I recently came across this post by Jeff Bridges (yes, the awesome actor dude), on his website.  I found it so very telling that I decided to reproduce it here.

PERCEPTION

. . . Something To Think About. . .

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately 2000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After three minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

four minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

six minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A three year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children.. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only six people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

The questions raised:

*In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*Do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made – how many other things are we missing?

I found it curious that some people gave money but continued to walk at their normal (hurried) pace… they didn’t stop to listen… to appreciate…  Where is the value exchange in that?

Furthrmore, and perhaps more importantly, I found it intersting (amazing) that it was the children that wanted to stop and listen… but the parents tore them away… It’s a poignant reminder that life isn’t just about schedules… it’s also about being still… and listening… Perhaps the world would be a brighter place if children had louder voices.

I did tell you about Pinterest, didn’t I?  It’s a wonderful, visually stimulating website.  I love it!

I also came across StumbleUpon… and WeHeartIt… and FFFFOUND!

Oh dear… I think I’m in trouble… (in a good way!)

My word for the day is phantasmagorias.

Isn’t that a lovely word?  It’s sounds magical, mysterious… enchanting.

It’s interesting then that it means:

–noun

1. a shifting series of phantasms, illusions, or deceptive appearances, as in a dream or as created by the imagination.

2. a changing scene made up of many elements.

3. an optical illusion produced by a magic lantern or the like in which figures increase or diminish in size, pass into each other, dissolve, etc.

Ahhh… dreamy…

If ever I did have the courage to get a tattoo, me thinks this would be lovely:

(Pinterest) Pinned by Hot Strong Coffee onto Tattoo inspiration for all things angel wings and feathers from flickr.com

 Alright, so enough of the feeling miserable.  Instead, let’s take a tour of the sites and sounds that inspire me, shall we?

Queen of Tarts in Observatory, Cape Town. I love what Tina Bester has created here.  I’ve not had the pleasure of visiting this coffee shop come haven of yummilicious food, but I hear good things.  Besides, who wouldn’t want to live in an apartment just above one’s coffee shop?

Celtis Lodge. Stone labyrinth.  Need I say more?

Zenobias Coffee & Art, on the main road through Rustenburg, as you drive towards the Magaliesburg.  This is a quaint little coffee shop that we pop into for breakfast or lunch on our way to Celtis Lodge.  I love that they have little wooden puzzles on each table… them puzzles can keep you occupied for quite some time… before you know it, the homely food has arrived.

Just Ginns. A lifestyle store, they say. A naughty place to go when I want to spend some time just soaking up the quirkiness of beautiful and unusual things, I say.

 i want that – I discovered this website purely by accident, but my goodness… do they have some beautiful stuff there… 

There’s also Pinterest… naughy, naughty, bad website…

Maya Prass . OMG! Can this woman design beautiful clothing! I adore the way she combines colour and print.  It’s such a pity her store is in Constantia, Cape Town.  Oh well, between Queen of Tarts and Maya Prass, I may just have enough reason to move to Cape Town.  (And let me not forget the Moreton Bay Fig tree in Arderne Gardens, Claremont.)

Jane Griffiths… maybe it has something to do with my parents having been raised growing their own food, but the idea of having a vegetable garden is very appealing. I bought a copy of Jane’s book Jane’s Delicious Garden some time ago, and I have been dreaming ever since.  (Mind you, my little herb garden in coming along quite famously.)

At yet, the most awesome, amazing, fabulous, joyful and inspiring thing in my life is watching, and being apart of Sophia’s journey.  My little baba is growing so beautifully!  I still get a little dizzy when I try to get my head around the fact that my beloved and I created such a beautifully little munchkin… I have love… I mean, how can you not love this:

I think I’m having a midlife crisis… actually, I’ve probably been having a midlife crisis for a good ten years now…

You see, I’m bored. Life is boring… and dull… and jaded… and uneventful (well, yes – there is stuff happening in my life, but very little of it is bright and happy and cheerful… a lot of it is about my brother and sister in law being hijacked (okay, granted, their withdrawing all their pennies in cash before emigrating to France instead of getting traveller’s cheques was probably not the most inspired idea and it probably did prompt said hijacker dudes to rob them blind and bring their whole world crashing down…) or my father’s business not doing too well (he’s in his sixties, for heaven’s sake… he should not have to work like he does… he looks so tired…) or my sister’s ongoing angst since her divorce or my husband’s stress at work… or… well… family stuff… you understand…).

The perplexing thing is that none of this has anything to do with me… in the sense that I can’t change it… and yet I feel caught up in it all… trapped somehow… caught up in other people’s stuff…

I feel like I’m at a crossroads…

You see, I feel like something needs to change, and that change will be prompted by a choice that I need to make…

Do I stay at my current job (it pays the bills, helpful that), or do I start to look for a job that feeds my soul significantly more… or do I start my own thing (I have no clue what the would be, but it would probably involve the making of pretty things)… or do I start studying again… and if I start studying again, should I study something in design (I wanted to be a costume designer when I was a little person…) or do I go into healing (family constellation therapy still fascinates me)… or…

Reading about other people who have made, what seems like, a beautiful life is not working for me anymore… Collecting the Home and Ideas magazines in the hopes of one day creating all of these wonderful things isn’t working for me anymore…

So, I’m stuck… now what?

