But, did you know how GOOD it is for you??
Follow the link to learn just WHY that cup of joe may save your life, your sanity, and your libido!
Rainy October in the Panama highlands. Foggy mornings. Cool nights. Soggy garden paths. Time to make soups and stews in the crock pot. I’m thinking for tonight some local grass fed beef with onions, sweet potatoes, herbs and red wine. Yum.
It’s also orange harvest season, so pots of marmalades are continually simmering on the stove and god! the perfume is exquisite. I’m lashing out this season and trying all manner of exotic marmalade and jam combinations. Orange-ginger. Orange-chipotle. Orange-cranberry. Orange-tree tomato-cabernet. Orange-coffee-rum. That last one? Well, it triggered a whole raft of other possibilities, so now I have bottles and bottles of Pirate Juice (rum-ginger-coffee-habanero liqueur), Panama Panacea (orange-coffee-rum liqueur), and Cordially Yours, Panama (orange-rum liqueur), all happily curing away in preparation for the 2nd Zapadora Flea Market in December.
(Hats off to Dianne for her inspirational energy. “Well, what about this? And this? And we could try this!” and to my friend Emily, for the gift of the many, many oranges, and for recommending the book, The Flavor Thesaurus.
Truly, it’s amazing the possibilities that can come from a small number of ingredients, or what you can do with a small amount of money, or how you can creatively use a small space. One of the great lessons of living in Panama has been, “less is more.”
I came across an interesting video today on the internet. Designer Graham Hill talks about downsizing, life editing, being happier with less stuff. I can relate. Ten years ago I lived in a three story, 3000 square foot house with attic and garage that was absolutely jammed packed with stuff. My stuff. My husband’s stuff. My children’s stuff. The stuff accumulated or inherited from dead relatives. Boxes of stuff. Closets of stuff. Whole rooms that no one ever entered filled with stuff no one ever used. When I moved to Panama, I went through a frenzy of shedding…boxes to Goodwill, truck loads to the dump, garage sales… . It was fantastic and I wanted to just keep on divesting, but my husband, a certifiable pack rat, who at age 60 was still carting around boxes of his undergraduate term papers, resisted and we ended up bringing a 20 foot container of furniture and stuff with us—that we then had to put into storage. When we separated 5 years ago, I moved into a 600 square foot hobbit cottage…leaving lots of stuff behind, but still feeling overrun with boxes and trunks and cartons. Now, the hobbit house is a bit bigger—about 800 square feet—and I have once again gotten “light”. I have given away, thrown away, or sold a huge amount of more stuff–and I can’t even tell you now what most of it was. The only leftover clutter belongs to my daughter, and she’s on notice that in one year, this will all go away as well. It’s been 6 years. If she doesn’t know what’s in those boxes, she clearly can live without it.
You can watch Graham Hill’s video here.
Less is More.
What’s in your box? (No peeking!).
I am shocked at the people who come down here to the cloud forest of Panama and build MacMansions—just because they can. Two people rattling around in a 4000+ square foot house with 30 foot cathedral ceilings. I have friends who joke that they have to call their partners on their cell phones when they are in opposite parts of their house. Who needs it?
I used to have a kitchen 4 times the size of my current tiny, one-person turn around space and I turned out some great food there. I loved that kitchen. But you know what? Today, I am still turning out great, creative food in a quarter of the space…and I love this kitchen, too.
So. I’m thinking about an orange-rhubarb marmalade (the rhubarb in the garden is very happy with its life!). And an orange-onion-mustard seed compote to serve with roast pork. And, just maybe, an orange-beetroot combo. Any other suggestions?
Well, it is a veritable hive of activity on the mountain today. The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing sweetly from the North, and the parrots are screaming overhead and whirling through the air like emerald dervishes. The construction crew is bustling about. The new roof is on. The clay tile floor has been laid. The electrician is pulling wires.
Outside, Alexis (my farm manager extraordinaire) is cleaning the pond as we prepare to welcome a school of tilapia. And—muy emocionante! —the fat red hen has four new chicks! They ventured out of the coop today and followed her around, looking, pecking, hunting, and never wandering more than a foot from mama’s eye. What fun!
I was thinking this morning, as I drank my perfect cup of coffee and contemplated all the various to-do’s of the day, “I am having FUN in my life!” Yesterday I went to David (small city about 45 minutes down the mountain) and shopped for paint, insulation, and some mysterious metal part that my son, Phillip, needs for a machine. I negotiated through the heat and traffic and various shops, accomplished most everything on the list (mas o menos, we call it here). I did it all in Spanish and it was fun! I spent the evening with Dianne and a friend we hadn’t seen in a while, swapping stories, drinking some lovely red Australian Shiraz, and that was fun! As the moon rose in the misty sky, we danced a jive set on the terrace. Big fun! Teetering on a stool to view the insulation choices for the ceiling of my bedroom? Fun!
