When you learn one new thing during a day, it can make the entire 24 hours worthwhile, can’t it? It’s great to engage your body and mind. Both your muscles and your brain (also a muscle, I guess) can learn and remember. (Of course, I recognize that we sometimes struggle when we learn unwelcome or difficult things, too … and those are different sorts of lessons, but related, aren’t they?)
My friends have different daily services that send them – via Facebook or email – quick snippets of “did you know” info. What are those called … factoids? Or better yet, some people receive a new joke to share. Others register to receive actual educational lessons, like the SAT question or vocabulary word of the day. Many of my peers subscribe to newspapers and journals, where you’re sure to discover something you didn’t know (whether it’s factual or not is an entirely different topic). Some folks read a daily horoscope for insight. Or hey, there’s always a fortune cookie or tea bag for a little prefabricated wisdom. Or you can take a class, and you’re sure to learn something there, if you pay attention.
For a few moments, learning something new can give you a sort of mental or physical respite. Like a mini-vacation. To entertain. To develop your intellect. To check off something on your “life list.” For whatever reason you choose to learn.
I love it when “one new thing” comes my way from unexpected sources. Although honestly, I’m lucky to absorb and remember new info. (Uh-oh, what does that bode for autumn and a full-time load of grad school classes?)
In the past 48 hours, the items below have been told or taught to me. Or I’ve savored the results of someone else’s latest adventures in learning:
- The word yassou in Greek means hi, welcome or bye. Since my daughter Sarah will spend her first semester in college there (she’s enrolled in Northeastern University’s international program), this could be a handy one to know. Plus Ipswich has many Greek residents, so it’s handy here, too. Like at one of our favorite restaurants, Ithaki. I learned this greeting while in line at Zumi’s, called out by the staff who have learned it from their customers. I like it enough to say it again with feeling, “Yassou!”
- I may be the only person in the world who hasn’t peed in a shower. Go ahead, tell me the truth. While sitting at a kitchen counter among 7 women and 2 men, it turned out that everyone else had done so. Some only in desperation, others more regularly. So I’ve continued to poll people all day. So far, anecdotally, everyone’s done it … except me. I have to call my sister and check in with her … is our whole family missing out on this liberating pastime, or am I the only backward one who never let loose down the drain? (The conversation went on to enumerate other times when you pee without access to sanitary facilities … on the side of the road, while camping or boating, or maybe at a large concert or sporting event when the lines for the loos are too long.) I’m sure I’ll have to give this a try, but I don’t know if I’ll confess to it once I do.
- Henna has a shelf life and an expiration date. If you acquire premixed henna, it might not work so well. Better to mix it yourself (and by the way, it will be 24 hours before it will be ready, so this isn’t a spontaneous activity). Also if you coat the dried henna with a mixture of lemon and sugar, it might adhere longer and be a longer-lasting stain. Our first experiment only produced faint results, but I woke up with a little henna lotus flower tattooed on the inside of my wrist. Magical.
- Homemade strawberry vinaigrette goat cheese ice cream is so yummy and rich, you only need two spoonfuls. Ice cream recipes are from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer and this sampling was created in the kitchen of Meryl Baier. Mmmmmmm.
- Some of the New Hampshire beaches north of Ipswich were closed due to shark sightings near shore. And apparently sharks start showing up when the waters are warming up. Another sign of summer in New England!
- Your aura as a person should extend at least a few feet beyond your body in all directions. A quite healthy aura might extend 10 feet above and below you and 10 feet in all other directions, so that you occupy more like 26 feet of vertical space and 21 feet of horizontal space. Ever meet someone with a larger-than-life personality? That’s partially the impact of the aura, according to my yoga teacher Ingrid.
- Also the postures of sadhana (the morning yoga exercises we do at 5am in my class) work on the subtle energies of the body: the same energies that are affected in practices such as Reiki and other complementary healing arts. I have had the benefits of Reiki, and although it’s a form of therapy that doesn’t actually use physical touch, one time I would have sworn my Reiki caregiver was kneading my neck and shoulders to get rid of knots in muscles, but when I opened my eyes, she was standing across the room. Wow. (This used to be a weekly service at Children’s Hospital Boston to temporarily relieve the tension built up in the bodies of parents of pediatric cancer patients, who lived round the clock on the oncology unit. It was, of course, also available for the children living with cancer, since non-touch complementary therapies were safe and soothing for compromised immune systems.)
- I listened to the words of John Updike as read by his sons Michael and David. They were written 45 years ago about the elm tree at the corner of County and East, because his former home was just across the street, and it featured in his personal landscape. The final verse of the poem Elm began with “My thousand-thousand-leaved, with what a graceful straining you greet the year’s gray turning and put forth green.” The final verse wished, “Great shape, most godly thing I know, don’t die.” And yet, that tree came to the end of its centuries-long life, and has been cut down. People shared their private memories of the tree, and there were many. It was a landmark for generations. It can’t be replaced, but if you love the American elm species, and need one to adopt, another yet survives by the Agawam rock at Town Hall. It’s worth taking a second look … and seeing anew.
Just for a moment, pause to consider what you’ve learned in the last 24 hours. Maybe you didn’t want to know it, but needed such unwelcome knowledge or insight. Emergencies, for instance, can cause us to become experts in subjects we never imagined. That’s happened, under many of circumstances, to all of us. Ideally, whatever you learned today was more willingly received … a piece of news or new skill that arrived lightly and left gentle footprints on your heart, mind and body in its coming and going.
If you ask yourself what you found out today, and answer “Nothing?” Hmmm. Listen again to your body, heart and mind.
There’s something new inside you … Life is, after all, change. Growing and responding, anticipating and moving. Learning.
Even if it’s just … one … new … thing.