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Four Seasons in Five Senses: Things Worth…

Four Seasons in Five Senses: Things Worth Savoring

by David Mas Masumoto

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The author, David Mas Masumoto, is an organic farmer in the Central Valley town of Del Rey, CA. David carries on the family tradition of growing peaches and raisins. He converted his farming methods to organic farming when he realized the health hazards to his family caused by using inorganic pesticides. In his book he has captured the essence of what his farming means to him, not just the methods and mechanics but the philosophy and way of life he has come to value. He learned the art of cultivation from his father, a Japanese-American farmer. Through the use of stories, he relates his experiences and those of his family.

Focusing on the five senses he takes us on a sensory journey through the process of producing crops of peaches, taking them from his fields to the consumer. Each of the five sections of the book, devoted to one of the senses, begins with a stream of conscious list of vivid images and memories captured and communicated with grace, emotion and poetry.

Part One, “The Art of Seeing,” takes us into the fields to see trees filled with blossoms, trees laden with fruit, workers during the harvest. Part Two, “The Art of Listening,” communicates the sounds and the silences encountered in the fields and in nature. Part Three, “The Art of Taste,” describes in detail how to eat, no, savor, a freshly picked peach in a way that triggers personal memories of summers spent with fruit juices dripping off childhood chins. It makes me want to run to the nearest Farmer’s Market. Part Four, “The Art of Smell,” brings to mind the scents of honest labor, of dusty nature, of soil, mud, rain. I am reminded of how my sense of smell opens the world to me. Then in Part Five, “The Art of Touch, I experienced a deep appreciation of hands as he shares stories and images of his mother’s "farm wife" hands. These are just a few of the images and events captured throughout the book.

At the end of the book, I was left with a profound understanding and appreciation of the dignity of farming and those who dedicate their energies to the profession. But more than that, was my appreciation for the gifts of my body, of my senses that bring the experience of life to me in a rich, tangible way, and of nature and the world we inhabit. The distractions of my modern, urban existence and the pace at which I move through my days often result in an anesthetizing of these doorways of experience.

This book reminded me of Diane Ackerman's books, “A Natural History of the Senses” (which Mas references in his book) and “Cultivating Delight.” Both authors have the unique ability to convey the richness of our natural world and the act of living through poetic prose. ( )
  SignoraEdie | May 26, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393325369, Paperback)

California peach farmer David Mas Masumoto's Four Seasons in Five Senses is about awareness--of the process by which peaches are grown and enjoyed; of the sensual "stories" by which farmers learn their work and place in it; and of farming itself, whose cycles of birth, growth, and decay make it a telling metaphor of life. In a series of short essays, such as "How to Eat Peach," "Got Umami," and "The Art of Grunting" (an amusing exploration of work sounds), Masumoto shows readers his inner-outer world. Masumoto's eye is, however, always fixed on the narratives we tell ourselves. "The best farmers of personalized products strive to create true stories and personal connections through our fruits," says Masumoto, "a journey through four seasons in five senses." But Masumoto also lives in the world of commercial imperatives. "We [farmers] work for pennies," he says, "and people of America spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than do people in any other country." A provider of a highly perishable "handmade" product that must nonetheless reach consumers in a state worthy of his commitment to it, Masumoto is frustrated by the plight of "slow food" in a fast-food world. "Farming must be circular in contrast to the straight lines of business," he says.

Despite repetitiveness, some overreaching prose ("I see with my senses, aware ... a tree with peach lights in it, a siren of harvest time," for example), and an inclination to self-regard (as opposed to self-attentiveness), readers will follow Masumoto's tale avidly, enjoying particularly his depictions of the peach growing process. For those of us lost to modern industrial life, the realization that there is a farmer behind every piece of fruit our supermarkets sell, and that his or her whole awareness can be in that fruit, is a revelation. That disclosure is at the center of Masumoto's enlightening tale. --Arthur Boehm

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:37 -0400)

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David Mas Masumoto encourages people to stop rushing through life and learn to savor the little things, drawing on his own experiences as a farmer to describe the joys of nature and the re-discovery of the senses.

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