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.
Good pens; passport photos; my plumb line, metaphysically; matches; dreams; my temper; spatulas; subtlety
We have inherited these principles of connection, as we navigate friction and unity in our homes, as we try to do right by one another, as we talk over coffee or via messages sent in nanoseconds over oceans. Our families are bound to us in a patterning rendered by the fidelity and devotion of generations in the spirit of Hipparchus of Greece, lover of truth and clarity who, so inspired by the discovery of a “new” star, spent years tenderly cataloging each fixed point of light in the sky.
A panic followed me into the St. Mary’s River where I’d hoped for a clear-eyed, early morning canoe trip on glassy water. I rolled up my pants and pushed off the sand with my left foot, the other inside the boat on its center line, my hands steadying me on either lip of the canoe’s thin walls. Paddling up the bank, I looked down into the muddy water next to me at the occasional stones. I steered clear of the channel’s current, never going too deep, yet both the murky unknown and the riverbed terrain, where I could see it, were frightful, one mysterious in its opacity and the other bone-chillingly undisturbed, like a graveyard. I trained my eye on the shoreline ahead, paddling assiduously, keeping up pace and imagining my grandmother’s petite figure on the bow seat as it often was, once, a Velcro back brace stiffening her posture, laid over a white turtleneck and hidden by a woolen sweater. This imagined scene didn’t much calm me; a haunted canoe ride wouldn’t soothe my …
They say the brown bear has the strength of nine men and I say, in that case, he’s more like a woman. The closest ancestor to the short-nosed brown bear made his way southward from North America, freed by the formation of the isthmus of Panama during the Miocene epoch, in what I imagine was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s own deft, creative hand at spinning magic from evolutionary realism, carving homo sapiens from chimpanzees, painting grassy plains over forest, forging ambitious mountains ranges as an impatient toddler might: forcing tectonic plates together until they capitulate, crack, flake, and fold upwards towards the sky like majestic saltine crackers. At some point in this fruitful chaos, an exponentially-great-grandfather of the brown bear, Ursus arctos, made his way across the plains, step by muted step, traversing continents just before Pangaea divorced itself and scattered in large pieces across oceans.
Just as the aboriginal Ainu of Japan emptied the bear skull of eyeballs, tongue, and brain, so I stuff the rickety skeletons of life’s traumas with fresh flowers, succulent berries, the stuff of renewal and rebirth, in the hopes of a revitalized incarnation, in a show of divine acknowledgement.
I keep faith in the healing power of hibernation: low and slow in body temperature and heart rate, I rouse for no one, not even for myself. At the conclusion of those episodes I regurgitate the half-million moths my ursidae brethren swallowed before sleeping, calories aflutter, that keep our organs aloft and keep the blood pumping during these Great and Cyclical Slumbers.
It’s 3:00 a.m. in Hargeisa, and I’m caught between a (literal) nightmare that woke me, and suhoor, the pre-dawn meal before Ramadan fasting begins, which makes it useless to go back to sleep now. So, let’s do this… I’ve long been a fan of the start-over, the blank page which holds promise, tabula rasa. I made “art” prolifically as a child, but one errant mark of the crayon gave way to a whole new creation, the first (second, fifth, twelfth) “failed” version tossed aside. Even today, my amateur paintings are often four or five layers deep, whitewashed multiple times in dissatisfaction, a more economical alternative to swapping in a fresh canvas. I never had much patience with fixing, or saving a sinking ship, which always seems to get me in trouble. When I do stick it out, it’s with a “new leaf” mindset: This isn’t what it was before, it’s something different. That’s how I’ve always found the energy to dig in to relationships, jobs, creative projects, etc. Ironic, then, that in my newest endeavor I …