Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Here's Looking at You!

I began to develop myopia when I was about eleven years old. It happened so suddenly, my father thought I was making it up, but after some of my teachers brought it to his attention that I wasn’t seeing the assignments on the chalkboard so well, he decided to take me to the Optometrist.

It was determined that I would need glasses, and even though my vision had deteriorated drastically in less than a year, there was no need for concern. “It happens frequently” my parents were told.

The first few years I wore glasses were a period of “on again, off again” experiences, since they kept getting broken. Because my parents couldn’t just take them to the mall for repairs, I would often go for weeks or sometimes months without them. Walking around in a blurry world is awkward, but I noticed my sense of hearing changed. It didn’t get better per se, but I was able to distinguish sounds with more accuracy. I could hear tires approaching and tell whose car it was.

By the time I had turned fifteen, I had learned how to not have broken glasses, and life settled into a sort of “normal.” When I was in my mid twenties, I got contact lenses and wore them for years until it was decided that to proceed would be detrimental to the health of my eyes.

I value my sense of sight; a gift from Creation that has allowed me to gaze upon heart-stopping beauty.

We all enjoy a sunrise or sunset; a rainbow after an afternoon or evening shower; the colours of the autumn leaves, and many of us have sights that are our personal favourites; a favourite place that holds special memories or brings a sense of peace and comfort. I have such a special place, a turn in the Nashwaak River in the village where I grew up. Sitting on that river bank, my life becomes whole again, the troubles seem to float away, with the ripples on the water. [Check out the attached video to share my bliss.]

Sight can also offer warnings. I have seen movement from the corner of my eye while driving and applied my brakes in time to avoid a collision with another vehicle. I have likewise been able to avoid attack from various dogs, people and falling objects while walking.

Sight can be descriptive: There are people who are not articulate enough to describe something, but can sketch it out and make others understand it. We can recognize our friends from afar by the way they move, or the colour of their favourite piece of clothing, or some other distinguishing feature.

The previously mentioned spot on the river bank or sunrises etc are but a few examples of how sight can bring us joy and peace. I love the sight of a well set table before a meal, even if the food has yet to appear. A well-kept lawn, especially if large trees are integrated, often makes me pause to enjoy the sight. Cars, motorcycles, drumsets, animals, architecture, can all be sources of enjoyment for me. However, these are subjective, and certainly not all examples have the same effect. It is odd how one building or car can strike my fancy, take me into a state of near reverie, while another of similar style gets barely a glance.

The same goes for people; especially those who are revered for their good looks, such as the celebrities on TV and in films. Sometimes I agree with these assessments, other times I do not. Yet, I know many “ordinary” people who have beauty beyond description. In some cases, a person may have no particularly outstanding physical beauty, but the beauty of their personality or spirit becomes associated with their appearance. This inner beauty is often so profound that the external body takes on a radiance that would be lacking otherwise. When such a person comes in sight, it is as if a Hollywood red carpet has been rolled out. The sight of a cherished friend can warm my heart and turn a bad day into a memorably wonderful experience.

Conversely, there are people who we are not overly thrilled to see. Their presence fills us with negative feelings, depression, fear or even loathing. Usually again it is not that they are ugly (some really attractive people still manage to make me feel disgust) but that their personality becomes associated with their outward appearance. Over time, I begin to feel apprehension at the appearance of said people.

Looking into the eyes or upon the face of someone very special, seeing a friend on the sidewalk or in the mall while shopping, gazing at a stunning sunset or a forest of autumn leaves, window shopping for a new car…. These are just some of the ways our sense of sight can bring us pleasure. What does it for you? What are the things you look at that make your heart skip a beat or take your breath for a moment? I’d love to hear from you.

~Still Wandering…

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Try it, it tastes like Chicken!

It is said that if you plug your nose and close your eyes, you will not be able to distinguish between an apple and an onion when biting into them. I don’t have any basis for this comparison since I’ve never tried this experiment, but I do know that when I have a cold and my nose is plugged, food loses its taste.

Science has verified what we already mostly know; that taste is dependant largely upon smell, so since these two senses are so intrinsically tied, it makes sense that they be the first two in my series.

As a pre-schooler, I was a very finicky eater; my mother tried nearly every trick in the book to get me to eat. Having endured many health issues during her pregnancy and being told by doctors that it was possible I would not live, she was determined to keep me alive if for no other reason than to prove them wrong, so when she found the few foods I took a liking to, she fed me those constantly. Over the years, I was coaxed and cajoled into trying other foods and today have a much larger menu than I did fifty years ago.

However, those early experiences have left me with limited flavour preferences. I am known to loathe anything sour or bitter, but recently have begun to accept a few new flavours. The sour of vinegar is less unpleasant now than in years gone by. I prefer sweeter tastes, and preferred such things as peanut butter and jam sandwiches, ice cream, and baked goods until well into my adult life.

It was also decided at an early age that I enjoyed meat. Beef, pork (and ham) and chicken were all staples in our household, and I ate with great vigour. As in many maritime homes, the staple diet at our house was “meat ‘n’ potatoes” with a side vegetable. My parents were fortunate enough to have enough land that they could plant a small garden and grew many vegetables such as beans, peas, carrots, corn, and potatoes as well as lettuce, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers etc. and stored them in a cool room in our basement. This garden was not a health or lifestyle choice but one of finances; it was simply cheaper to grow their own than to buy at a store or supermarket. Still, my choices were limited despite the availability of home-grown vegetables. I really wasn’t fond of them.
There was something about pasta that resonated within me as a youth, and the choice of topping was typically a tomato base with meat added. Today that is still a much favoured meal for me.

In some cases, I partook of tastes simply in order to “fit in” as many teenagers do. While I hated the taste of beer, I drank it to socialize with my friends. I eventually developed a taste for it, but again, I think it was what it did to me that I sought rather than the taste.

Sometimes we are forced by circumstances to try new flavours. Once I became a professional drummer and was on tour for extended periods of time, I would find myself in situations where “eat or go hungry” was the order of the day. In this manner, I learned to enjoy Chinese, Thai, Indian, and Greek food. When my spousal unit began to develop health problems in the late 1980s, we began to look at our diet and made a conscious effort to eat more organic, more beneficial foods, some of which tasted like nothing I want to taste again.

I think we are as intrinsically drawn to the food of our upbringing as we are to the familiar surroundings of where we spent our youth. My father was a prolific salmon fisherman, and caught as many as legally possible to store in our deep freeze. Trout were also a favourite staple in our diet. I can see now that this was again probably financial but it was good food and plentiful at that time. However, to this day, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, I prefer freshwater fish to seafood. It’s just what I had become used to.

While today I enjoy a much wider variety of foods and flavours, I still remember the foods my mother used to prepare. Food can evoke many memories and associated emotions. Food can offer comfort during stressful times, and food can become a reason to socialize.

Bon app├ętit!

~Still Wandering…