Strangely Philosophical Today

Thanks to David for Lab Girl:

 

Spring speaks of new beginnings, and what symbol of new beginnings is more laden with meaning than the humble seed?  But it is not so humble. I will spare you the scientific definition of a seed as it is multi-layered and to my right-brained self, a little bit too complicated. But the seed itself, according to the author of Lab Girl, Hope Jahren, is patient and brave and  holds hope for the future in its tiny (and sometimes not so tiny) self.

Her ode to the seed seems to be in direct contrast to the instructions you receive on those little packs of radish seeds or carrot seeds, in that many do not have an expiry date. She says that some live for thousands of years before deciding that it is time to flourish. Within each seed there seems to be a time capsule awaiting launch. Here are some of Jahren’s observations, which I found totally fascinating. She says:

“A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow; a cherry seed can wait for a hundred years with no problem. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed. Some unique trigger-combination of temperature-moisture-light and many other things are required to convince a seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance— to take its one and only chance to grow.”

I love the idea that a seed needs to be convinced “to jump off the deep end and takes it chance”. Are we not a lot like that seed? One day we are merrily going about our routine everyday business, then without seeming rhyme or reason we are off on a new adventure and we are going in a new direction. I have often wondered what it is that finally precipitates change. Are we governed by “some unique trigger-combination of temperature-moisture-light” that “makes us jump off the deep end” to change? Or is it the “many other things” that Jahren does not define that encourages us to leave one aspect of life behind in order to choose another?

She tells us that “A seed is alive while it waits. Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three-hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it. Neither the seed nor the old oak is growing; they are both just waiting. Their waiting differs, however, in that the seed is waiting to flourish while the tree is only waiting to die.” If we are bluntly truthful, I guess we are all like the old oak waiting to die, but in the meantime we bud, blossom, and bloom, not in a vacuum, but in a vast world of pain and joy, anger and laughter, hurt and comfort.

I love the contrast in the size of seeds. Did you know that a coconut “is a seed that is as big as your head” that can float “from the coast of Africa across the entire Atlantic Ocean and take root on a Caribbean Island”? But, an orchid seed is so tiny, that “one million of them put together add up to the weight of a single paper clip”.  Sometimes I feel as big as a coconut seed; sometimes as small as an orchid. But it is not the size that matters; it is the final outcome. And they both flourish differently—one providing sustenance; the other beauty.

I do not know why the Lab Girl’s observations about seeds hit me so profoundly today. Perhaps it is the medication I am using to keep my knee pain at bay (I am only on Tylenol 1 so that can’t be it unless the dregs of the other heavy duty meds are still in my system-lol).

She says that sometimes when scientists are in their labs they “simply scratch the hard coat and add a little water and it’s enough to make almost any seed grow.” Minds much more brilliant than mine could equate this with scratching the surface of the hard coating many of us have cocooned ourselves in.  Adding something like love and care and respect can make us burst forth and do cartwheels, or at least smile a little and accept life as the weird and wonderful, awful and great thing it is.

According to Jahren, “under the right conditions, you can finally stretch out into what you’re supposed to be.” She tells the story of a lotus seed which had been waiting in the peat bog in China for two thousand years. Finally coddled into growth, she noted that “this tiny seed had stubbornly kept up the hope of its own future”. I guess that is where we are at: stubbornly keeping up the hope of our own future.

 

Published in: on May 3, 2016 at 1:22 pm  Comments (8)  

Reality Bites

The picture is not flattering

The face looks like a wrinkled pancake

With a nose

And glasses.

Goodbye youth….

Hello to a future that no longer depends on pretty

Guess I had better work on my personality

LOL

 

Published in: on April 6, 2016 at 12:19 am  Comments (21)  

Observations on April 4, 2016

 

Wind howling;

Snow falling;

While….

Birds bravely chirp,

Emerging buds shiver.

Blooms take cover

from the sharp cold ~

Spring momentarily put on hold…..

Published in: on April 4, 2016 at 4:35 pm  Comments (10)  

A Deep Philosophical Truth

 

Life

is

the

pits ~

Except

when

it

isn’t.

Published in: on April 3, 2016 at 6:48 pm  Comments (4)  

April Snow

Spring snow

Glazes buds and blooms–

Sparkling daffodils

bow under the white weight.

Sun melts; the thaw

leaves only dew drops.

Published in: on April 2, 2016 at 10:56 pm  Comments (7)  

Newspaper Woman

A rumbling starts

From deep within

It roils and coils and leaps about

My nerves are on the outside

Looking in

Wondering why they have no shelter

Why they have no protection

Livewires of

Energy and

Creativity.

My fingers cannot keyboard fast enough

Ideas mound up

Molehills literally become mountains

Everything becomes big, insurmountable.

There are no toeholds in the side of this mountain

It is sheer polished rock…..

I slide down into a heap of exhaustion

Relief………….

Another deadline met.

This is how I feel before, during, and after writing my weekly newspaper column. Whether or not I will write a daily poem this month that celebrates poetry is up in the air…………it is an intention–but we all know where intentions sometimes end up……….

