May 31st, 2016
This week, I’ve been thinking about epiphanies. You know, that sudden flash of inspiration, insight or understanding that smacks you upside the head and makes you think duh, that’s so obvious. How did I not see this before?
Ever had one?
My first bona fide epiphany hit me when I was 13 years old, in the middle of my high school Latin class. (This high school was in Dunedin, New Zealand, and the curriculum was based on the traditional British education system. So my school offered Latin – plus leather straps for beating boys who misbehaved. God Save the Queen!)
Anyhoo. Despite the constant threat of punishment (corporal or otherwise), my Latin class was a particularly dysfunctional combination of a mild, meek teacher with a lazy eye that wandered independently around the room and some smart, bored kids determined to make that teacher cry. I was smart and bored, too. But I was also perpetually confused about conjugating verbs in the accusative, nominative and dative case, let alone the godforsaken ablative. So while my classmates tormented our teacher, I worked up a headache trying to correctly conjugate sentences like “The sailor loves the beautiful girl” (nauta bellam puellam amat, in case you’re interested. Which you’re not).
One day, about fifteen minutes before the end of yet another rowdy, boring and utterly confusing Latin class, my epiphany struck. Suddenly, I understood it all: Latin’s seven cases, four verb conjugations, six tenses and three genders (yes, really) all made perfect sense. Had I tried speaking this unspoken language, I would have been fluent, my accent perfectus. Would have been for all of those fifteen remaining minutes, that is. By the next class, I was, once again, a dimwit.
My teenage epiphany may have been fleeting, but I’ve never forgotten the flood of exhilaration and excitement I felt in that fluorescent-lit classroom. Since then, I’ve had a few more sudden flashes of insight. For example, years ago I realized in an instant what I’d write about for my master’s thesis while hiking in a dry riverbed in the South Island of New Zealand. Not long ago, I woke from a deep sleep with a fully formed vision of a painting I needed to make for an annual fundraiser. The idea for this very Newsy letter dropped into my head while I was meditating.
More recently, I had an epiphany that was better than all the others. Why? Because I brought it on myself. Seriously. Here’s what happened. Remember a few years back when Adam Mansbach wrote his awesome and hilarious book, Go The F*** To Sleep? You probably loved it as much as I did. The first time I read it, I was in my favorite bookstore in the middle of Japantown in San Francisco. I laughed until I cried.
The experience resonated with me so much that to this day, I think about it every time I’m in Japantown. So when my hubby and I booked massages at the nearby Kabuki Spa, naturally GTFTS was on my mind.
Just for fun, I gave myself an assignment. Willow, I told myself, as you drift off into that lovely limbic state of massage bliss, don’t just go the fuck to sleep. Think of what the fuck you want to write a book about.
And I did. (Which might be a topic for another post.)
When I came out of my massage room an hour later, woozy with relaxation and smelling of sweet lavender oil, I told my husband everything I’d come up with: my book’s topic, its narrative style and tone, the illustrations I envisioned, even the title. He looked at me as if I was nuts. “You thought of all that during your massage?” he asked. “I just went to sleep.”
Which is fine, too. My point for today is simply to remind you that we’re all walking around with direct access to a deep well of extraordinary brainpower. Whether we realize it or not, our brains are diligently working 24/7 to solve problems, uncover ingenious solutions and reveal to us ideas and possibilities we don’t even know we’re imagining.
On that note, I’m offering up a challenge. Next time you go for a walk, take a shower or close your eyes for sleep (all perfect times to kick-start creativity and insight), think of a problem or a question that’s been bugging you. Then forget about it. I’ll bet it won’t be too long – although perhaps when you least expect it – before your brain shifts into high gear and tells you just what you need to know.
No-Bake Power Bites
I’m not gluten-free, but I like trying gluten-free recipes, especially when it comes to snacky-things to offset all the crackers, pretzels and Goldfish my boys love to munch on after school. Here’s my take on No-Bake Power Bites, which I’ve adapted from this original recipe.
No-Bake Power Bites
2 ½ cups gluten-free oats*
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2/3 cup maple syrup
½ cup coconut oil
1 cup almond butter (or peanut butter if you prefer)
1 Tbs flaxseed meal
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 Tbs dark cocoa powder
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, mix oats or almond meal with coconut flakes and set aside.
In a medium-sized pot set over medium heat, combine maple syrup, coconut oil and almond (or peanut) butter, stirring continuously until the mixture is melted and evenly mixed. Remove from heat and add to the oats/coconut mixture. Stir continuously as you add the flaxseed meal, vanilla extract and cocoa powder. Once the mixture thickens up, drop heaping tablespoons on the lined cookie sheets. Note: You can make these flat and cookie-like or rounder like “power balls.” The advantage of rounder “power balls” is that they thaw more slowly, so if they wind up in your kid’s lunch bag, they’ll be more solid than gooey by lunchtime!
Place the cookie sheets in the freezer for at least 20 minutes or until you’re ready to pop ‘em in your mouth. It’s best to let them thaw a few minutes before eating. Storage tip: Once frozen, I store the power bites in a freezer bag for easy grab-and-go access.
* I use regular oats, but next time I’m going to substitute almond flour instead to see how that works as a GF alternative.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang (2016 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction)
I’m participating in the my local library reading challenge, aiming to read 24 award-winning books (across all genres and award categories) and decide if they were, in fact, award worthy.
This compact, concise novel maintains an eerily detached, tightly controlled voice for all four of its main characters. That makes perfect sense, as this is a story about individuals struggling for control – physical, emotional, artistic, social and cultural. Set in South Korea, the characters battle (primarily with themselves) to either conform to or outright reject conventions and norms about everything from food and identity to gender-driven roles and the concept of mental health. The Vegetarian is in turns fanciful and beautiful, grim and brutal, and there’s not a wasted or extraneous word on any page.