I remember as a child, when I complained that something or the other wasn’t any fun, my mother admonishing me, “Life is not about having fun!”
I love and respect my mother, but on this point I think she missed the mark. Life is about fun and enjoyment…or it can be, if we bring to it a moment-to-moment attitude of gratitude, appreciation and liberally lace our awareness of ourselves and the world around us with a big dose of humor.
This does not easily apply to those events of tragedy or sadness that inevitably befall each of us, but even then it is what we tell ourselves about what is happening that makes the difference. We have to give ourselves permission for joy and laughter. We must make a conscious effort, daily, to exercise this particular aspect of Self, so that during the hard times, it is there—tuned up and ready to kick in when we need it most.
I am choosing, more and more, to savor and enjoy each moment–perhaps because, at 60, I know full well that there are fewer of them ahead of me than behind. My good friend Michael Hudson publishes a blog called Ordinary Mindfulness. He brings to his musings and meditations a profound spirituality and humility. I want to emulate his focus on the magical here and now of daily life…but I want to do it with the countenance of the Laughing Buddha, Hotei, known in China as the Friendly One. He reminds me of Tom Robbin’s Jitterbug Perfume. Erleichda! Lighten up!
What was the last thing you did that was fun? When did you last have a really rollicking belly laugh that brought tears of mirth to your eyes? Have you recently shared in some pure unrestrained foolishness with someone you love?
I would love to hear about your experiences of what brings joy and fun to your days.
Till the next time. And remember: Life is too short to drink bad coffee!
I have been learning Spanish for seven years now. I am reasonably successful at sustaining conversations, haggling over price, asking for what I want, and discussing the weather. Hay agua. Hay lluvia. I still do not feel competent. I miss a lot. I am tongue-tied and inept in many situations. I know I butcher the grammar, though most of my friends and associates are too polite to say so. I am going to start another round of intense study, soon.
In the meantime, I have been thinking about some of the differences between English and Spanish. Some obvious ones: in Spanish, they ascribe gender to nouns, have plural articles, and have a huge number of verb tenses. In English, we don’t. Another difference is the relative size of each language’s vocabulary. A university level English dictionary has roughly 200,000 words that reflect common usage. A similar Spanish dictionary has about half, or 100,000 words. Why? Because English reflects emergent Germanic and Latin linguistic roots, whereas Spanish is more exclusively Latin based (though, interestingly, influenced by Arabic).
This may not seem important, but over the years I have had the feeling that there just aren’t enough words in Spanish. The same Spanish word is routinely used to express multiple things or situations. In English, there are multiple words with individual nuances to express the same general thing or situation. For example, we can say something is small, little, or tiny. In Spanish, the same thing is pequeño, or if really, really tiny, pequeñito. And while we talk about the lawnmower, the weed eater, the rotor tiller, the blender, the generator or something else that has moving parts, has a specific name and is a machine, the most common Panamanian word used to express ALL of these is simply, la máquina. Context is primary to meaning. “La máquina está dañada.” Which máquina?
I am also coming to grips with the fact that the reason I don’t pick up on the nuances that actually do exist in Spanish is because I don’t know the subjunctive verb tense. What is the subjunctive verb tense? We don’t use it in English. It is used prolifically in Spanish to express exactly what I have felt was missing: nuance—the reactions, attitude or mood of the person speaking about a certain situation, thing, or state of being.
I have been guilty of saying the reason I can’t understand what is said to me is because Spanish is spoken so rapidly. Actually, there are no studies to support this perception. Spanish speakers do not, on average, speak more syllables per minute than English speakers. There are two reasons why this seems to be true, though. Many Spanish words end in an open vowel sound, whereas most English words end in a closed consonant, so we don’t hear the ends of words and it all sounds run together, when it really isn’t. But, the bottom line is that I simply don’t hear the language, because…drum roll…I don’t know it. Or at least, I don’t know it well enough, and I don’t know enough of it. Yet.
With the exception of Chinese, Spanish is the most spoken first language on Earth. I will leave learning Chinese to my daughter. I have ranted previously about the importance of learning Spanish in order to live here and assimilate. There is simply no other way to understand the culture at a deep level. I repeat, learn Spanish. Now I add, learn MORE Spanish.
Here’s the good news. Both English and Spanish speakers, in daily conversation, use between one and two thousand words to communicate effectively. That doesn’t seem so daunting. I have to go study. Poco a poco.