It’s a chilly, drab kind of morning at present, I wondered what it would bring once the sun came up to show us the day. The question was soon answered. Fog. The kind of heavy mist that lets through no light and paints the familiar landscape ghostly grey. Shrouding the distance in mystery it makes the mind question what it knows as looming giants that stretch grasping fingers towards unwary walkers resolve themselves into trees beside the lane.
My brain was a little on the foggy side too, it seemed. For me the day began, for some unknown reason, by waking to question the origins of the name ‘marzipan’. Strange things often linger when I wake up, so I am not in the slightest surprised… just curious. I like marzipan and the approaching Christmas season tends to bring it out in abundance. I had been looking through my recipes yesterday so no doubt the source of the query lies there… or possibly in the rhyme of the word with the characters in what I had been watching the night before.
Marzipan has always seemed an Eastern confection to me, though it has become part of so many traditional treats these days across Europe. Between bedroom and coffee cup, however, I went back to the older English name for the confection… marchpane… and wondered if that refers to the month or the traveller’s gait …and does ‘pane’ come from the French ‘pain’… which would make it March-bread or waybread…
It would work as the latter… nuts, sugar or honey, sometimes eggs or oil…a high energy and protein food. Why March as in the month though? Something to do with Mars? God of war.. soldiers marching…the speculation goes all over the place at this point.
Does it actually matter and is it in any way relevant to the day? No, not a bit, though curiosity set me on an etymological search as my coffee cooled, only to find the origins more complex than I had supposed and rooted in ancient Persia… or Germany… or China… perhaps.
In what way was this a productive use of the small amount of time I have before leaving for work in the morning? How did this tie in with the ante meridiem contemplations with which I am supposed to be occupied? I had to wonder myself for a minute, but of course it was staring me in the face from the start. Even the fog should have given me a clue.
How often have I used that word in varied languages without considering what it really means or where it comes from? And by blithely accepting the word on face value, associating that collection of syllables only with the definition first taught to me as a child… that marzipan is a paste made from almonds and found on Christmas cakes…how much had I missed of its real meaning, origins and possibilities?
By extension, just how much do we miss by accepting our habitual definition of the world and ceasing to explore further, finding out for ourselves what it might mean? Within the Silent Eye, of course, we suggest that the student accept nothing they cannot verify for themselves, either through the objective experience of the outer world or the subjective understanding of the inner. Yet here was just such an example of the habit of blasé acceptance with which we define our reality.
The fog and the marzipan had given me food for thought.