Saturday, September 19, 2015

SCENTS & AROMAS

The sense of smell may seem less relevant in comparison to the other senses. Yet, it is unimaginable not being able to smell the sweet scents of blooming flowers or perfumes, the musky salty sea air that invigorates the inner self, the mysterious scent of dense forests on rainy days, freshly mowed grass, and yummy, the aromas of hot steamy food that fill the air!  I feel truly blessed being able to enjoy life’s benevolence to the utmost. 

Today my story relates to scents, setting the stage for two most favoured flowers – the rose and jasmine, and my impressions of them.

ROSE – the flower of the Heavens
The rose takes me back in time to the innocent childhood years.  Flashes of rose shrubs meticulously lined the garden of my grandfather’s home, came into my mind. The garden was filled with sweet scents oozing from the roses and jasmines. How curious I was to touch the rose, and later regretted when the thorns pierced my little fingers.

I remember on many occasions, seeing my mother and aunties, with hairs beautified with roses.  The day I saw myself in the mirror with a red rose pinned to my hair, the agonizing pricked-finger incident instantly disappeared. Thereon, the rose became my favourite flower!

Roses come in many colours, but I love red roses the most. To me, roses really look their best when adorned in the gardens, where they are left to bloom and whither naturally.  What a shame to cut them off from their natural environment, coz they dry up quickly.  Roses satisfy the sense of smell, and sight. The sweet aroma  is invigorating, it generates clean, and positive auras to the environment.

As everyone knows, roses symbolize love and affection. A bouquet of roses delivered to the doorstep conveys unspoken love and affection in the most unassuming way, in any relationship. No word is needed to express one’s feelings - the rose speaks for itself.

I see the rose as a mysterious flower – beautiful, delicate, sweet, but dangerous. It must be handled carefully, or the thorns can hurt.  When mishandled, the petals drop, and it no longer looks desirable. Roses remind me of what a beautiful, and sensitive woman can be.  Like the rose that’s handled lovingly, she rewards the one she loves with contentment, and everlasting happiness!

Lets take a break and listen to Bobby Vinton with his red roses -  a 1962 nostalgia!



Spiritual and other uses
I learnt much from my grandfather, and great grandfather, who were both proficient in medicines, both contemporary and spiritual. I was told that in ancient times, roses were referred to, as the “Flower of the Heavens”.

Roses were often used for spiritual purposes by many Eastern cultures. Rose petals immersed in water, sanctified with prayers, were used to cleanse the body of negative energies and impurities, to ward away charms, and evil eyes. In the absence of fresh roses, the house can be filled with its scent from burning incense. It is believed that the incense can drive away evil spirits.

Roses of different colours were often used to decorate bridal suites.  The petals were scattered over the bed, and around the room, to induce a conducive ambience for the bridal couple on their wedding night.

The rose has its own unique scent and flavour. Its aroma is often extracted, liquefied, and consumed for various purposes. Rose oil is commonly used for aromatherapy, and in perfumes. The scent of rose perfume, mingled with the body’s natural perspiration, create a unique and mysterious smell that cannot be duplicated by any other user. Rose water when added to bakeries, in particular cookies, provide added floral smell, with an unusual taste that’s loved by many.

How to make your own rose perfume
I learnt to make my own rose perfume during my teens.  It is simple, and if you are really enthusiastic, keep experimenting until you find the right strength of the aroma that you like. You can use water or oil as the base.

Most importantly, the roses selected, regardless of the colours, must be really fresh, and preferably direct from the garden or fresh from the florist.  You need to experiment a few times, to either let the mixture stand for a longer or shorter period. You can make your own floral perfume from other flowers as well. When you’re done experimenting, and know exactly what you like - bingo, you’ve made your very own brand of floral perfume!  Keep your homemade floral perfume in a cool, dry shelf in your own bedroom.

