The Wordsmythe's Weblog…

…On Words, Love and Life

Inchoate and random, because life sometimes is.

I do my best writing while driving. And no, (wipe that shocked look off your face) I do not actually write while driving. I mean I get my best ideas for writing while driving.

I know people get their ideas at various times and in different places, some commonplace, some random. In the kitchen, in bed, in the throne room, in the great outdoors etc. My friend, Nwuye, told me she gets hers in the shower. I advised her to design and patent an app or device she can write with/on while in the shower. She made all the right noises at the time but as far as I know she has come up with nothing. She is busy trying to evict all the weird and wonderful characters who live rent-free in her head. If you think I exaggerate, read her stories here, here and here. Anyway, I digress.

I find that whenever I am driving, usually alone, the words and pictures come effortlessly and flow seamlessly into beautiful prose. Missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle suddenly fall into place. There’s just something about the collaboration of man and machine that engenders inspiration, that makes me think in alacritous alliteration like, ‘gargantuan gas guzzlers gyrating gratingly along’ or something equally as abecedarian. I don’t know exactly what that something is but it does it for me almost every time.

However, the moment I sit and try to recapture those ideas, I find the words are mostly gone with the wind that blew in my hair while driving. I try to corral them into formation but I see them, in my mind’s eye, floating off in different directions, cackling and mocking as they fizzle into nothingness, elusive as air. And all that’s left is a shadow of a memory of something that was and then wasn’t.

And that’s why some of my best writing never gets written. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

 

*****

 

When I was growing up, I had some aunties. Well, they weren’t all related by blood, however, all adult females were aunties and every adult male, an uncle. It was just the way it was and I never questioned it. Anyway, every time I saw these aunties, they would exclaim how much I’d grown since they’d last seen me. How much taller I’d sprouted. And I would roll my eyes, albeit in my head because actual eye-rolling would have resulted in me having said eyes gouged out by the fair hands of my mother who brooked no disrespect for elders on her watch.

I wondered if they expected me to remain exactly the same as when they’d last seen me irrespective of how much time had lapsed. Why were they so surprised I’d grown? After all, that is what children do, grow. I would stand there beaming coyly as they cooed their disbelief, never voicing my thoughts for fear of defenestration by my mother, while waiting impatiently till I could go off and do something I considered more worthwhile.

Fast forward twenty odd years or so and I have become those aunties. Sometimes, when I see children of friends or relatives, I open my mouth and out spills the aunties. I exclaim at how tall they’ve grown since I last saw them. I regard them in disbelief as I mentally count how old they are in order to reconcile their age with their height. I remind myself how much I disliked being on the receiving end but I’m still unable to stop myself.

Now I’m older and hopefully wiser, I can empathise with those aunties, albeit belatedly. As Oscar Wilde rightly said, youth is wasted on the young.

 

****

He says his sermon won’t take long. But then he quickly reassures us that it won’t be the shortest in the history of the church either. He tells us about the shortest sermon in the history of the church. He is right. It was short. All of fifteen words, nine of which was the same word repeated over and over again. That would have been the perfect day to be at church, I think.

He goes on to introduce his topic. He tells us that if we’ve got it he can stop here now. He asks us if we get it. We respond in the affirmative. He asks us again. This time we raise our voices in agreement and tell him we have. It would appear I am not the only one who would like him to stop now. But he doesn’t stop. He goes on to tell us about it. He reiterates that he will not be long.

PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide, he tells us again and again. He voice dips. I am lulled into thinking, this is it, he’s done. But it soon picks up again and he clicks on another slide. On and on. I lose track of time. But I, who have sat and listened to many sermons, know that this is by no means a short one.

I am listless. I want to be elsewhere though I don’t know where exactly. The last time I was here was a year ago. And it was hard. And sad. But I tell myself that this too shall pass. Like it did the last time. And it does. Eventually.

.

Carry on Camping

Wonderful camp at St John’s School this weekend. Thank you to all who made it happen.

Camping is a true art form, not for the faint of heart nor the infirm in body. Ensuring an enjoyable experience is all down to personal opinion about what exactly is enjoyable.

There’s the deciding what to take along with you and if you’re anything like me that would be everything apart from the bath tub and kitchen sink. This includes taking the available facilities at your camp site into consideration. Will there be power points to pump up air beds or do you go for self-inflating mats instead (bearing in mind that the ‘self’ in ‘self-inflating’ may well be your knackered self) ? Bunsen burners or electric cooker? And so on, and so forth, etcetera, etcetera.

