I am done with them – at least, enough to last for anything between one day and two weeks. Them. The chores that life hands one before they can even begin to live it. Chores and some. Generally called Cleaning.
I am reading, thinking through Philip Larkin’s ‘Born Yesterday‘, a poem, I recently discovered while being Teacher.
My eyes are fixed on books and pamphlets and the like, all waiting to be read: poems and short stories, bits and chunks of such and more, all waiting to be completed, waiting to be revised, edited or simply, to be read. By me. Somewhere in the pile are real book marks and others improvised from leaflets with messages long dead, strips of ribbons which have long served their initial purposes, paper labels from products long consumed or used and gone for good.
A little above the books and the rest and on a soft blue painted wall, there are a few tabs of random reminders – to do-s; a sketch of a long, flowing colourful dress jointly doodled and coloured by ** my nephew and littlest sister. Somewhere on the same wall, a timetable, a teaching schedule, is pasted. Beside this and on a bigger paper, I have written, in lead and ink and pink colour pencil, a quotation attributed to one of the Wesley brothers:
“If God bids me fly,
I will trust Him
for the wings…”
I briefly remember how I had loved and thought hard and deep about the quotation for so many times that, I came to make it personal or perhaps, intensify the faith, the spirit of it all, by telling myself that:
“If God bids me fly,
I will fly already,
trusting that He already
has given me the wings, and all there is
left for – Him and – me to do is
for me to take that first
step into faith,
Beside the sketch is a fancy wooden crucifix hanging on a sheer lace ribbon. The wooden crucifix has a flowery dial at its centre. The dial, on it is inscribed both the verse and quotation. Joshua chapter 1, verse 9. Wood, lace, dial and all, was one of a year-or-so old gift from my students – a class.
Meanwhile, a fridge hums away in the nearest room and from the backyard, a nest of birds take turns scattering crisp dry fallen leaves and chirping all the life out of their little frail lungs .
Some background this is!
From outside, a distant grooving of Kwesi Pee‘s Menko aa – not that I would have minded or even realised it if it was rather his Mehia Ͻdɔ– riddles its way into my ears and being. From the same outside but much closer by, Grand-e-Mother’s incessant pet talks weave in and out of fragments of thoughts and smiles and memories and reflections and dreams. Introspection.
Some moment to be alive this is!
I saw Gratitude
And she believed I carried luck, that I was the only and closest lucky one she knew. So everyday, early in the mornings before I went to school, she called me, placed her own money and a plate in my hand, then she would dish some rice and stew into the plate after I hand plate and money to her. I have forgotten what happened to the food – whether she took it back or she let me take and eat it. And I do not remember eating rice – her rice – every morning, everyday.
But I remember, with the vividness of that day Grand-e-Mother first took me to school, how this niece, this woman waxed confident that her food will sell and sell fast. Because she tricked Luck. Because the first person to buy from her is full of luck, is Luck-on-legs, Luck-in-person.
This was more than a decade ago, when I was in primary school.
Today, this woman’s granddaughter, who should be my younger sister’s age, is all grown up and a woman and a mother. I tried, but I saw only bits and smudges of my old knowledge of her looks. This granddaughter. She sits behind another, her sister, who stands behind basins and trays of steamed-and-fried pork, selling to a teeming crowd…
I asked myself when and how time slipped past before anyone could stop it and ask it how one can retain the juice of things and places and peoples long gone, ask it to wake sweet sleeping and dead memories, stay time and ask it what one must do to get the best and most of its milk, ask time to play back the big wonders and petty cares of being a child and just that.
in a place:
the royal palm tree which stands in the middle of pavement blocks large and flat, and of a make ancient and fond than any I see around nowadays. This tree, it towers above the story building in front of which it stands. It must be more than twice the height of the story building. And under the tree’s shade and in the the aura of both building and tree, we children play and play our fill until we fall tired or asleep or wounded.
But never because of a branch or pod or any such thing falling from the crown and yawning height of that royal palm tree, to hit anyone – not a toddler or an adult, nor the revered catechist married to the priestess at the Nai shrine, not the famous thief and not the notorious womanizer, nor the fool who everyone has come to know and pity and tolerate. Not a soul. Not a ghost, even.
For whether in the violence of harmattan or in the heat of a storm or in the modesty of everyday-ness, that royal palm tree is always compassionate and careful.
Just like a mother.
People say it is a mother. Actually. So that every time anything dry and hard and heavy fell from it, it touched and scratched ground and ground alone.
In fact, no one ever saw anything fall from the tree. We wake up the morning after or we return from school or cinema, from market or work, or from dance or travel to see the fallen debris. And no one, not even the elders and seers among us know or remember or can guess who planted it, when it was planted. And truly, this is no normal, usual way for a tree to behave, no way for a mere tree to have such a history.
This was more than a decade ago, when I was a child.
Today, a wall has been erected around the tree. That royal palm tree’s wall has the signatures of a shrine: the words written on it, the small door cut into the concrete wall, a white calico curtain flapping in the dusk and breeze.
Today, that royal palm tree is deemed deity…
And that is how I saw Gratitude today.
I saw Gratitude today and now I know I will
dream and write and think and teach.
And of course, give thanks.
What I gleaned from it?
That Love need not wait until it is (almost) too late. It need not be stifled and suffocated until it (necessarily) ends up short-lived.
‘Life is short,’ they say.
I say, ‘The same need not be said of Love.’
And that the really, truly beauty-full, wonder-full, meaning-full and FULL-filling things about and in this life cost NOTHING at all. Nothing but a free spirit, big heart, open arms, mad hope, purposeful work, and oh madder passion – plenty of the passion bit.
Simply, live. Be. Thrive, grow.
Don’t cheat yourself out of life on this side of eternity by just going through the motions, by just surviving, just existing.
Don’t forget, don’t be too busy to
dance in the rain;
lick the soup that strayed, dripped from hand to elbow;
smile because of nothing;
get the best of what good and free things laughter offers;
gape at the smudge of orange – or some other odd – hue on the horizon, at dusk;
take the picture of a picture;
let the child in you run wide and free, seeing the petty and good,
the fun and sad, the new-s and down-s of this thing called life;
watch the ant bite at the water which it can as well get drowned in;
join the children play in the sun, the mud, inside their world;
chat with and be real friends with the elderly and young, with the grand-e and little alike;
love and embrace company and soul-itude like there’s no difference, like
there’s only one of them at a time, at every and each moment;
pour your heart out in hymns and songs, stories and hums, like you never had a care
in this world, like you actually don’t care;
know the solid soft of corn, the touch and truth of salt, the character of pepper, the
integrity that is only fish’s, the easy sooth of that which is nature and sweet;
be content to read while you wait for the bus, while the
bucket, the bathtub fills and gets full;
serve others, especially those who may not be able to afford the chance
and time to sing you their gratitude;
take time to laugh hard at your own self…
Surely, there must be more to being alive than the beating of heart, the running up and down of blood and the coming in and going out of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide…
And while you are at the living, get busy loving…
L. O. V. E.-ing
– Kumasi, 23-July-2017 ; North Kaneshie, 4-Jan-2018.