The farmer and his morning stillness

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I gave Malaysia a second chance.

This time it was far away from the hustle and bustle of concrete cities. It was far away from the boring eyes of faces contorted into question marks, and the discomfort of jostling crowds. I was not in a hotel room on the 37th floor wishing for the ground to open up and swallow me alive.

This time around there was no darkness. There were no eyes soaked in tears, and no unravelling that left me cradling myself on the dirty carpet. Read More

Traces of a home

SAM_2292 I was shaking in the airport lounge; legs trembling beneath my seat and fingers twitching as they curled around each other in my lap. My body went taut, as though by being rigid I was creating a force field that would ensure nothing else could penetrate to hurt the soft parts of me. My eyes filled with unbeckoned tears.

I was leaving Australia for a few days when the hostage shooting happened in Sydney. The news came to me as I fumbled with my bag ready to get onto a plane that would carry me across the sea to my best friend in Singapore. My heart was broken. From the news and my own fear that was unravelling me from the inside. Read More

New Zealand travel diaries

Dunedin. If there is such a place as this, it is right here. Quiet in its bearing. It is easy to get wowed by the rolling green hills that sometimes seem to stretch on forever. And I want to be wowed. I want to be taken in by the secret charm that hides in this city’s street corners and in her strangers’ smiles. It is so easy to unfurl for this and forget to remember that on the other side of the rolling hills the pacific waves are crashing against solid rock. A duel of duels. Read More

American travel diaries

My American trip. I didn’t take a lot of photos this time around. My camera stayed in my pouch. My fingers were busy gripping something else and there was an urgency at which they did so. I had no control over that. It was a matter of curling up into a comfortable spot and watching how they dug deeper into the textures and contours of people, places and objects. Wanting to remember the smells and the feel of moments. Wanting to become part of the landscape and part of strangers. To be swallowed up, never to be the same self again, alone and separate. Thoughts were what stuck to my fingers. Thoughts that came swelled up and fat with determination and emotion. Read More

Writing blogposts at 37 000 feet in the air

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This plane has got to land. It has got to make it to Los Angeles so I get off and thank God that it was all alright.

But right now, it is the safest place in this 11, 279 metres of space above ground and sea. Suspended and gliding through the air. I over heard the lady in the row in front of me marvel at how this whole thing works. Read More

Friday shot: falling in love with strangers

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I fell in love with this little girl every day for 7 days in February.

I was in India for a volunteer trip. Each day she would walk into the community center and look for me. And when she found me she would just stare at me with her beautiful, big, fawn-coloured eyes. No words were spoken. It was just me, her and the eyes.

And that is how I fell for her.

She didn’t speak English well and she didn’t need to. Every day my heart and hers met and we said all we needed to say:

“I’m so happy to see you today.”

“Me too. Isn’t life a lovely thing that it brought you my way?”

Sometimes she would silently and shyly slip her tiny hand into mine while I stood in moments of hardness (because volunteering in India is a hard thing) where my mind was far away oblivious to everything and everyone. I would feel the imprint of her small palm against mine and I would hold on tight with no inclination of letting go.

I would wonder about her future.

She reminded me so much of me. The deep quietness that seeped out of her, that cannot be explained only experienced. Her sharp observing eyes which took in everything around her, turning over things and finding safe places for each one of them.

Sometimes I caught her smiling. A real smile. The curving of her perfect lips following the lines and paths joy imprints on our faces. I would simply stop and stare then, the magic of her smile becoming my orbit. I would take all of her in, this little stranger whose world was unknown to me 7 days prior but whose very being had become meshed with my own.

I loved her. For no reason other than that which love affords: it exists.

Endings & beginnings

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I have to give back my computer.

If someone had told me there would be a day when I would become intricately attached to a piece of technology I would have laughed in their face. I would not have believed it. I would not have believed my heart would throb painfully because I had to hand back a computer, I, a girl who is old-fashioned deep in her bones and preferring a day in the sun or teapots of sweet tea by the fire.

Yet here I am, holding on so tight to this machine. I have to scrap it of all traces of me and return it for the next person who will use it. I have to erase all the love notes I tucked all-over its screen and take back the midnight love affairs.

I wonder if the person who will own it after me will hold it close like a person the way I did. I wonder if they will remember to admire its thin delicate surfaces – a mastery of human invention.

I’m hopeless at goodbyes. And any kind of letting go is so foreign on my skin. It always ends up being a battle of monumental scale complete with heart cracking and slamming of doors; spilling emotions and thoughts that billow like a troubled sea.

I attach myself to people and things and asking me to release what often sinks into my body is cruelty. It causes me all sorts of pain. But yet I know the only thing constant about life is change itself.

