A Fist-full of Firsts

I definitely cannot complain of complacency or tedium currently.

So many firsts happening in my little world.

Last year this time I was basking in the balmy glow of a Cape Town summer, quaffing cold sauvignon blanc out of a glass with diamond-drop condensation, all the while with toes scrabbling into warm, sun-kissed sand. Surrounded by mountains, an ocean and the people that I love, the places that are familiar. Nothing new and something that I’ve been able to enjoy for most of my adult life. It would have been frowned on having a glass of wine at the age of nine….sigh.

Thanks to The Rona, I find myself stranded this year in the middle of a landlocked state, enduring grey days, anaesthetising cold and the wonder of snow.

I am relishing this white world every minute while the fluffy stuff is tumbling from above and am transfixed by the falling flakes. They really are all different shapes and the magic of this leaves me giddy with awe. A child-like-wonder-first that is high on my list of most enjoyable moments ever.

As much as it’s pretty, it tends to stick around when the temperature never reaches above 0º Celsius which proves challenging when you have to walk to the mailbox. Shovelling snow is a full body workout and makes up for all those inactive days hiding inside the house. And boy is it loud. I cringe every time that shovel scrapes the ground and disrupts the snow-hush.

Last year just before winter started, I invested in snow-chains for my shoes after I went slipping and sliding on the ice. This morning I had the opportunity to wear them for the first time. I made a promise this winter to feed everything that crosses the yard and that meant that every morning and afternoon I bundle up and venture outside to fill the feeders and make sure there are apples for the deer, seed for the birds and nuts for everything else. The timber deck outside was like an ice rink but with my snazzy crampons I was more sure footed than a mountain goat foraging.

The firsts keep on coming and I say yes to them all especially if the payoff is eye-candy that brings delight and keep the awe alive.

I am happy.

My world. My responsibility.

My heart sits in my chest like burning kindling today. The responsibility of my role in the natural world is almost smothering me and I can’t stop the peeper-leaking.

I had a beautiful Blue Jay dying in my hands yesterday after it broke its neck by flying full speed into one of our windows. There was nothing that I could do to save it and the responsibility of that is almost too great to bear.

Of course I’m accountable.

I’m a human living in a dwelling in their territory. They were here and flourishing long before I invaded this land. The repercussions of building a house with huge reflective surfaces is great for the selfish human inhabiting the dwelling but have dire consequences for our feathered friends. Not to mention the amount of land clearing that had to happen before you could cast the foundation.

So we start off by destroying their homes and their food source and then continue to obliterate these creatures by what we build.

How is that maintaining the integrity of the natural world?

How is that respecting the natural order of things?

We keep on taking more than what we are willing to give and for the most part, are blissfully ignorant of the results and ramifications of our self-serving actions.

People don’t like the amount of spiders on the OUTSIDE of their homes, because the webs are unattractive and spiders are scary.

Well, let spray some poison and voila, spiders no more. Never mind the fact that there are countless birds relying on spiders as a main food source and that the spiders keep other insects under control.

Don’t like dandelions growing on our perfect lawns? What the hell. Treat the grass with some concoction and dandelions be gone! Screw you Mr Bumblebee.

Scared of wasps because they can sting you multiple times? Just dab some or other fatal potion on their nest and watch those suckers drop. I’m sure there are loads of other pollinators that will take up the slack.

We are so focused on our convenience and comfort and desires that we are unable to realize the consequences of our actions.

When did we stop being responsible for the natural world?

When did we become passive participants in this environment?

I don’t want to change or influence the land where I live in any negative way but at the moment, me just breathing the same air as the birds, furry critters, insects and other wild life, is detrimental to the whole circle of life.

My heart is just very sad today about that perfect bird that did not have to die.

Petrifying Peas

I find it quite interesting, sometimes amusing and often times frustrating when confronted with people’s dislikes in certain foods.

As somebody who will try literally anything at least once before pulling up my nose at it, this is difficult to wrap my tongue around but, for the sake of humankind and my own sanity, I thought it might be helpful to explore some people’s aversion to certain foods and hopefully the little wander down the food aisle will give me a better understanding, more tolerance and more compassion when a guest at my table, politely gags when I put a plate of food in front of them.

And I’m not talking about sucking on an eyeball or relishing a piece of rotten smelling fruit here. Nothing that exotic. I’m also not referring to ethical food choices. That’s a completely different coloured animal all together.