Then there’s the fitting of everything, first into bags, pouches, coolers and all manner of receptacles then into the vehicle that will conduct you to your camping site. You can forget about using your rear view mirrors. The only rear view you will have will be that of sleeping bags.

There’s the choosing the right tent for your needs and taste. They range in cost and size from £10 pop-up, jack-in-the-box types to hundreds of pounds worth of palatial boutique Bedouin marquee complete with deep shag pile Persian rugs, chiffon-draped ceilings and bejewelled belly dancers.

Then there’s the locating the perfect spot for your tent (note: a rocky patch is usually a bad idea and so is underneath a benevolent tree which provides stopovers to hordes of migrating birds. Ever tried washing bird poo off polyester?) And thereafter the putting up of your tent. The latter is single-handedly responsible for many a divorce unless your tent falls into the pop-up category.

By the time the tent is up, you may have long lost the will to live much less clap in time to and sing Kumbaya around the camp fire.

Anyway, if you manage to navigate all the aforementioned, marriage and sanity intact, you are well on your way to a lovely time in the great outdoors.

However, let me just put this out there, camping is a holiday only for those who didn’t attend boarding school in Nigeria.

PS: Ours is the orange and gray tent. And we’re still married. And sane. Well, somewhat.

Camp 2015 (2) Camp 2015 (3) Camp 2015 (4) Camp 2015 Our tent

Navigating relationships

Relationships. I’m thinking of relationships.

Sometimes the way forward is murky and unclear leaving one in a quandary as to what route to take. Other times, it is as clear as day. The writing splashed across the mind’s wall in a large bold font, unambiguous, unequivocal, its message, unmistakable.

When, in a relationship, you find yourself morphing into a person you scarcely recognise, bending over backwards in a manner contortionists the world over would envy, to accommodate and to fit in with the other’s expectations of you, you do not need a seer to tell you that it does not bode well for the future. You would be wise to vote with your feet.

A person who keeps demanding that you change to suit them will never be satisfied. They are selfish, self-centred and narcissistic. They think the world and everyone in it exist for the sole purpose of pleasing them. They have no thought for the well-being of others except it directly affects theirs. Such a person is incapable of appreciating your sacrifices. They believe it is their God-given right that others do for them and never them for others.

It is folly to expect that marriage will be an improvement on the current state of affairs. On the contrary, it will probably be a lot worse. Anything that is so one-sided will eventually topple.

Relationships only work when both parties appreciate that neither is perfect, are willing to compromise and make efforts to accommodate the other. Anything else is simply a disaster waiting to happen.

Natural Hair Anonymous

I read a post on one of the natural hair forums on Facebook yesterday. The lady posted some photos of her hair and claimed she had been natural for 36 months. Turns out she started transitioning in September 2012.

Now I realise Maths is not my strong suit but even I noticed the numbers didn’t add up. My first thought was to point out that she has actually been natural for just 24 not 36 months and I was going to say as much when I stopped myself. I stopped because I had visions of all the comments that would follow. Comments that would accuse of me of not being supportive of a fellow natural. Of being one of those black women who take delight in putting other black women down. I’ve seen it happen before. Someone posts a photo or says something about their hair, someone else comments and says they don’t like it, then come the abuse and accusations.

It’s as though in becoming natural, one surrenders one’s rights to personal opinion and preferences. Because we wear our hair a certain way, suddenly we must all think and reason alike, have the same world view irrespective of background, upbringing and personal experiences.

This natural hair thing has become just like Alcoholics Anonymous. “Hey, my name is Nkem Ivara and I’ve been natural x years.” Cue applause and back slapping as I collect my coin. Women who have successfully weaned themselves off the life-threatening, disease-causing creamy crack should be applauded. They should have support groups where they can discuss their addiction and life post-addiction.

Women have become so militant about how they wear their hair, it’s almost a burden to have natural or any type of hair at all. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

As the Igbo proverb says, ‘Egbe belu, Ugo belu, nke si ibe ya ebela, nku kwaya.’ Roughly translated, it means, ‘Let the kite perch, let the eagle perch. Whoever says the other should not perch, let his wing break.’ Now this is not me saying anyone’s wing hair should break/fall out but can’t we all just get along? You know, live and let live?

 

Your song

Your song, so haunting

Barefaced emotions it’s flaunting

And though it’s your love I’m wanting

The prospect is too daunting.

