Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Can you taste it?

It leaves a sharp, tangy taste on the tongue, as if one has taken a nice long slurp along a rusted nail or frying pan. My taste buds don't seem to be working all that well at the moment, but they're fully able to savour the taste of irony. Oh yes, indeedy they are.

This last little while I've had what is medically termed anorexia. No, not anorexia nervosa, merely plain ol' anorexia; loss of appetite. It is one of the side effects from the antibiotics, and coupled with my greatly reduced sense of smell and taste, I've lost my joy and appreciation in cooking. And eating. But, I haven't lost my appreciation of food altogether, in fact I'm finding new ways in which to appreciate both food and my life.

The first few months of living here I've done nothing but complain about all the things I've perceived to be wrong about it; Arguing outside on the street; Cars going by with loud music blaring at all hours of the day; The occasional gunshots; Paint smells that linger still in some of the cupboards; The smell of Tide washing detergent that affronts my senses every time the washing machines disgorge sudsy water from the outflow pipes; That my husband doesn't cook as often as I'd like him to; The fact that I can't walk barefoot on this carpet even though it looks plush and inviting, but then there are not many acrylic carpets I can walk on; all of these things and more I've bemoaned almost continuously since we've moved in.

The other night, as I lay on my bed dreading what life would be like if I never recovered my senses, I noticed that I could see the moon. All this time I'd spent with the blinds pulled tight, or open to allow the afternoon breeze in, I'd failed to sit and appreciate what I could see from the window. Yes, there are buildings, but I can also see trees and sky, and sunsets, and as it turns out, glorious moonsets too. I've never sat and watched a crescent moon or any moon really, slip ever so slowly below the horizon before. I do know I felt a sense of wonder and childish delight as I quoted a line from that classic of American children's literature by Margaret Wise Brown. "Goodnight, Moon." I said as the highest tip of it disappeared behind the neighbour's roof.

This week, Alaskaboy has made me rice cooked in chicken broth. Previously I'd disdained to eat this unless it had onion, butter, and a rich chicken broth in amongst the ingredients. This week, plain canned Swanson's Broth and rice has been good enough. Miso soup with tofu, wakame and a hint of dashi broth in it, was a gentle way to get some protein, iron and friendly yeast into my system. Alaskaboy and I made it together. And I realised that I'd never shown him how I make the miso soup that he loves so much, I'd never even written it down like he'd asked me to, once upon a time.

That, among other things, has shown me that I've done the one thing I promised myself I wouldn't do. Watching Alaskaboy cook his own meals this week, or reheat ones that I'd previously cooked and stored in the freezer has given me a new appreciation, not only for my skills as a cook, but of his skills and joy in cooking too. I've stood in his way of enjoying time in the kitchen as the chef. Oh, it's been a subtle campaign indeed, but it's happened all right. I've let my enjoyment of cooking for him, usurp his enjoyment of cooking for me and for himself. I've dictated when he's allowed to cook...usually when I'm fed up of "cooking all the time" and yet I've jealously kept him out of the kitchen, or attached to the sink in oh so many terrible ways. I can feel my own words coming back to haunt me, the ones I said to my mother many times in regards to cleaning, "What's the point? You only come along and redo it anyway." or "Let me do it MY way."

Can you feel the flood of tang that just spilled forth into my mouth? Oh the irony people. So many times since we've been married, and even before, I've bitched and moaned to him about how he takes away any joy in my own achievements in regards to housework and cleaning whenever he's comes along afterwards and pointed out some spots I'd missed, or how I'd done it "wrong". And here I have been all smug about how I haven't done that to him in regards to cooking, when in fact I have.

It's been a little bittersweet realising how much I've bitched and moaned about things that I should have been grateful for instead. A husband who does like to clean and is more than willing to take on his fair share of chores. A body that is fit and capable of exercising as often as I want. Senses that are fully active and are even better than most peoples. The ability to have the choice to stay home and have a chance to fulfill my dream as an author.

I find myself humbled today. Humbled by the very abundance that is found right here in my life. Abundance that comes from this blessing in disguise. I have momentarily lost my appetite, my senses of taste and smell, but I have gained so much in return.

I find myself wanting to write about my adventures here as an expat Aussie, instead of the usual SF and F stories I pursue. Perhaps that is why I've found myself blocked when attempting to write those lately? And instead of listening to my current desire, I've plowed on ahead with what I think I should be writing.

Yesterday we went for a visit to a nearby park, something that we'd been meaning to do ever since moving here; go to a park, any park. Instead we've settled for time spent with exercise videos and hours of sweating within these four walls. What happened to taking in life along with gaining health? It felt so nice to lay on the grass in the shade of a tree and watch the wildlife and the people enjoy a nice sunny day. I couldn't smell the grass or anything like I used to be able to, but I could look, I could hear, and I could feel.

I also found ten dollars in the parking lot of the supermarket when we stopped to get something to eat on the way home. I had purchased for myself nothing but a simple roll, and Alaskaboy obtained ingredients for a dish he hadn't made in several years. Something simple that he calls cruel gruel...chopped slices of turkey sandwich meat that's cooked in a white sauce...but something he does like to eat.

Simple pleasures that have gotten lost along the way amongst my need for complicated meals, subtle interplays of flavour and of course complex entertainments, movies, computers, books, mp3s, instant gratification etc. I've been saying for some time that I'm exhausted and that I want to stop the world and get off...perhaps, instead of bemoaning what I've "lost" I should say thank you for being given what I've asked for.

How about you? When was the last time you took to enjoy a simple pleasure, or to be grateful for what you do have, instead of whining about all that you do not?

Care to join me in relearning the simple pleasures and the joy of patience?

2 Nibbles:

kathrynoh said...

Simple pleasures are indeed the best. I find myself enjoying them more as the weather gets warmer. Sure winter has it's own pleasures - like snuggling up in bed with a good book, but I do love me the sun :D

Anonymous said...

every day i savour the simple pleasure that is my family, my husband and children make me smile and make my heart leap!