Published in: on April 1, 2016 at 6:07 pm  Comments (9)  

Poppycock

 

Just like everything else we do, how we eat a plateful of food is part and parcel of our personality. The idea for this column was born when I wondered aloud for about the thousandth time during our married life, why my husband eats each of the different foods on his plate one at a time. This has puzzled me forever, as I am just the opposite. I tend to think that many foods complement each other and I like the interplay and subtle nuance of each flavour and how they combine to create a palate pleasing experience. As you can rightly divine from this admission, I watch the Food Channel too much.

With an eye to finding a source to back up my private assertion that my way of eating is the “better” way I Googled the subject and came up with an article by Vicki Santillano called, “Eating Habits and Personality: A Surprising Connection” on the Divine Caroline website. I do not really know what qualifications Ms. Vicki has, but since she quotes Juliet A. Boghossian who is a behavioural food expert and the founder of Foodology, I will grant her findings some grudging credence even though they do not back up my theory.

Anyway, Boghossian believes that our “food habits are one of the most instinctual habits we have” and reveal a great deal about us. She says, “You can fake a food habit … but eventually, the instincts will kick in,” uncovering the “real” you. So do you want to know how she believes the way we eat reveals our traits? For argument sake I am going to provide her “scientific findings” in a nutshell. What she reveals about me though is not very complimentary.

I am both a slow eater and a person who mixes my food (these are her categories, not mine and I have a bone to pick with her assertions.) First I will tell you what she says these two traits tell about me: I am wed to routines and stubborn. Apparently I make a point of savouring my food which indicates that I try to get the “most out of every experience” (which does not seem like a really bad thing to me). BUT she says that I am also more likely to put my needs before anyone else’s, and make myself the priority of my life.

And people who mix their food rather than eat one at a time? They “can take on a great deal of responsibility efficiently, but have trouble deciding what is the most important to accomplish”. To add insult to injury, apparently those of us who like to mix our food also “have trouble concentrating on a particular task”.

Now those of you who eat fast get off a little easier. While Boghossian believes that you “show a lack of balance when it comes to priorities”, apparently you are nicer than slow eaters as you tend “to put others before yourselves”. You are also “productive powerhouses and excel at finishing projects.” People who eat foods one at a time are, according to the one who knows all, “task-oriented” and “methodical in approach” but “less flexible when it comes to fitting into situations that deviate from what they’re used to”.

Poppycock, I say to most of these findings, foremost because they cast me in a rather dubious light. I do not really think I put my needs first (I am a mom after all), but I must admit that the word stubborn has been thrown my way (a lot). I am not wed to routine although this is something I could pick up on to advantage. Also, there is no real category for people who take a bite of one food on their plate, then a bite of another food and do not really mix them on their plate.

In light of these findings (which I do not necessarily agree with) I probably should start eating a little faster, so I will “excel at finishing projects” but if I choke on my food I hold Boghossian wholly to blame.

I took a tally of my family, just out of interest and we are two for two. My husband and youngest son eat their food one at a time, and I and my eldest son, take varying bites out of the food on our plate. I must note though that when I asked my eldest, he was not totally sure and said “it depends” when I asked him how he eats. Then when I broke it down to a roast beef dinner with potatoes and corn, he told me that he eats bites of each and not one food all at once. I guess he needed context.

I do have a burning question: How do people who eat one food at a time eat stew or chili or pizza or any one of the many dishes that are made with different foods already mixed together?

Published in: on March 12, 2016 at 4:02 pm  Comments (6)  

Monkey Mind Defined and Tamed

I have been remiss of late–this is my weekly column for the newspaper:

I want to share a book I finished reading a few weeks ago with you but my “monkey mind” is racing in all directions. I must focus. I must write this, my weekly column. And it has to make some sense, and satisfy the reader to some extent. But my “monkey mind”, defined by Wikipedia as “a Buddhist term meaning unsettled; restless, capricious; whimsical, fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable” is attacking me.

Compartmentalization is one of the ways that I deal with “monkey mind” and it is surprisingly efficient—along the lines of Gone With the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara declaring: “I won’t think about that now. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” I put things in their own little boxes, but sometimes they escape, get muddled, and I have trouble sorting them out.
In a Huffington Post article by author B.J. Gallagher, she tells us that Buddha has monkey mind all figured out. Titled “Buddha: How to Tame Your Monkey Mind”, she says that “The Buddha was the smartest psychologist” she has ever read. Calling him a wise teacher with keen insights into human nature she disavows that he was either a god or messiah, but someone who learned by observation and meditation.

He apparently described the “human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, clattering” and “carrying on endlessly.” Dozens of these little critters clamour for our attention all the time, but “fear is an especially loud monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong.” This particular monkey is both irritating and a life saviour. Admittedly, sometimes we need this little guy so we will not step out into traffic—but when he stops you from getting on with life, he is getting a little out of hand.