 

Your lyrics, they draw me in

Stir up a storm within

Send my heart into a tailspin

Tempt me sore to give in.

 

Your dulcet tones seduce

They call for a truce

Provide the perfect excuse

For my heart to let loose.

 

Your melody tugs at my heartstrings

In that place where heart break stings

From where hope springs

And dreams sprout wings.

 

Now you’ve got me right where you want me

I’m giving in to your desperate plea

Your promises of things that could be

When you and I finally become We.

 

This poem was inspired by Sam Smith’s beautifully haunting song, Latch.

I am tired of this hair, hair, everywhere.

The Wordsmythe:

I couldn’t have said it any better. Thanks for taking the words right out of my mouth, Nwuye. Don’t mind if I share.

Originally posted on How to love Igbo things (or what you will).:

Maybe I’ve always been a bit blasé about hair because mine grows so easily; I could always switch from natural to permed and back again.  But lately especially, I find myself tiring of the natural versus relaxed hair debate.

I understand all the connotations of having relaxed hair. Believe me, I do. I too have had weave itch, the sort that leaves you slapping your head repeatedly in public, with no thoughts whatsoever as to how mad you look.  No care either. Nothing but the desire to scratch that unreachable, infuriating, itch.  The near soporific effects of scratching it cannot be matched by anything in this world.

I have suffered the sores that come from digging too deeply with a pen or other handy pointy object under dandruff and sweat encrusted wefts. I have had my hair fall out from too much relaxing and traction from braids. It was not…

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It’s been three weeks

It’s been three weeks since I was driving and singing along to the radio when I got the call. Today I’m driving back from the gym. Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’ is playing. It’s a tune I love. My boys love it too. When it comes on at home, we crank up the volume and break out in a happy dance. But I am alone now. I do not have to put up a happy front for the children. I cannot clap along. Because I’m not happy. Yes, I do feel like a room without a roof. But it is raining and I am getting drenched in grief and loss as the rain mingles with my tears. The room is flooding with memories of when he was here. He was just here. I know that happiness is the truth but it is not my truth right now. I want to be happy but I am not. I cannot be. This loss is too huge, too painful to be lifted by the lyrics of an upbeat song.

It’s been three weeks. My older son points out that people are no longer coming to visit. Not like the steady stream we had when we first heard the news. I nod and agree with him. I want to tell him that that’s the way life works. It goes on. I want to say that though people care, life must carry on. That even though this was a monumental shift in our paradigm, it was just a momentary blip in that of our friends, interrupting their lives albeit ever so briefly. I want to tell him that even though they may not be physically present, we are in their thoughts and prayers. But I don’t. It is too much to burden a 7-year old with. My decision proves right when our conversation segues into sharing memories about Granddad. He and his brother talk about how Granddad was so funny, how he laughed and made them laugh. I am sad but I smile. I am glad that in spite of the fact that he is gone, they have happy memories of their grandfather.

It’s been three weeks. I am forgetful and absent-minded, apathetic and lethargic. I forgot to attend my appointment with the dentist. I forgot to take my younger son to the dentist. I forgot to change the calendar page from January to February. It is like I am frozen in time. As if I cannot move beyond those heart-stopping minutes three weeks ago.

It’s been three weeks. And It’s been hard. I have tried to carry on because that’s what he would have wanted. But it’s been hard. Sometimes I am able to function normally because in doing so, I’m almost able to convince myself that it didn’t happen. That the pain I feel in my chest is imaginary. Other times, everything in me bucks at normal because life isn’t normal and I want everything to stop and acknowledge that it isn’t.

It’s been three weeks since I decided to go back home. My other home. The one I grew up in. I think of my trip and I begin to get excited. I look forward to getting together with the whole family. To being in the same room as all my sisters. To the raucous laughter as we regale and remind each other with and of tales of our escapades. To catching up on news of everyone and what they have been up to since we’ve been apart.

But then I remember why I am making the trip. And grief shoos the excitement out of my soul. I am going back home because my daddy died. I am going back home but I won’t be seeing my dad. And that hurts. Badly.

My Daddy was just here

Sometimes, it’s the inane nature of things that foretells what is about to happen. Yet it is the very inanity that lulls us into a false sense of security, the irony of it all hitting us only after the event. Hindsight is indeed 20-20 vision.

Usually, life is a series of mind-numbing activity. Stuff we could do in our sleep. Every now and again something breaks up the routine. Sometimes the break is welcome. Other times, it is an unwanted intruder.