I’m swimming on these currents at the moment. Change is everywhere I look. Seasons are coming to an end and I have to bid farewell to work and things that have made themselves resident in my heart. Other people must take over from where I will leave. The moment I step out of the door other feet will fill my shoes and carry on the torch. There is something faintly comforting and disturbing about this. Perhaps it is the reminder that the world values humans not for their uniqueness but for their continuity.

Everywhere I look there are reminders of this – of change. Of how we are expected to change along with life and yet nobody tells us how to or exactly how deeply unravelling it can be. We resist change even as we crave it. It is a contradiction that goes right to the core of who we are as humans. Some people are more adaptable than others. I’m definitely not of that family. My hooks sink into things – people, places and experiences – and the cord is hewn with living nerve and tissue. I become part of everything that surrounds me.

But even this naked knowing of myself does not have the full capacity to shield me from the change that is approaching. The old season as it ends will consume me within itself and I do not know where it will spew me.

So I have every reason to fear. Every reason to tremble and take myself to my wits’ ends. This would be so easy to do; just curl up within myself and hide.

But I want to be braver than this. I want to do that which propels me in a different direction. I have this conviction stirring all kinds of fire inside of me – I have to be bold for myself.

This means seeing endings for what they truly are – the beginning of something else. And seeing is more than seeing with the two eyes, it is believing, it is practicing this truth on a day-to-day basis. A practice that looks a lot like substituting fear with courage, watching the inner dialogue, engaging with the things one is passionate about and filling the void with that passion.

It is donning a beginners’ mind and grabbing for those beautiful blank white pages to start scripting that which comes after the end.

Endings and beginnings are intertwined, we know. They have the same life force coursing through their veins. Everything that begins must end and everything that ends gives way to a beginning of something else.

In essence then, we sit at the crux of changing seasons all through life. The magic is in the working with this movement in a way that feeds and builds us up.

So, the computer is going back in a day or two. I’m going to unplug it from my socket and from my body. But its lovely imprints will stay transfixed on the surface of my skin in the same way this passing season will.

There is no end to the growth that change can usher into our path. And we can never truly run away. But then “no one loses their inner demons by taking to the road”. And so we stay. And learn to find a new beginning in the ending that changing seasons bring.

Post India – seeking light

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

We went to see a musical, my best friend and I.

It was a musical about seeking light. Sitting in the dark next to her, this girl whose heart beats as full as mine, images of India came flooding back.

I had left Delhi two days earlier. Boarding that plane that would take me far, far away from India was the easiest thing I had ever done.

See, India broke my heart.

She knocked the wind right out of me. She took my beating heart in her hands and squeezed. It hurt. A pain I will never find full forming words for.

From the start, my intention was pure and my mission clear:

I was going to India to observe, to listen and to learn. I was going to India to experience her. An old land of history and culture. What I ended up experiencing was myself. In all my folds and crinkles. With all the light gone out of me.

I had the audacity to go with my candle. The moment I landed at the airport and stood at the immigration counter, my light was forcefully snuffed out.

“Where are you from” they demanded to know. That was the question that started it all and the question that I have tucked underneath every corner and every furrow of my body.

They wanted to send me back. They did. On account of my passport. My Zambian passport. I had become a spectacle even before I had opened my mouth. And it went downhill from there.

When we took to the streets, in the nooks and crannies of new and old Delhi, I was a walking, breathing anomaly. With my dark flesh and brown eyes. The stares I received were dehumanising. Constant accusations of why I wrought myself in this body. It was suffocating. It was overwhelming.

I found myself walking around with my head bowed as if in mourning. I was unsure of how to hold my body upright. Every ounce of confidence in me had been sucked dry.

But sitting in the dark of a theatre in Singapore, next to my best friend who holds my heart in her own breast, India close yet so far, I watched as the characters on stage danced the story of seeking light. They sough it from themselves and from each other.

It suddenly dawned on me that I had allowed the world to crowd in, to become so intimate with me. I had allowed myself to accept the ugliness it works so hard to reflect onto me: tales of dark flesh that was wrought in dark coalmines. Deep underground. Where light does not reach. Years and years of hearing this had stencilled it onto every fibre of my being. It had made me walk like a slave, my knees buckling the deeper I went into the core of the world. I had folds on my skin to prove it. Scars on my heart. Bundles of hurt hooked to my shoulders.

The world. The way it is structured. The way it moves. The way people view people who look like me. The perceptions. The stereotypes. They have tried hard to convince me and everyone else that I am part of the darkness.

But the truth is even more frightening for some, uncomfortable for others:

I am part of the light. I am part of the rainbow that forms because of the light.  I am created to belong in the spectrum. It is not your choice or mine whether I stay or go. I was created.

I have work to do in this rainbow. My job is to be here. To exist. To disrupt your fantasises. To make you think. To make you uncomfortable.

My job is to be light.

Light.