Rose perfume – water base
Choose the roses that are not too fully bloomed, preferably those that are about to open.  Remove the petals individually, and place them into a container. Crush the petals with a spoon. Cover the container, and let the mixture stand for a few hours. Pour the content (minus the crushed petals) into a glass perfume container, and you are ready to spray! This is a fast and simple method. You can also use this water to add the rose aroma to your cookies.

Rose perfume – oil base
Fill an air-tight glass jar with odourless oil.  Remove the petals and drop them altogether into the jar and close the lid quickly. Leave the jar in a cool dry place for 7 days. Pour the oil, minus the residues into an empty perfume bottle. Don’t touch the contents with your hands.  Spray – hurray, your rose perfume is now ready!

JASMINE – the mysterious flower
This flower is common within the Asian communities, especially among the Indians.  Jasmine flowers are often used to create garlands for weddings, and wreathes for funerals, etc. Unlike the rose, this flower does not symbolize love.

In ancient times, it was common for women to braid and entwine their hairs with jasmine flowers. The sweet scent of jasmine would last for days. Today, jasmine oil and incense stick are also used to enhance spiritual vibrations of homes.

Here’s a peculiar, but interesting story.  Previously, the jasmine scent gave me the creeps. It was probably because in the old days, Malay movies often associated jasmine scents with ghosts. Pontianak (female ghost) would adorn herself with jasmine flowers. The scent would indicate her presence, as she waited for her preys, under a jasmine tree, where she dwelled. In addition to those movies, a sadistic auntie used to frighten 4-year old me with ghost stories, and thought that it was hilarious. She would point at the jasmine tree in our garden, and said that a female ghost was waving at me.

Could these horror stories originate from the fact that jasmine flowers bloom at night? These horror stories put fears into me.  Subconsciously, some residual uneasiness lingered awhile in my growing years. I was later taught that should I sense uninvited presence from a jasmine visitor, how best to appease her – ha ha!

Ironically, jasmine flowers are often used to make funeral wreathes. Does jasmine ward away evil or entice evil? Incidentally, I often see on TV a public figure in Myanmar perpetually decorates her hair with jasmine flowers at every function she attends, even abroad. Is there some significance to this?  I wonder!

Many uses of Jasmine 
Jasmine flowers have been used for Centuries for health and beauty. In comparison, it has many more uses than the rose. It is claimed to have therapeutic benefits and is today widely used for medicinal purposes, beautification, and spiritual purposes.
Jasmine oils are used for aromatherapy, and in perfumes. Jasmine tea is regularly consumed worldwide. Dried jasmine flowers are often used as potpourri.

Jasmine flavoured tea
I’ve tried to make my own jasmine flavoured tea.  It is simple, and you can try it out, if you like.  Firstly, be sure that the jasmine flower that you choose is not poisonous, since there are many varieties, and some are definitely poisonous.

How to make your own jasmine flavoured tea
Take a small clean dry towel, preferably white and place it on a flat surface.  Pluck several fresh jasmine buds in the early morning. Arrange them together with some fresh tea leaves. Cover the contents with the same towel. Within a few hours, the tea will begin to absorb the jasmine scent.  In the evening the buds will open and the fragrance will be fully released. Remove all the flowers, and your jasmine flavoured tea is ready!

In conclusion
Although jasmine is still not my favourite flower, I’m no longer prejudiced.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

SOUND AND MUSIC

The sound of waves hitting the shores, the whistling and humming of winds, the rustling of trees, birds chirping, are soothing to the ears. These sounds can have an explicit impact and can take our minds beyond the realms of our imagination, into an alpha state of consciousness. They can bring about serenity, alter body’s bio-rhythm, and heartbeat. They can also trigger memories of past experiences in life.

We often find that noisy screeching sounds, and continuous pounding noises, can make us irritable. As such, it is no surprise that sounds are often used for interrogation, to break minds to become temporarily, or even permanently disorientated.

Music has always been used as a medium of expression to convey one’s inner feelings and unspoken words.  Every country has its own national anthem, combining music with patriotic messages to inculcate the spirit of solidarity to its people. Via music, negative messages are also used to propagate, and create disharmony. This can often be witnessed during elections, whereby music and slogans are used to mock and discredit the opponents’ reputations.