Gallagher sometimes engages Fear “in gentle conversation”. She says that this little tete a tete can sometimes calm him down. Here is a little peek into her conversation:

“What’s the worst that can happen?” I ask him.
“You’ll go broke,” Fear Monkey replies.
“OK, what will happen if I go broke?” I ask.
“You’ll lose your home,” the monkey answers.
“OK, will anybody die if I lose my home?”
“Hmmm, no, I guess not.”
“Oh, well, it’s just a house. I suppose there are other places to live, right?”
“Uh, yes, I guess so.”
“OK then, can we live with it if we lose the house?”
“Yes, we can live with it,” he concludes.
And that usually does it. By the end of the conversation, Fear Monkey is still there, but he’s calmed down. And I can get back to work, running my business and living my life.”

Gallagher’s other advice for dealing with “monkey mind” is to meditate, and this she bases on the teachings of Buddha. She says it works. What doesn’t work is trying to banish the monkeys from your mind as “that which you resist, persists”. For me the jury is out regarding meditation. But I do find that having a “worst case scenario” conversation does calm me down. While sometimes my worst case scenario conversations do not have a happy ending—at least no one has died.

Oh—and the book I was going to tell you about? It is written by Ruth Reichl and called “My kitchen year: 136 Recipes that Saved my Life.” What does the book have to do with “monkey mind”? Well Ruth cooked and wrote a book to get rid of her monkeys. She lost her job as the Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine and was at a loss as to what to do next. She was in danger of losing her vacation house (oh, to have her monkeys!) but her anguish was real to her.

Reichl tamed her monkeys by getting back to her roots and cooking—something she had only written about for years. By chronicling her “kitchen year” she survived what she called her “difficult year”, and came to the realization that it is the simple things that make life worth living. At one time she was caught up in the whirlwind of a fancy life where she spent piles of money to “sit surrounded by strangers.” Now, she could come home, fix a quick and satisfying meal and have a quiet conversation with her husband, and be wholly content.

This mini review does not give the book its full due. It is honest, lyrically written, and has recipes to boot—there is not much more I could ask of a book. Oh—and the photography is awe inspiring. The book is a treat for the senses.

Do you ever suffer from Monkey mind? How do you cope?

Published in: on March 11, 2016 at 2:13 pm  Comments (9)  

Happy V Day!

Have to share this–it is from my wonderful rhyming friend Joan Harder and I could not keep it to myself:

I guess that those two groundhogs could not agree this year
So whether spring comes early is a toss -up so I hear.
But one thing that stays constant when THIS DAY comes around
Our hearts just seem to lighten and loving thoughts abound.
So if you’re feeling kind of sad that this old world’s a mess,
Just tell someone you love them, and you hurt a little less.

Thanks Joan–You made my day!

Published in: on February 14, 2016 at 3:01 pm  Comments (3)  

Love and Madness

My weekly newspaper column. Thanks to Ben Naga for madness quote and David Kanigan for the “winter morning”:

Madness comes in many forms. One of them is love. But only love of a certain variety. I guess for lack of a better term, romantic love suffers from, nay, benefits from madness. It burns bright at the beginning, and though it wafts and wanes, sometimes it is snuffed out never to be seen again while at other times it reincarnates into something of almost concrete substance.

Love is such an esoteric subject. Mysterious to some, quite clear cut to others. Louis de Bernieres, a contemporary British author has a lovely definition of love—and in this quote he covers the subject quite thoroughly—from madness to its eventual durability:

“Love is a temporary madness; it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.”

February, with Valentine’s Day almost smack-dab in its middle (“almost” because this year is a leap year) is the month known for love. I would argue that love in its many forms should be recognized. Even romantic love that goes astray, because what was once is still a reality, never to be truly forgotten. de Bernieres believes that “any fool can” be in love but “love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away.” I agree with him that love, in its best form is both “an art and a fortunate accident.”

Love has many facets, and though its romantic muse may be Cupid, the depth and width and plumb of it is immeasurable. True love though does not always have to withstand the test of time—I believe that you can truly be in love—for a while. What too many do not realize is that even though they may fall out of love, what they had once was something not to be dismissed. Idealistically true love lasts; realistically, not always.

I am of course, idealistic. And as luck would have it (knock on wood) I have been fortunate enough to have withstood “being in love” and moved on to what de Bernieres describes as being “one tree and not two.” But I would argue that there are many branches to that “one tree”; and some of the branches are independent of the others. A romantic I may be, a fool I am not. (I know this is up to interpretation, but hey, this is my column.)

So, enough of this touchy-feely stuff for now, we will move on to another favourite quote of mine, which deals with the love of the small things in life. It is an observation by Ted Kooser, titled “A Winter Morning” from his book Delights and Shadows”:

“A farmhouse window far back from the highway
speaks to the darkness in a small, sure voice.
Against this stillness, only a kettle’s whisper,
and against the starry cold, one small blue ring of flame.”

His poetic rendering embodies warmth and coziness on a winter’s day. And this being February, we need the “small blue ring of flame” to douse our mid-winter doldrums. A cup of something steaming served up from a whispering kettle is the perfect antidote to the cold and damp.

What is your preferred cup of something steaming?

 

 

Published in: on February 6, 2016 at 3:17 pm  Comments (4)  
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