It is the most silent yet most powerful thing in the world. When it arrives, there is no noise, no drum rolls, no fuss. But it holds the whole floor by its presence.

It penetrates the murk.

It chases away the darkness.

It forms molecules of beauty that match every part of its essence.

Light is life giving. It is nourishing.

And this is part of what I have been called to be. I knew this, yes, but I did not understand it. Understanding means I lift my chin off the ground and I let this light unfold all the folded parts of me. It means I tell you when we are not being properly human.

It means I say NO to the darkness the world wants to shove into sacred spaces of human beings.

To be part of the light, I must seek it. This I know for sure.

The man in my thoughts

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I was watching a baby.

He was so small. His little limbs, nose, & feet all delicate & sweet. His mother cradled him like he was the most precious thing that has ever existed. The picture deeply moved something inside of me. Maybe it was the motherly instincts or maybe it was this craving I sometimes get to carry a child of the man I love in my womb…I don’t know, but it made me settle back into my seat & in the midst of the stressful hustle & bustle of the airport I found a nook of peace.

The little one screamed with unhappiness, twisting his body this way & that way. I wondered what was troubling him. I wondered whether his mama knew.

Then my mind wandered off & carried him along with it. I wondered what kind of man he would grow to become; that small little heaving chest into that of a man – strong, sturdy & a comfort for a woman.

Men are scarce. Good men.

Or maybe they have just gone hiding. Men of character; men of stature. Men who can look you in the eye & tell you what it’s like to be a man; men who can tell you how God is a mighty warrior in their lives & how together with Him they want to love a woman in ways that will get under her skin & bring her to her knees; men who can show you the imprints of their hearts.

I watch this little man & I pray he grows to embody all the qualities of a man who is strong in all the ways strength is needed from a man, a man not intimidated by his role in the world.

I smile…maybe he will be an astronaut, or a pilot, an engineer & maybe even an architect. But that will pale in comparison to what he will build with his heart, mind & spirit – the stuff that will come pouring out of him, evident in the things he will say & do, in the way he loves.

I hope he will forever be grateful to his mama, who holds him now so tenderly – that he will remember her when he is grown, to hold her when she needs him to.

I hope he has faithful friends who will not lead him astray but instead have his back – challenging him to be a better version of himself.

I hope he treats all women with honour. Ah, how precious…for to learn respect for something as beautiful as woman is to cultivate all virtue – sacrifice, self-control, nobility & love. A man with these beautiful things out-pouring from his fingertips is a man indeed – one worthy of unswerving loyalty from all he brings into his camp.

I hoped this little one would grow up to be that man.

That he would beautifully morph into this man in my thoughts who I know nothing about except the most important – that he is a good man. & we desperately need good men. & good women.

I willed the little one to hush, concentrating with all my might, pushing all my tender affection his way. As his mama flung him over her shoulder, he met my eyes & stared. I held my breath & smiled. I whispered a prayer for him.  My work here was done.

This man in my thoughts exists. I know this to be true. & this little man will be a good man one day.

Surrender

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Some things, some moments are simply too sacred to reduce to syllables & words. Too precious to gather together in a net of phrases & sentences. Instead, they ought to be breathed in, to be allowed to settle into us. For they are the groans & utterances of our inner most being – those things we know not how to say or give account of. We only know that we know & this reality alone convicts us of their existence & of our own, convicts us of our frame & flesh.

But I find myself wanting to explain these moments to you & to myself. I find myself wanting to mesh a net together that will catch every speck, every drop, every breath of life that lives in these moments.

I want to describe the last 10 days. I want to analyse & cut open & poke…again & again & again until I come to some semblance of a story that I can feel & handle in my hands, tangible & hot. This want rises up in me like an overwhelming tide. Part of this urgent desperation is driven by nostalgia, the other part, by fear. A year from now, will I remember these moments? Will my breath catch in my chest at the magnitude & depth of them? At the mere thought of them?

I don’t want to let go. I want to hold on.

But there are no words to immortalise this time or the me that is reflecting back when I look in the mirror of my soul. Everything is at sea, swimming over each other, cascading & falling into a pit of overflow.

My small hands cannot hold this over abundance.

My vocabulary is limited.

My pen, inexperienced.

The only thing meaningful left to do is Surrender, body, heart & soul. To stop wanting to memorize every freckle of this. To trust that it is all part of me, right into the muscles & bones of me, forever changing the fabric of my being;

To walk on ahead with courage knowing that God will move for me;

To be still in this wanting & needing because He will send His angels at just the right time, even to the very second. No sooner, no later.

There is hope unfathomable. The kind that shines brightly behind thick, dark clouds; the kind that is breathtaking & true because it is wound up in Him who created it & has reign over it.

I can rest in that. I can truly, truly rest in that. & so can you.