Perhaps the biggest challenge is coming to a place of peace around what one actually wants out of life… What do I actually want to create? (Notice the blank expression on my face… does this tell you something?)

This blog was meant to be about ‘my wanting to live life fully,  about romance… about feeling nostalgic… about nurturing my child, my family, myself… about expressing creativity… fulfilling long-held dreams… and occasionally getting a little silly too…’

But somehow I don’t feel like that’s happened.  Of course, a blog can only be a reflection of a life, so clearly that means my life isn’t what I’d like it to be.  Now, please understand – it’s not that I’m unhappy as such… I’m just disappointed at how mundane life is…

But there is hope… As I wondered why it is that my life isn’t the exciting, exuberant, spontaneous, creative, joyful and adventurous life that I imagined, the universe sent some messages…

Message one: I came across a blog post by Ben Casnocha about how to draw an owl.  It appealed to my sense of humour.  And yet, there was the message.  He explains “One interpretation of the image and caption is that it reinforces how some folks perceive the progression from novice to expert:

Stage 1: You suck.
Stage 2: You’re an expert.

In fact, mastering a skill involves hundreds of stages of incremental improvement over a very long period of time. I believe a key reason so many people on the road to mastery call it quits is not because drawing a beautiful owl in pencil is superhumanly hard. It’s because they thought it would be easy.”

I’m actually one of the folks who thinks drawing an owl (or doing anything that I’ve never done before) is going to be superhumanly hard… I quite literally terrify myself into not trying at all… for fear I’ll be terrible at it.  My thinking goes something like this: “Seriously, I can’t just be amazingly brilliant at everything… just like that… I really do have to make a start (any start… just start somewhere… anywhere!)… hmmm… I really do have to practise, put some time and effort into it…?  Well… that’s inconvenient!  Here I was hoping I’d get away with being amazing by sheer willpower.”

Turns out being human doesn’t work like that.  Nope… there are no plug-a-play programmes out there… the makers of ‘The Matrix’ lied… One has to learn by doing… It sucks… doesn’t it?  (Yes, yes, I know – learning how to do something is part of the adventure… I know… I get it… I’m just intimidated by making mistakes… and the concepts of endurance and discipline are a little foreign to me…)

There, see… I said it… out loud… (ouch…)

Message two: I read an article in our company newsletter that was based on a blog post by Christine Kane about setting New Year’s resolutions. Ms Kane proposes that the reason most resolutions don’t work is because they address only one level of our lives – the do level.  Most of us follow the dohavebe model (which goes like so: “I will do this thing, (plant herbs) so that I can have this other thing (a tranquil garden) and I can be this thing (nurturing).”  The average resolution doesn’t address the core issue – the be level.  She suggests that life is better lived by following the bedohave model, which goes like so: Be the thing (nurturing) by doing the thing (plant herbs) to have the thing (a tranquil garden).  Starting at the be level creates positive change in one’s life because your inspired thinking guides your action.  When you begin changing on the be level, then the do level and have levels follow.

Okay… I can do that… I think…

Message three: I went to a kinesiology session today.  (No, I’m not going to explain how kinesiology works… let’s just say it’s a therapy that works on an energetic level, and it works for me because my mind doesn’t have the opportunity to talk circles around my psyche. ‘nough said.)  Anyway – we uncovered a little gem during said session.  The gem: I live in a box (no, not a real box – we’re talking figuratively here)… and I’ve only ever peaked out the box… mostly because I was told that it’s a horrible, scary place out there, and I tend to believe people (I mean, why would they lie?).  I was always under the impression that if I left the box, I wouldn’t be able to go back to it… to the sense of safety that it provides.  But, this is not so.  It seems I can choose to leave the box, build ladders, staircases and bridges from it to other places… and it’s okay.  I can always go back to the box, if I want to.  Who knew?

So, if you put that altogether:

– it’s okay to leave our space of safety because we can choose to go back if we want to,

– being creates the energy to sustain the doing and the having,

– the doing happens over time, with consistent effort… it really is okay to make mistakes in order to gain mastery of something… just start, have a little faith in your ability, and the rest takes care of itself…

No, seriously – this is important.  This discovery, a collision of culinary findings, has quite literally, and miraculously, transformed the way I feel about roasting a chicken.  Yes, roasting a chicken.

Before, I admit (rather sheepishly),  I was intimidated at the thought of roasting a chicken… all that flesh that needed thorough cooking or else some poor, unsuspecting eater of my roast chicken could get food poisoning… perish the thought! Yikes!

But, thanks to Ms Nigella Lawson’s book ‘How to Eat’, I have discovered that the key to a good roast chicken comes down to having a really hot oven – 210°C as a matter of fact.  Who knew?  I’d never ventured beyond 180°C in my culinary adventures.  Can you imagine my anticipation as I cranked my oven’s dial up beyond 200… shivers, darling – shivers down my spine! 

