Sunday, April 25, 2010

Just a random aside

I have a mild form of Synesthesia (a much-debated neurological oddity) which mostly manifests as what’s called ‘grapheme to colour synesthesia; that is I see colours very clearly attached to many words, particularly numbers and days.
But whilst that’s my most prevalent form (and most common generally) I also get occasional odd little connections between words/sounds and taste. Some music can bring a flood of saliva and taste (of oranges or something else specific) to my mouth.
The other night on the news a reporter used in regards to a legal case the phrase ‘due diligence’. My mouth flooded with saliva in a foul metallic-tasting way as it does when I’m extremely nausea. It was a brief sensation and mulling it over later I recognized it as a strange reaction to the phrase, and searched my mind to see if anything else wanted to connect, a kind of Rorschach mind-game. The word ‘Antwerp’ and an image of a coca-cola can were circling like cartoon birds do on a fresh-banged head and then began to seem so logically connected that I chanted them like a mantra: ‘due diligence, Antwerp, aluminium, coke’ over and over.
Yesterday upon remembering this I thought it was just a silly thing that got into my head then stuck like a Spice Girls song can still sometimes do. (“I tell you what I want what I really really want!”). But then today it came back so I decided to punch those words into the all-knowing Google-Goddess. Was there a connection? Hell yeah! Underground in Antwerp is a factory that produced among other things aluminium, for among other companies, Coca-Cola. In the days when aluminium cans were still around Coca-Cola was faced with thousands of people around Europe becoming sick (nausea and vomiting) from drinking from aluminium cans made at the Antwerp plant. This occurred in 1989, and back then my family drank 1.25 litres of coke per day. I have absolutely no recollection of this news story breaking in Australia, and have never thought about a place called Antwerp until seeing a crazy dance sequence on Youtube where folks at Antwerp station all break into the song ‘Doe, a Deer’ from ‘The Sound of Music’. Yet I guess it was big news and I must have heard a mention of it and just filed it away in the ‘forget for now’ part of the brain, where it made this connection to a mouthful of metallic saliva. For I do recall a bad batch of coke (though we drank bottles) that made Mum and I sick at one stage. When we called the company they said over-syruping had happened on some batches and offered us a free case. On behalf of my teeth I‘d like to apologise for the fact that we accepted it…
So over twenty years ago I digested (along with some bad coke) a little news-bite about Antwerp being a place that made cans for Coke. Something got into my brain about people wanting to sue Coke for getting sick. And so now the phrase ‘due diligence’ brings a taste of warm sickly metal to my mouth. Brains are surely bizarre. I mean, how weird is that?

Friday, April 9, 2010

The thinning of the veils and the comfort of food.

I thought my next post was going to be about dear old neighbour Ray and how he holds the history of my home in his memory of living opposite it for forty years.
But on this grey autumn day my thoughts are turning, as a cake is baking, to other things domestic, ritualistic and fey.
Many years ago I called myself a ‘wiccan’ and practised with good friends some of the celebrations and rituals I believe are known to all women be they witch, Jew, Christian, of any faith or no religious faith at all.
At the heart of the magic I’ve practised formally or just in living is the idea that we can bless and make sacred our home and relationships through little offerings, little altars and kitchen magic.
Autumn is my birth season and the one I love most. But it is also the season of decay, of final harvest, of pulling in the produce to put away for winter. Autumn is the time of preparation against death, yet as the air grows colder it is also a time when many people die. In old pagan practises it was a time to invite in against the cold the spirits of loved ones, as the veils between life and death thinned to bring the spirit world nearer. You’d do this with bonfires, an extra table place set, and the glimmer of the fires and candles seen in your home from the dark world a world away.

I have two friends, Sharnee and Tanya, a couple in a fifteen-year-long relationship who refer to each other fondly as ‘wifey’.
Last weekend Tanya’s sister died of an asthma attack she simply could not recover from. Two years ago Tanya’s brother died in a motorbike accident, an event she is barely recovering from as this new pain brings its chill and gloom to her life and home.

So on this Autumn Saturday I am reminded that the best, the oldest, the only true magic is that kitchen magic all women know. When there is birth for a loved one we take food to nourish an exhausted mother. When there is sorrow for a friend we pour tea or wine or soup. We show our apologies in perfectly cooked favourite meals, and when there is death we do what women the world over do and have done for centuries. We arrive with a box or basket or bowl of things home-cooked or garden-picked. We visit briefly, hug, put away the things on the draining board, make tea, then leave, somehow consoled ourselves in the process of consoling.

So today I bake and boil, and I bless the chicken for the egg, and the cow for the butter and the pig for the pork in the meatballs. I stir and think of my lovely friend and her bruised self and imagine her reaching into the fridge, thoughtless in grief, to find something made by someone else with love. She should not think of me as she does so, she should only eat, and for a moment perhaps feel the hug that has been folded into the food along with every blessing I can find in the pantry.