I have been reading a book written by Naomi Wolf-her most recent, for those who are interested-whose topic spawned from a personal event in the author’s life. Due to trauma to the spinal column, Wolf encountered what she described as a monotone experience of the world. This propelled her toward research that would lead to a greater understanding of the pelvic nerve, which connects to the sacral region of the vertebrae and-as spinal nerves do-carries motor, sensory, and autonomic information with it. As you might imagine, damage to this area of the body would affect or, at times, impair our ability to transmit these signals. The author reports that, following extensive surgery and personal exploration, her experience of the world returned to a heightened level of enjoyment. She describes this in terms of the senses: encountering sound, enjoyment of color, etc.
I am greatly paraphrasing here, in honor of the fact that not everyone shares a similar interest to my own in feminism*; this portion of the book itself, though, was enjoyable for me in the sense that I believe we all have experienced the waxing and waning of heightened sensitivity to the world. Now, there is an especially pedantic part of my personality here that seeks to point out this does not mean we all are suffering from pelvic nerve damage (or damage to the spinal column anywhere else). In truth, I think we are victim to the tides of life. Just as the weather is gloomier some days in comparison to others, so, too, can our experience of the mundane be more monotone.
Sometimes, I think we forget that the quality of being one note can be an enjoyable sensory experience. Think of a restorative, gentle yoga practice to help us access the quieter sides of our beings. Think of eating a perfectly ripe, juicy peach, all by itself. Think of the static of white noise canceling out the unpredictable sounds of the world outside. I suppose what I’m getting at is that monotone experiences can also serve as contrast; cohesion can be an equal complement to our experience of life and its various stimuli.
So this past week, while making a salad, I pulled out all but one green ingredient (a red onion), and I made the most aesthetically pleasing dish I have made in a while. The colors touched on various aspects of that one, pleasant greenness. This gave way to the enjoyment of texture, flavor, and density: pungent red onion and scallions permeate tart green apple chunks, which burst and crunch against cooling cucumber slices and buttery cubes of avocado. All of these contrasting components of cool, smooth, sweet, and savory meet the acidity of lime zest and juice, as well as the fruity pepperiness of extra virgin olive oil. A sprinkle of sea salt finishes the seemingly (but deceivingly so) one-note bowl; really, the end result illustrates that hitting one note simply allowed for all the other notes to make themselves known.
I realize I still turned a lack of variety into a sensual experience here. In truth, a dish this good just kind of has that effect, anyway. Set your newfound spinal nerve-related anxieties aside, because monotone has never been so pleasurable.
Greenest of Green Salad
2 tbsp red onion, diced
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ thick chunks
1 green apple, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ thick chunks
1 green onion, light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 avocado, stoned and cubed
1 tsp lime zest
juice of one lime
olive oil, for drizzling
sea salt, to taste
In a medium-sized bowl, combine red onion, cucumber, apple, green onion, and avocado. Add lime zest, lime juice, and drizzle with olive oil. Season with sea salt, to taste. Serve.
*and also because I have my own judgments and opinions toward the book and the current body of research related to human sexuality that we have available to us