Challenging the Senses

Challenging the Senses - student project

I am going to challenge myself to devote one sense (sight, touch, taste, smell, sound) to two days a piece until I reach ten days. I tend to be quite descriptive about sight and touch as well as about my internal struggle, but sound, taste, and smell is always pretty weak. It will be hard, but I am going to try not to write as much internal reflection because that comes natural to me. Anyway, hoping for the best!

Day 1 - Sound

Today I noticed the way the coils of the electric stove creak as the warmth awakens it from inactivity. The coils yawn and stretch as the red heat winds its way from the outer rings to the center. I place the empty pot on the stovetop and pour water into it to boil. The saucepan joins the coils in its discordance. Water residue that had creeped between the pot and the stovetop hisses and snaps.

I hear the water inside beginning to rise in chatter as the pot begins to sweat. Yes chatter. Before reaching its boiling point the water molecules are all chattering, in great distress over the rising temperature. The barley makes an emphatic "Shhhhhhhhhhh" sound as it slides out of the clear beaker measuring cup I hold. As soon as the multitude hits the surface, the water is hushed, chatised for being too noisy. There is silence for a moment, nothing but the stove top purring a steady note, with the occassional click as the temperature adjusts.

But as the water begins to come to a boil again, I hear the barley murmur its discontent.

Day 2 - Sight

Today I noticed his face, which can so easily change my atmosphere. I knew something was wrong. His somber yet fleeting glances are my barameter into his sky. When I opened the door to greet him, his expression was flat, and the faint smile he conjured up was void of the wrinkles that form around his Polish nose and German chocolate eyes. I give him some time to settle and then invite him to share whatever is unclear. His eyes grow dim, partly from the shadow his furrowed brows cast, and partly because his thoughts collide with each other like rain clouds; his eyes respond to this friction with refraining tears buried in the corners.

The remnants of raindrops patter gently onto the hedge in front of our window. I noticed his sigh, a hopeless deep sigh, longing for connection. He exhales knowing that interaction does not always mean connection. Interaction sometimes mean further aliention when quality is absent. All the activities and friction that we lie in the midst of, boasts of refreshing connection; but when the rain clouds move on with no more than a steady rumble, and no promise of rain, we are left with grey abandonment.

We sat in silence, with incandescent noise breaking through the blankness of our expressions. I shut them off and could now see the reticence, thick and wide. He rested his head on my lap, the bright moon casting its cool blue glow on his high structured cheekbones. I leaned down and kissed his forehead and stroked his brow, and the shadows contouring his face shifted. I had answered his call for rain.

Day 3 - Touch

Today I noticed the glare of the sun preying on my unprotected skin. Even the short distance from the front door to my car feels like I wading through our Star's torturous cauldron. That is how I would describe Florida--a humid, swampy cauldron mixed with the snout of a gator, the tongue of several frogs, the tail of a lizard, the venom of a snake, and the 70 SPF lathered body of a human, all boiling feverishly together in the beginnings of Spring.

The inside of my car exhales entrapped hit as I open the door to get in. My face feels like it has been kissed by a furnace. I grimaced buy had to venture inside, heat still pulsating from within. Beads of sweat congregate at the surface of my temples, upper lip, neck, and abdomen as if entranced by the power of that merciless Siren's song. It is so hot in my car, that metal objects can become hot within seconds, and I am forced to take off any jewelry that might brand me later.

I noticed the heat rising from the dashboard; I am stuck without air conditioning, my only effective defense against the discomfort. I rolled down the windows and as I begin to move, I feel the steady circulation of the coolness of air. The sweat on my body, subdued, this breeze may be my beeswax after all.

Day 4 - Touch

Today I noticed that pain in my chest when I refuse to let myself cry. Not because I don't like to cry, but because I did not want my husband to hear me crying as he drifted off to sleep. My mind kept tracing over the faces looking back at me today as I tried to explain my understanding of the melancholic. Their eyes were glassy like vacant porcelain dolls as each word escaped my lips, tangled in the landscape of silent expressions.

They could not understand me as if I was from some other world that could not empathize. My husband volunteers to be my translator, but his message is different than the thoughts in my head. I hear his voice, so rich with understanding, his thoughts and words weave perfectly together. My spectators blink their eyes as if they were asleep moments before, and now they are alive with connectivity.

I choked on that image. Of comfort and hope returning to their eyes. Comfort that I could not offer through my words. My eyes grew slick with the tears culminating around the brim of my lids. I held my breath and swallowed the air. I would not let them fall. I would not exhale. I noticed my heart shutter, grasping for the bits of oxygen I let in through my stuffy nostrils. My throat gurgled as I tried to muffle my internal weeping. My stomach tightened. I would win this fight. 

I felt a warm broad hand touch my convulsing frame. I grew still. My husband's words were soft and compassionate and pierced my rigid soul with the thoughts of my own heart, beating violently now in agreement. Before I could dismiss those words to keep me from crying, I felt my breath leaving my body, releasing my tears from their entrapment along with the pain in my chest when I refused to let them fall.

Day 5 - Taste

Today I noticed how much I do not miss meat quite as much as I often as I assume that I do. I was vegan at one point, not because I was trying to save the little farm animals or anything, but mostly because my body responded well to the lifestyle and it kept the doctors from insisting that I be on medication. At some point I derailed, not drastically, but flavor was calling my name and I meat seemed to be the answer.

