part, of a Universal Mentality -- and I suspect we are -- then all our human, Earthly experiences are of value to the Universal Mentality, whether they're "good"or "bad". The job of us nerve endings is to experience.

In that light, the big "sins" of our time are those social structures, belief systems, and one's own laziness or timidness, that keep us from getting involved with things here on Earth, developing thoughts and feelings about them, of immersing ourselves in non-destructive sensory stimuli, and to gleefully submit ourselves to as many thoughts, feelings and interpretations we can stand.

And that's what Katrina's nose got me thinking about this week.