Let’s start with the inane little green pea. To my palate it is sweet when it’s fresh and I’ll pop one after the other in my mouth like peanuts. There are very few things I like more than these blanched jewels mixed with mint and glistening with a glug of olive oil. Imagine my surprise when I found out some people find these tiny green pearls highly offensive! Apparently it’s a texture-thing. The skin that pops when you bite into it followed by the mushy interior have sent a few individuals running for the bathroom.

Staying with green stuff, next on the list is coriander, also known as dhania or cilantro. I can eat this basically on everything that might land near my gob, regardless whether it ‘goes’ with it or not. I feel immediately super healthy and my taste buds do a two-step of happiness.

If you detest this leafy herb, you are actually in very good company: Julia Child absolutely hated the taste of it and we can all agree that this lady had a very sophisticated palette.

It turns out that the aversion to the taste of coriander has actual scientific backing to it! There is an olfactory-receptor gene that increases your sensitivity to the smell of aldehyde chemicals, which coriander contains. You can lay the blame squarely at your parents feet for this, among all the other things that they managed to screw up and turned you into the picky eater that you are at 57 years old.

Shit…did I just say that out loud?

Still staying on the fresh produce side of the aisle, next up is the dreaded Brussel sprout. For many of us, this fart-smelling-mini-cabbage is the stuff nightmares are made of…until you step away from the boiled to death way of cooking and roast them in the oven with bacon and finish them off with a drizzle of honey. Yummy.

If you don’t immediately start salivating at that, then science yet again, is coming to the rescue. According to the clever people, we are born to reject bitter foods because for every one plant in nature which is bitter and good for us, there’s probably 50 which are bitter and poisonous. Free pass right there.

Another love it or hate it vegetable is the eggplant aka aubergine aka brinjal. Once you remove the bitter skin, this nightshade veggie is a creamy and buttery delight. It’s a texture thing again, right? Too squishy for some, not to mention the fact that if you are battling with inflammatory bowel disease, eating this might contribute to your discomfort. If that is the case, you do have a valid excuse to push it to the side of your plate. That, and the tomatoes fresh from Farmer Joe’s field. Although, personally, I will also not kill the bull for a tomato but for me it’s more about the acidity and not the texture. And did you know a tomato is actually a fruit and not a vegetable? Like avocado? Fancy a fruit salad with avo and tomatoes?

Moving onto fruit, let’s look at that spiny sweet thing called a pineapple. Oh the dreaded Hawaiian pizza! If you believe people who love pineapple on pizza should go straight to hell, then you might suffer from one of these two aversions: one is again that dreaded texture thing; the second, there is absolutely no good reason to cook fruit.

I’m on the fence with this one because I don’t think it’s the adding of pineapple that is the problem-child here but rather the execution of it. If you slice the fresh pineapple thin (definitely not the syrupy sickly sweet canned variety) and combine that with equally restrained pieces of ham, then there is no reason not to partake in this sweet-savoury delight.

And here you thought I was a food-snob, didn’t you?

I’ve just realized that most of the food people find offensive are fresh vegetables and some fruits. I can count on my one hand the amount of times I’ve heard somebody said no thank you to a donut or koeksister and heaved at a bowl of ice cream.

So here is my theory:

Most food likes and dislikes happen during childhood and our choices are influenced by a combination of rewards, punishments and eating behaviours we observe in others. These food aversions are further validated by our senses when we perceive something that we might not like.

Culturally we are taught how food should look and taste and if we are served something that does not match our expectations, our first response is to reject it. Not to mention the impact media and advertising has on our choices. And as we get older, changing these food preferences becomes progressively more difficult.

If we don’t force ourselves every now and again out of our food-comfort-zones, our childhood palate will never evolve and grow and experience new challenges.

Did you see what I did there? I used this whole food thing as a metaphor for growth and tolerance.

I know.

I’m subtle like that.

“How we do food is how we do life. Every meal is a metaphor for how you show up in the world. Are you present? Are you complaining? Are you multitasking? Add love, celebration, time, communion, and gratitude to every meal and make every meal the best meal ever.”

  • Marc David & Emily Rosen

Participation

In the last few week of self-isolation, I’ve started to think about what participation means for/to me. I’m on an average day, a confirmed and proud introvert and relish in the silence and isolation of my own world and have always jokingly said that if given half a chance, I’ll be a very content hermit.