Music in its true perspective, has immense healing powers.  It is proven to have therapeutic effects in calming nerves, mind, and body.  Irrespective of whether we are music lovers or otherwise, it is widely accepted that soothing musical sounds do create a feeling of serenity, and peace.

Our musical choices often reflect our personality and state of mind.  Subconsciously, we tend to appreciate music that suits our personality, and often associate music with our daily-life situations. In actuality, we are searching for the sounds that our minds and bodies crave for - to pacify, comfort, and heal. This is why, when we are sad, we often find solace in sentimental music. Whereas, in good times, we may prefer to listen to fast-paced, vibrant music. Is it the music that sets our moods or vice versa?  Well, these are my views, based on experiences, observations, and experimentations, which I will elaborate in later postings.

The impossible dream

Here is my all-time favourite by Matt Monro.  To me, the composition, lyrics, the impeccable vocal, and instrumentation, are perfect in every aspect. This song, among others by Matt Monro, truly inspired me in my earlier years, as it still does now.

Creative works
Writing creative works may not be as easy as it seems.  Even the greatest of composers often run out of ideas for days, and even months. It is symbolic to waiting for rain at times of drought, and when it pours, it may never stop for days.

Classical music


We can sense the personalities of the composers by their creative works. The many who suffered hardship, or were dejected by love, have churned out some of the greatest, unchallenged master-pieces of all times, when they were confronted with problems in life. Classical geniuses like Chopin, Mozart, Beethovan, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and many others, expressed their emotions through their creative works. Those who can interpret the works, can feel their emotions - of love, happiness, anger, frustration, sorrow, etc. These compositions have survived for Centuries, and stood the test of time!



"Till the End of Time" a song recorded by Perry Como in 1945, is based on Frédéric Chopin's Polonaise No. 6 in A flat major, Op. 53, the "Polonaise héroique," is equally appealing to non-classical listeners. The lyrics cleverly transcribed the composer’s emotions, and state of mind.  

Contemporary music
Recent compositions are just as appealing, but I often wonder if these can survive just as well, as the epics by the classical geniuses!


Here is one that has caught on with the present generation. “Sway” was originally recorded by Dean Martin and has recently been given a new life with contemporary instrumentation, topping up with the unique vocal presentation by Michael Bubble.

The song is nostalgic to me, as I once performed this very same song, before a live audience, decades ago.

Epilogue
As a music lover, I admire all creative works irrespective of their origins.  My salutation to the creators of all fine music, whose works continue to serenade and inspire listeners, around the world. These composers left behind their legacies for all generations to enjoy. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

SYDNEY ESCAPADES

Places
It is a known perception that people and places have energies and vibrations that can affect our persona. 

Some places do have explicit charm on people. Negatively, some have vibrations that can be sensed by people who are sensitive.

When I first set foot in Sydney, it was a dejavu for me. I felt as though I had stepped out of a dream. As days went by, I could feel myself energized and in symbiosis with the environment. Strangely though, I've travelled to many places, but none had this effect on me.  

I am now engulfed by a sudden urge to relive those memorable moments in Sydney. 

Environment
I can see myself relaxing on the balcony, breathing-in the cool, clean, jungle air, while watching screeching krakatoas, kookaburras, and parrots flew by. Some joyously perched on the surrounding trees looking really contented. 

These birds are all part and parcel of life in the neighbourhood. They are protected and not caged or kept as pets. The presence of various species of birds, within the compounds of private homes, and parks, are pride and joy to the residents.

There are strict laws prohibiting hunting and caging of wildlife.  However, it is not just the laws, but admirably most Aussies are nature lovers.  People are generally proud of their environment, and their country, and do their utmost in preserving nature. For nature-lovers, the Australian shores and forests, are certainly worth exploring.

