Some people think things through as they talk. You can see it happening. At first, their explanation or argument wanders here and there, and then, all of a sudden, they see the way forward. Their words gain momentum – sentences tumble out, the decibel-level increases – until suddenly everything is tied together and the meaning is clear. Such individuals can start talking with only a faint idea or glimmer of an opinion, and somehow end up with a cohesive, communicated thought.
If I attempt this feat, my words trail off into a sea of mumbles in the hope that no one notices I had begun speaking in the first place. Instead, when I want to express an idea or an opinion out loud, I need to think it out thoroughly beforehand; rarely by talking do I hit my stride.
With writing it is very different. I can start with just the sketchiest outline of a thought, rest my fingers on the keyboard, and, as I type, figure out where that little idea was headed, and why it might have nibbled at me in the first place.
Today, I sat down to write about the idea of contrast. The nibble stems back to last December when, within a month, I visited two dramatically different places. First, I visited a rural area of
At the end of the very same month, for New Years’, some friends and I rented The Castle in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe – an actual castle, complete with dust and damp – perched on the side of a cliff overlooking the border with
These sorts of contrasts make life interesting – in fact, we often seek them out. A good part of travel, for example, is about comparing and contrasting what you see with what you know. “Isn’t it funny, they also eat with their hands here.” “I love mangos, but never realized you could cook with the green ones.” By comparing and contrasting we are able to weave together the experiences of our lives: “This raspberry dressing reminds me of the one we ate at Manna Epicure in
At the same time, stark contrasts can be disconcerting. Slums and mansions. Hunger and plenty. Community and isolation. It is difficult to make sense of how such difference can exist on one planet. In fact, “making sense” may not always be possible. Contrasts can illuminate the unjust and the unfair. That unsettling feeling in your stomach? It makes you human. My experiences in December were certainly interesting – should they have been disconcerting, too?
So, this is where my keyboard has taken me. Within this post, you’ll see pictures from the two contrasting extremes I mentioned. First, there is a woman I met during my trip to the rural area; she was selling an indigenous green vegetable called nyeve (a.k.a. spider flower/spider wisp). I bought some. Nyeve is quite bitter and must be boiled for hours, draining and replacing the water a couple times to further dampen the bitter taste. Then, in classic Zimbabwean style, it is sautéed with onion, tomatoes, and a dollop of peanut butter, as shown in photo number two. I’ve been told you can also cook nyeve with lacto – a type of sour milk that is popular in
Note: Top photo copyright Leslie Tuttle. Used with permission.