Himalayan wildflowers

Our senses are poor servants. Even colour sense, which is the most acute as it is the most important for our purpose, is weak. We have, it is true, definite names for many colours, but how many of us recognize them when we see them? But our colour names are few in comparison with the number of shades we wish to distinguish, and that is the measure of our vagueness. … Thus, we do not match flower colour, we merely indicate its quality; only haberdashers match colours.

Smells are even more indefinite. Some are indistinguishable from tastes, or the two are so involved that it is difficult to say where one ends and the other begins. But there are only five primary tastes- sweet, bitter, saline, acid and pungent- not one of which can be confused with any smell; it is only when we come to deal with flavours that, again resorting to analogy, we get into difficulties. … In fact, we can do little with smells except classify them as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘aromatic’ and ‘foetid’.

It is this capital difficulty which prevents people from attempting to say much about scent in flowers and leaves.

I quote from Frank Kingdon Ward’s book, The Riddle of Tsangspo Gorges

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

18 comments

  1. Is it actually that we are able to distinguish, but don’t have enough classifications defined, so maybe we can differentiate between two but don’t have enough categories defined.
    Those are some beautiful flowers, and I think your visit was on a good flowering time. Did you see lots of orchids?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder about this. I spend a lot of time out there looking at things slowly. I wonder if our senses weren’t designed to get us out of danger quickly rather than to understand and savor our world. These are such beautiful flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have many colors and too few words for them. The Inuit have many words for snow. Their words describe the exact type of snow without having to use add on adjectives such as ‘wet’ snow or ‘grainy’ snow. That is what we need for colors and even more so for scents. Thanks for this interesting and thought provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Colours, flavours, scent…I too was going to note that Inuits have more than 50 words for snow. In our northern part of Sweden they have many words for it too. If you live your life where it is essential for your survival – you will find many words for the phenomenon. The same if you love someone/something. Your flowers are delightful, and I am looking forward to seeing images from your latest tour!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As always I.J., a very thoughtful post. Interesting observation about our senses and where they, or our language about them, fails us. I too thought about the snow analogy which was mentioned in a favorite novel I read long ago “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” . Your post and the comments brought it back to me. I read it many years ago and still remember much of it, including the number of words for snow mentioned in the book. Anyway, thanks for the lovely images and the thoughtful presentation for the week. Excellent post.

    Liked by 1 person

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