This is one of those times. This break is so incongruous with the routine that precedes it, nothing I have known before quite prepares me. So that when I get that phone call, the one where my younger sister is crying frantically, breathing heavily and calling out my name repeatedly. I know it’s bad. Really, really bad.

I search for the rewind button. I want to live life in reverse. To turn back the clock. Go back to the morning when I wake up and it’s Saturday. A regular Saturday in the Ivara household. Football. Homework. Cleaning. Getting ready to go to my friend’s baby shower. Driving. Singing along to Heart FM.

But no matter how many times I replay it, I always end up at that moment where I get the phone call. The one where my younger sister is crying frantically, breathing heavily and calling out my name repeatedly and I know it’s bad. Really, really bad.

My breath catches. I ask her to repeat what she has just said. I hear her the first time but I convince myself that I could not have heard her right. She says it again. And again. And again.

“Daddy is dead.”

How can he be dead? He was just here. It’s been 10,080 minutes. One week since Daddy was here. In my home. Sitting in what my boys call ‘Granddad’s chair’. Now, she is telling me he is gone. How can that be? I can see him here. Pottering around. Repacking his and mum’s luggage. Drinking Moringa tea at the dining table. Roughhousing with the boys, telling them he was going back to ‘Naija’. Surely this is a joke. But I know it is not. I know the moment I answer the phone and hear my sister crying. I know that life, as I used to know it, is changed forever.

My hands start to shake. My breath comes in short bursts. My lungs are burning from the effort of taking in air. I start to cry. How can this be? It can’t be true.

It’s been three days since I got that phone call. I have repeated that phrase ‘Daddy is dead’ over and over again. I roll the words around in my mouth, whisper them, say them out loud, say them in my head. They still feel mismatched, like they don’t belong together in the same sentence.

It feels like something has been forcefully wrenched out of its place and I have been left with an open, gaping wound. There is this huge lump in my chest. Try as I might, I just cannot shift it. Unshed tears. It is hard to believe there are any left after all the ones I have cried.

I look around the house and think, he was just here. My Daddy was just here…

How do you measure a year?

It is the end of the year 2013. A year. A measurement of time. How do you measure a year? Twelve months? Fifty-two weeks? Three hundred and sixty-five days? Eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty hours? Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes? I am choosing to measure mine in friendships.

Some friends visited a few days ago. They brought us flowers. White lilies, still in their buds. I put them in a vase with some water. Lilies 1Since then, they have slowly been unfurling into full bloom. They remind me of some of Jesus’ words in the famous Sermon on the Mount.

And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.…” Matthew 6:27- 29.

I have been ruminating about friendships. When it comes to making friends, I tend to dive right in. A few interactions with someone are enough to convince me to forge ahead in pursuing a friendship with them. Sometimes, my impulsiveness pays off and deep, lasting friendships are formed. Other times, I get my fingers bitten and realise that I have been naive and presumptuous.

Friends can be gifts, filling your space with joy and energy. Like well-tended plants. But here is the thing, I am not green-fingered. Plants do not thrive in my hands. I seem to have come wired with the ability to wither the hardiest of plants. Yet, I appreciate their beauty.

Some plants are delicate and need a lot of attention, watering, weeding, pruning. Others are robust, rugged. They thrive with little or no input.

Some friendships require a little more nurturing, regular contact, phone calls, emails, texts etc. They may not die off without these but they certainly do not do as well as with them.

Then there are those friendships like climbing plants. They need a framework to grow on.  Their stems possess little ability to bear any weight yet are very tensile and have considerable strength. This kind has the tendency to weigh you down, sapping your very essence, constantly taking, hardly ever giving.

Yes, friendship is a bit like plants. Some spring up as soon as you meet. A connection is made and weathering every storm, the friendship thrives and grows stronger, irrespective of distance, space and long absences. A garden is all the more beautiful for having different kinds of plants in it.

I have been blessed by the gift of different kinds of friendship. These beautiful plants that brighten the garden of my life with bold splashes of colour.

And so, as 2013 draws to an end, here, my dear friends, here’s to you, to those who have gone ahead and to our friendship!

Seasons of Love” is a song from the Broadway musical Rent, written and composed by Jonathan Larson. This cover is from the third episode of the fifth season of Glee, The Quarterback, as a tribute to Cory Monteith and his character Finn Hudson.

‘Twas the night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

Christmas eve

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Clement Clarke Moore.

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