Two months ago I decided that it was time to return to the earth. I was tired of eating bland frozen veggie burgers, murdering my tastebuds of all that is right and good in this world. My husband and I scoured Barnes & Noble for the vegetarian cookbook that would give our tongues and stomachs life once again. Love & Lemons. Oh my, have I been enlightened. Not once in all the recipes that we have tried so far have we thought (in Irish accents for some reason), "A bit of meat would pair well with this kale and sweet potato Moraccan salad."

Tonight was spaghetti and "meatballs". The meatballs were really a mixture of pungent yellow onions, shiitake mushrooms, which by their name I assumed they would have a kick, roasted almonds, watery eggplant along with its waxy hide, and couscous. So many items that alone lack any digestive enticements, but oh the wonders that olive oil, salt, balsamic, and soy sauce can do! Insipid and briny flavors marry well together and when I rolled it up I could not believe how much it looked like meatballs. To give it a bit more character I rolled it in crunchy Panko flakes and baked it to a nice golden brown.

I was out of tomatoes to make my own sauce so I used a jar sauce, a spirited Putanesca. Slightly acidic due to the capers and olives, tangy tomatoes, and sweetness that was laced with red pepper flakes. I mixed my wheat pasta into the savory goodness and added my meatless balls to the ensemble. My tongue was singing. My stomach was in adoration. This symphony of dynamic ingredients had filled me with satisfaction.

Day 6 - Sound

Today I noticed, as I drove silently through downtown at 8:30pm, how placid city life sounds here compared to southern Florida. Even with the 408 and I-4 woven through the outskirts of downtown, I hear more of the buzzing of street lights and the occasional symphonic screaching of crickets. I hear the purring of my engine as I sit waiting for the light to turn green. echo the cars above me on the 408 as they glide over the segmented overpass. The Dr. Philips Center blazes in the Seneff Plaza giving a haughty, florescent roar, making its presence known in the concrete jungle of highrises that pale in comparison to its brilliant noise. Even the sun ducks its head, staining the sky with pink embarassment.

A homeless man shouts ferociously at the wind as if he has been slighted, while he pushes a rattling grocery cart, engorged with all of his necessities: a stuffed garbage bag that probably protects his jacket or blanket, a  flattened cardboard box, and discarded trash that has become his treasure. His rants and crinkling plastic bag fade into a blot of my rearview mirror as my wheels slap against road work patches and pot holes. My axle creaks. A lynx bus slothfully screeches to a halt then sighs as it lowers itself for an elderly pedestrian. Just the wind again racing against my window trying to keep up with my car.

Then a fire engine blares its ugly siren and splits not only traffic into two, but the sweet tranquility that is in downtown.

Day 7 - Smell

Today I noticed how extremely hard it is describe the smell of food beyond what we know them for. As I prepared a crockpot meal, my nose was pricked with new scents, I desperately search my vocabulary to find the appropriate words for each smell.

I noticed the wild fragrance of thyme and seductive balm of rosemary as I tossed them into the pan of olive oil that was already sauteeing garlic and chives, both scented with salty, savory notes that make my eyes roll to the back of my head as I engulf my lungs. Once completely sauteed and blended together, the prickly thyme is even more enhanced, making its presence known, but ah here come sweet rosemary muffle a bit of thyme's savagery.

I mixed the herbs in hot broth which then got poured over chickpeas, uncooked rice, crunch carrots and kale. I stirred in some homemade cashew cream so voluptuously buttery with a sharp kick of tahini blended with it. I salivated as I shut the lid of the crockpot, which could not contain the aura of a well blended meal.

Day 8 - Sight

Today I noticed my eyes miss the daylight of the sun. For seven hours I sit in florescent day light, so white that my eyes cringe in their intensity. I know the Bonds love white things and even want their warehouse to be white despite the fact that it shows all the dust and dirt that whiteness can reveal. White walls, white countertops, white desks which I swear the cleaning people take no time to actually dust. I am sue that I could mold and sculpt a body from the amount of dust I collect around my desk and have God breathe the breath of life into it.

The lights bounce off of my white desk and white walls, and ricochet into my line of vision. I throw my prescription shades on just to be able to read what is on my compter with a brightness that sits at less than 40%. There are at least four windows that rest high near the rafters of the warehouse. The natural light pales in comparison with the artificial sun. For seven hours my pupils contract heavily like their shivering with cold and I start to get a migraine. I keep an eye on the clock, waiting for that big hand to hit the 12 as the little hand rests on the seven.

I step out into the orange bloom of the Florida sunset and my pupils sigh as they relax. I stare long at it as if my eyes are looking for a warm embrace. The sun slips behind the horizon before I even learn its name and my eyes grow cold once again.

Day 9 - Sound

Today I noticed the silence, or rather what is cradled in the silence. In the early hours of the morning, when my husband has departed for work and I am no longer chewing my breakfast, I sink into the silence. Nestled around me is the faint scraping of the bedroom ceiling fan chain against the glass light fixture. It is not a steady, obscure scraping but arrhythmic enough to identify the object from the dining room. The dishwasher spurts out the condensation of its lungs after a steamy cycle. The refrigerator constant hum, only interrupted by the popping of a defrosting freezer.

Two backyards, a house, and street away from me, a car rolls along wet asphalt. It must have rained last night, I think to myself. Normally, I begin to squirm under Silence's gaze, but today I feel like a superhero with some unusual ability to hear what others do not noticed, what others take for granted.

The house cracks its bones as the sun gets warmer, warmer. Click. The automatic air conditioning unit switches on in a timely fashion.

I am a left-brained hobbyist