Lifestyle in Sydney
Consecutively, I was greeted by Sydney's cold winters. It was a pleasant change to walk around with sweaters, and overcoats, which I don't get the chance to wear in Malaysia.  The cold weather that pierced through the layers of thick clothes,  did not really bother me.

I'm no traitor, but there are many things about Sydney that I do like, especially the choice of lifestyles that are availableIt is a cosmopolitan city, resident to people from all corners of the earth. One can enjoy city life, yet breathe unpolluted clean air. 

For sure, people here do more walking than we do in Malaysia. I observed that there were more elderly people out there in their 70s, 80s and even 90s, walking about, climbing steps, going to movies, and shows, etc. What gave them the energy and the willpower to sustain themselves physically and mentally - I wondered! Where are all the elders in Malaysia?  What is robbing us of our ability to enjoy a healthy lifestyle?  These questions kept spinning in my mind.

Commuting
Initially when commuting, I headed straight for the lift, but halted when I saw that those queuing were either the disabled, the pregnant, or the sick. Later, I began to enjoy walking the steep steps after realizing that I was fitter than I gave myself credit for. I really felt good tackling the kilometres of walkways between destinations. 


Here, people rarely drive to work. It is expensive to take cars into the City Centre, and is discouraged to ensure that the city is not polluted. Buses and trains are punctual, immaculate, and well maintained. These are relatively cheaper modes of travel. It is no status drop commuting in buses and trains. Even top executives do so, and walk the rest of the journey to their work places.

On week days, everyone is in a rush. One would be glared at or shoved out of the path for obstruction. Absolutely, no jaywalking or feet-dragging along the side-walks, while office crowds are on the move. The elders are mostly seen out and about, after the office crowds have dispersed. These daily walks do compensate to some extent, whatever is lacking in physical exertions, especially if one is deprived of time.  

Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge
These two places are symbolic of Sydney – the favourite destinations of near-most every tourist.

During the recent trip, a sight totally unexpected was awaiting. Sydney transformed into the exuberant and vibrant City for which it is known for. People from all corners converged for various ongoing festivities.
The Opera House is beautiful from the exterior and interior. There are regular events that are pretty costly but well worth the experience – something that one would not forget.  The "South Pacific” 1950s movie adaptation that we attended, was beautifully staged by international artists, with excellent vocals, and choreography. Cameras were not allowed during shows. I sneaked a shot of the interior, when I attended a conference (above). 

The City Centre
Around the City Centre, one can browse the Art 
Galleries, mooch around the Hay Market and China Town,  and get the feel of the mood of Hong Kong and China, where everything is available.   

Tourists need not visit remote areas to catch a glimpse of the Australian wildlife as the wildlife park located on the city side of Darling Harbour, provides a good substitute. 


There are varieties of food to choose from, ranging from fast food to gourmet dining. Prices are considerably reasonable, if one earns in Aussie dollar. People mostly don’t dine out often, except on weekends and special occasions.  I did not see any 24-hour eatery like those we have in Malaysia. Although this is less convenient, it's good to keep the mind off food, to sustain a healthy body and lifestyle!  


Asian food is available everywhere, so Asians won’t miss home food. I was surprised to find on the menu, roti canai, nasi biryani, rojak, etc. served at a café named “Mamak” in Chatswood.

Close to nature
There are many beautiful places within Sydney, and the surrounding suburbs, that are safe to spend leisure time. Here one can relish the scenic beauty of nature, alongside man-made habitat, and breathe-in the cool salty air. 






The Blue Mountains

The 75 km train ride to the Blue Mountains from Downtown Sydney, took us about 90 minutes. Along the way, we passed many interesting suburbs, landscaped jungles, and rugged terrains. 


During the journey, we also crossed a long stretch of never-ending bridge. For awhile, I saw nothing but water on both sides, and wondered, what if the water swelled up. My anxiety was put to rest, since this had never happened. The Blue Mountains is also accessible by road.


We finally arrived, and it began to drizzle. It was a sunny day when we left, and I was not properly attired. The sudden cold weather made me yearn for thick blankets.
Fortunately, the drizzles stopped after awhile.

