Give me a book

I feel obligated to perceive it as a luxury, but maybe the thing I miss most when I travel is cooking for myself–it’s such a simple act of deciding to do something and carrying it through that has the capacity to touch on this deeper need I have to be in the world by creating. I can avoid writing and still manage to stay a quarter sane but it’s much harder to go without the simple, “primitive” need to chop and transform vegetables.

Mentally, I don’t know where I am these days. My mind feels like it’s covered with dead leaves. I need to make little choices, decisions–like small steps–to see how I feel or perceive what’s going on “in there.” I feel like this would be a great time in my life to be able to take off ten months and just go for a really long walk (e.g., El Camino de Santiago, the AT, or around any particular lake 100 times). The way the modern world is organized requires us to just press on, carry on, which I am pretty good at it once I get started, but less so anytime I stop. I can go, go, but once I stop I realize how much I just want to be still and think.

Think about what? I don’t know, dead dad stuff, religious stuff, God, suffering, love, sex, colonialism, etc. But I feel so depleted sometimes–not in a scary way, just in a normal, this is how life is kind of way, that I don’t know where I would even start. It’s like I want to run out in the middle of the street and scream: “GIVE ME A BOOK, ANY BOOK!!!!!” I could almost read anything right now, but I feel especially drawn towards children/young adult literature that percieves the world in a simple but perfectly accurate way, unburdened by adult obligations (i.e., the “shoulds”).

So maybe this is why I feel particularly undone by the absence of routines–going to the store, making a smoothie, putting on my bike helmet, touching Tim’s hair, grinding the coffee beans, listening to the news, sitting in the church pew, chopping the vegetables–this time. Without these things, I feel a bit like a walled-up fireplace.

This week was characterized by total newness–okay, I can’t say total newness because I have been here before, and I know this place (a la Brideshead Revisited), but now it’s March, and now it’s 2018. Maybe it should be startling to me that almost exactly five years ago I was here for the first time, doing research for my master’s thesis, when Mauro and Michael were so helpful and kind and the rain was comforting and dad and I spoke nearly everyday.

But that doesn’t seem to be the main thought on my mind. I’m struck more by things I haven’t observed before or at least hadn’t thoroughly absorbed if I had witnessed them–country music on the radio, movie theatre culture, roadbumps, the brutal sun, Luganda words I’m finally beginning to remember, and cultural norms that feel explicit and loud, like hierarchy, glorifying women, and speaking softly. Sometimes the taxi drivers say, “You have been here before?” and other days they confidently ask, “This is your first time in Uganda?”

There’s so much old newness to take in, I sometimes feel unable to catch my breath. This is why it helps to swim, because you have to breathe. Breath is the most important part, and then come your arms, and then come your legs.

Give me a book, any book. I’ll take a telephone book as long as I can find my own name.



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