But.

And it’s a big but.

If I so should choose, I could always contact a friend or family member, climb out of my self-imposed isolation womb and meet up in person, exchange a hug and watch their faces while we are having a natter, show happiness, discontent, anger and pleasure. Soak up their vibes, give more energy if they need more, take whatever they are willing to part with, and fill that part of myself that is void from avoiding interaction. Cause, although I can benefit from that level of connection, I am depleted afterwards. The bane of an introverted empath.

I have always avoided crowds or any large gathering of people – my membrane is just too thin and I bathe in their emotion like a wrung out sea sponge craving moisture. The barrier that protects me from feeling whatever they are feeling is gone and whether it is extreme happiness or extreme sadness, baby, I take it all on. Worst thing you can ask me to do is go to a concert or go shopping on a Saturday morning at the end of the month. Just don’t. Please.

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Where my participation have always been peppered with conditions, how short sighted does that way of life seem right about now? I miss touching people and hugging them and exchanging that non-verbal communication thing that I thrive on. When we talk to each other not using words or gestures but “talk” to one another on that other level, you know the one? Call it intuition. Call it higher self. Call it energetically. I don’t care. Call it whatever you want, I miss THAT.

Yes I can video call you. Yes I can message you. Yes I can phone you. Yes I can text my little heart out to you. But fuck it. Nothing comes to actually seeing you, touching you, smelling you (yeah…I do have a smidge of hyperosmia and some of my favourite people do smell delightful to me), looking at you and the way your eyes talk back to me. I miss my tribe dammit.

So where does that leave my current participation involvement? Facebook. Messenger. Instagram. Texting. Video calling. A tad impersonal, not so?

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Participation is directly related to the society we are accustomed to and that society has changed in tremendous ways. Is this remote way of communication the new normal? Since Plato’s days, when the whole concept of participation has been part of philosophical discussions, to me, the whole idea is still quite obscure and an ideal level of engagement is an unknown, more now than ever before.

The principle remains the same though, whether we are meeting face to face or via Zoom. There is no ideal level it seems and what I always thought is the most effective form, has dramatically changed in the last few months.

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My perception-musing has taken me down the garden path a bit but through this I have come to realize that participation is a dynamic process. It takes varying forms and the life cycle of whatever method of participation you choose, does evolve, and is centered on need.

As long as I’m present, I am participating.

“In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia.” – Milan Kundera

Liminality

A few years ago I started a personal project called Alienation, where I wanted to explore how we distance ourselves from various matters. Our health, our work, other people, ourselves and nature.

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Since then the project has evolved into a more personal journey, brought about by the upheaval of moving from one continent to another and trying to find my feet and my ‘murican tribe.  The challenges are on a visceral level and is just a smidge more than what I anticipated.

I am compelled to go scratch in places that I didn’t even know I had and to confront latent feelings with a raw honesty that scares the bejeesus out of me. All the time, trying not to judge myself too harshly.

Alienation_Lost 8x10Yup. I’m climbing that Mount Everest without oxygen. In fact, most days I feel that I forgot to put on the damn parka and that my Sherpa is lying drunk in his tent back at base camp.

Slowly but surely and with a healthy dose of courage, I’ve stopped teeter-tottering and found my footing.  My designated social position started changing and I managed to jump the liminal stage and went straight to acceptance status. In Monopoly terms, I vroomed pass go and absolutely collected those friendship-dollars.

And then BAM! Hello Corona.

Fuck.

Whether you are tsk-tsk-ing at the extreme measures being taken across the world or whether you are laying in the fetal position reading the book Panic 101, we all have the same thing in common at the moment: Our lives are in a holding pattern.

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I feel that my modest personal project is very apt at this stage and I do find comfort in that. Will it progress into something else yet again? Or is this a culmination of the two evolutions?

Where there was an almost unconscious acceptance in distancing ourselves from so many issues pre-virus, we are now forced to do so. I think it is a fantastic opportunity to (again…..) reassess the way I live my life and the impact I have on everything around me.

Alienation_Perception Deception 8x10It will be tough going for a while, nonetheless, I am dusting off my big girl panties (even though they are fucking uncomfortable) and attempt to address everything that is off-kilter in my little world.

No, I didn’t try and make the virus thing about me at all. But it does give one pause for a bit of self-reflection, not so?

Stay safe and practice that social distance like a mofo.