Walking to the ‘3 sisters’ from the train station, was something that I would not attempt, although I was enticed to do so. The plan was aborted, and we took a bus instead. This was less time consuming.  

I've seen brochures of the ‘3 sisters’ but to be at the actual site, and viewed it at close range, was truly an amazing experience. 

Mountains and seas specifically, have unfailing, tremendous effects on me. I was lost in my own world. My whole being was in unison with the energy that surrounded me as I gazed in awe, at the majestic spectacle that stood before me.

The weeks of walking had me fully prepared for a little exploration along the winding pathways, to appreciate different views of the 3 sisters.

Without guides, it would be foolish to take on the dense jungles. Some have been lost, and perished in this wilderness - not forgetting the many wildlife occupants that can pose threats to visitors. By that I mean “snakes”. Fortunately, I spotted this little one (above) when we were

returning from the  2-hour walk. The dangerous specie could have been mistaken for a branch, from a withered tree. Undisturbed, it slithered away when curious onlookers gathered around. 







Breathtaking Bondi Beach 
I grew up near the sea, but surely, the beach was nothing in comparison to the beaches in Sydney and the surrounding suburbs. Bondi beach is well-known by tourists and surfers worldwide.


It was a sunny day, and after weeks of bleak weather, people headed for the shores to bask in the sun, and surf.  No one was bothered about ultra-violet rays, or ozone layers, but out to have a good time, to make the best of the good weather

Bouddi
On that particular day, I was not too enthusiastic to explore the coastal areas as the mid-afternoon sun was too much to bear. Furthermore, I did not have much calories to burn, as my breakfast was only toasts and black coffee. After some persuasion by my daughter, and a guarantee that I would be missing something really interesting, I then agreed. 

Reluctantly, I combed the 3 km stretch of beach in the blazing sun. While dragging my feet, I felt like a nomad walking on the sands of Sahara desert, searching for water.

Finally, I reached the destination. To my utter amazement it was worth every single step, and every uneven rock that I stepped on.  I was mystified. I had never seen anything this unique in my entire life. The place is truly a work of art - and, an exhibition of Nature’s Creativity. Strangely however, this place is not known to many.



At the extreme end, about a kilometre further, there are more beautifully carved rocks, formed through ages of wave-movements. I was tempted to
venture, but my eyes had to give way to my rumbling tummy, since it was past 2 pm. 

Manly trip
Manly is another favourite tourist-destination. The ferry ride to and fro, especially the evening ride home was an enjoyable experience.  As the ferry approached the well-lighted buildings of Sydney City Centre, it was a sight to remember. Slowly, the Opera House, and the Sydney Bridge came into view.  Looking distinct, they truly earned their image as the pride of Australia. I was happy to capture the visuals on video.

Most memorable, was the privilege to meet a wonderful family, whose magical charm, and warm hospitality, touched me. It was sad to bid farewell to the two lovely kids.
  








Woy Woy
The place reminded me of Fremantle in Perth that we visited many years ago. Everything about Woy Woy is unique – its name, including this little shop with its variety of decorative items and new age stuff.

Surprisingly, the quaint town was pretty quiet on a weekend. The locals were courteous, but curious of unfamiliar visitors. I somewhat liked the feel of this place, as it was simple and unpretentious.

In addition to the delicious freshly cooked seafood served in this restaurant (right), the main attraction of Woy Woy is obviously the Pelicans. 

These regular guests flock the place and the surrounding areas throughout the day, from the wee hours.

We lingered on to see what was promised to be a pleasant experience.  At exactly 3pm the birds assembled for their daily meal. The place became alive with their honking, and screeching. These pictures speak a thousand words.


Epilogue
In all corners of the earth, there are exotic places. Every little pebble on the beach has its uniqueness, and individuality. It is how we perceive and appreciate what we see, that really matters.

I am happy to have lived those memorable moments relishing the beauty of nature that Sydney has to offer.  Sydney, will always have a special place in my heart!

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