It occurs to me in my first moment of stillness in months, over a hot cup of drip coffee in Mogadishu, that perhaps I don’t need answers. Perhaps I need to find a better way to bear the questions, until the next steps emerge from the murky depths, like so many droplets of milk, poured, sunken, and rebounding from the black to the surface, lending depth and comfort to an otherwise bitter swallow.
Bent of posture, upright snoring, barely living, dawn’s ballet. Cups and saucers trooping forward, toward the kettle, grande entrée. Reach for creamer, gather sugar, bring her boiling, don’t delay. Pour with deference, ground beans twirling, let them settle, birth the day. Spoon-fed symphony, come alive now, sip sweet earth-mud, fresh bouquet. Greet thy neighbor, ’round the French press: chapeau, Brewer– grand plié. Images of cups brewed in Nairobi (Le Grenier à Pain), Tokyo (subway cafe), Hargeisa (Ethiopian coffehouse and La Afrah Teahouse), and Dubai (Mokha 1450).
Set the meditation timer to five minutes. Consider whether you set a low bar for yourself in all aspects of your life. Set the timer to ten minutes. Remember that you have 14 things to do before the day officially begins, and set the timer back to five minutes. Allow all the nagging thoughts of errands and obligations and forgotten tasks to simply fall away… so that deeper fears of self-doubt and wasted purpose can really come to the fore and shine. Glance down at the timer, notice you’ve winningly achieved 43 seconds of mindful bliss. Add the State of Nirvana to your dream destination list, pack it in and get on with your day.
I’ve been cooking for Z for years, taking fundamental nutritional advice from my previous boss in the States who had long prepared food for her pups, and adding in the fruits of my own research, tempered by local availability of ingredients. It’s a labor of love, one shared by old roommates, and one that requires at every meal either proper planning or clever improvisation. Occasionally, the improvisation borders on the absurd, as when all I have to offer Z are extras of what I’m eating, minus the spices or sauces or canine-indigestibles. So sometimes the dog gets a scoop of goat meat ‘n slop from the bucket in the fridge, and sometimes she dines on sauteed filet of fresh fish with a side of chopped Swiss chard. Go figure.
Hargeisa Literary Magazine brings together some of the strongest elements in my life right now: creative writing and Somali culture. I’m fortunate to have convinced a good friend to squander her free time on the same, and we’re full-speed-ahead towards the publication of an inaugural issue on 1 April. The magic is in the mission of this apparently niche endeavor: to provide a platform for the diverse and cosmopolitan array of Somali voices worldwide.
The year also brought a whittling of the self, especially a recognition of my limits. Time expands beyond the moment to the far reaches of age where, if I’m lucky, I’ll look back fondly on slow walks down the stairs, on the lines of schoolgirls in long, bright yellow hijabs like flocks of canaries, on the hot stacks of loxoox in the kitchen each morning, on the frigid hop from bed to closet on winter mornings. I think about my aged years as though I’m already there, ruminating over a life well lived or not, observing wrinkled, spotted hands, remembering when they were smoother, tighter, and when I took them for granted. I feel fullness, and a gentle longing, and fullness again.
What matters are the earnest embraces of greetings and farewells, the unique infusion of scents that accompany the people you love, the sparks of energy that scatter with their laughter, the loving gaze of those who know your story and bear witness to the triumphant and crushing steps on your upward spiral. While living overseas amplifies the magic of those moments it also rarefies them, detaching you even when you most need them.