And you know what?  Lemon goes really well with roast chicken.  This may seem really obvious – but I was clueless; seriously – completely clueless.  Granted, I always picked the lemon and herb flavour at Nando’s*, but that’s because I have an aversion to my tongue being on fire as a result of consuming piri piri sauce.  I never quite knew how good it actually is until the day that I realised that the combination of lemon and chicken is not a new thing.  As matter of fact, I have a recipe from the middles ages that combines lemon and chicken… then there was the recipe in FreshLiving** that combined fennel, lemon and chicken.  But the last delectable piece of information that caused my culinary epiphany is thanks to Ms Lawson.  She writes about how homely roast chicken is, how it reminds her of her mum.  And what’s the main ingredient that Ms Lawson uses to roast her chicken – lemons! Lemons, people! Lemons!  (And a little salt and pepper doesn’t go amiss.)

I’m so excited.  Not only do I know what to put on my chicken before roasting it (lemon juice), but I have discovered that time (an hour actually) and a hot oven is all you really need.  Oh, happy day!

* a South African born and bred brand of yummilicious chicken fast food fare, based mostly on Portuguese cuisine

** Pick n Pay’s (huge retail chain – think Walmart or Tesco’s) monthly magazine – it usually has some really delicious looking recipes

Upon looking at my blog, a friend remarked “But there aren’t any pictures…”.  I have taken this to heart.  I present to you – pictures.  However, these are no ordinary pictures.  They are images that entered my eyes and found a seat in my soul.  They whisper to me, and I hold them warmly in my soul’s hand.

Clive Arrowsmith - 'Liberty on the Barricades'

 The first of the images is by the photographer Clive Arrowsmith, called Liberty on the Barricades.  I found this picture in a newspaper magazine in 1990… I was 15 years old at the time.  I clearly remember finding it.  It was a Sunday afternoon.  We were visiting family.  On my aunt’s lace clad dinning room table was the newspaper.  I idly paged through the magazine, passing time.  When I saw the picture, it felt like I had been hit between the eyes.  There was a certain familiarity about it… I couldn’t place it.  I knew it had to come home with me.  Having asked my cousin if anyone would miss it, I carefully separated the staples holding the magazine together, and took out the page.  I still have the original page from the newspaper magazine…
 
I don’t know why I was so draw to the image… perhaps it represented the woman I had hoped to become – strong, independent, brave… deeply sensitive… physically beautiful…
 
 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Proserpine

The second image is an oil painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, called Proserpine.  I came across this picture when I was about 18 years of age.  I remember finding a book on the  Pre-Raphaelite containing the image, which I bought and still have today.  I don’t quite remember how I came to love the Pre-Raphaelites, but I suspect it had something to do with a dear friend’s love of William Morris’ work, the Art Nouveau period as well as the Art Deco period… all those beautiful, flowing lines… created when the world was discovering technology like trains and aeroplanes… things were exciting… adventure sparked the world… we hadn’t become complacent yet…

I colour copied the image, then framed it and placed it in the office in which I worked at my first job as a receptionist.  The same framed image now hangs in the hallway of my house.

There’s something deeply sad, and yet sensual, about this painting… something mysterious… 

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law - World

  

Last, but no least, is the watercolour by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, called World.  It is part of a collection of watercolours that she did around the various themes in a tarot deck.  This is the card World from the Major Arcana.

I found this image recently, at the age of 35.  I love everything about this watercolor – the colours, the gentleness of it, the unspoken magic… the quiet it evokes… the forest and the moon… a certain wisdom… a peaceful knowing… and yet there is movement, creativity…
 
This image, for me, epitomises all that is the forest wife.
 
 
 
 

If you recall, a while back a described my forays into the baking of banana bread.  However, I didn’t give the quantities for each ingredient.  This has cause much gnashing of teeth because you, my good readers, dearly want to bake banana bread – But. There. Are. No. Quantities.

After much deliberation, I decided to deliver you from your torment.  You’ll find the full recipe below.  I’m sure Ms Tessa Kiros won’t mind if I reproduce it here.  This delicious banana bread comes from her cookbook Apples for Jam, page 349 to be exact. 😉

 

Photo credit: Manos Chatzikonstantis

Banana Bread

125g butter
180g dark brown sugar
350g (about 4 medium) ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
250g plain (all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
three-quarters of a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
3 tablespoons warm milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, and butter a 30 x 11cm loaf tin.

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth and then whisk in the mashed bananas. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt and whisk in well. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and beat until smooth.  Mix the bicarbonate of soda into the milk and stir into the batter.

Scrape the mixture into the tin and bake for about 50 minutes, until the bread is crusty on the top and a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean.  Turn out onto a rack to cool.

Serve warm or cold, plain or toasted with butter; but allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container; where it will keep well for several days.

Cuts into 11 – 12 slices.

Happy baking! 🙂