It’s always a shame to catch myself in a state of procrastination, where a million blog ideas are coming to me and I figure I have no time to sieve through and focus on one, just one piece of item for a story. I admit sometimes I am the queen of excuses. Implementation—oh, that word doesn’t sound poetic at all, it’s so mechanical yet it’s my word of the moment. Implementation flies out of the window in the name of too busy. Yes, while it’s true ‘we’ are busy, how come we find time for this and that adventure when they call?
Anyway, excuses now behind me, I am here updating my blog. Promising myself to write more, to transfer all my ideas and observations from head to paper. While the blog may not earn me a salary increase (am not even in position to earn a salary now) or a better profile in the writing field, it keeps me in the writing mode and that is a good thing. It is so easy to slide out of the writing mode. In fact, it could be the easiest thing to do that I do not know any ambitious writer who has never failed to slide out of the WM—writing mode. Thankfully, one finds a way to get back, either by begging the muse to dawn, or talking to other writers, or simply sitting before the computer and changing the screen color a couple of times, all the time saying, ‘am here to write, to write, to write. I like the answer to ‘who is a writer’ that came out during the Pan African Writing Workshop in Ghana a year ago. It was Arthur Flowers who said; you’ll know you are a writer when you can’t stop writing. That answered several unasked questions. It seemed simple enough, assuring even, but of course the task is at keeping writing. I am glad we did not get too sophisticated to ask what type of writing. Just writing appeared good enough. So I ticked yes on my journal—where in truth I do a lot of writing, plus the writing I do in my dreams and other such spaces. What do I do with all my journals? This is my dilemma now.
Two weeks ago I was trying to pack my three years in Dakar in two medium-size suitcases. It turned out an impossible feat. One, I had accumulated quite a sized collection of books I agonized about leaving my books behind. Jewelry, clothes, I can, not books. Shipping, of course. But that defeated the two suitcases model I had in my mind. I surely believed I could pack all of me in two suitcases. When I assessed what I had to pack, that’s when I noticed the journals that littered the floor. I thought I should set up a pyre, perform some kind of ceremony and burn them all. Reduce the luggage. But I could not bring myself to building the fire. Now I am here wondering what to do with all these 50+ journals. They contain stuff I wouldn’t want to publish whatsoever! No, no, not in its raw form. And it’s not stuff I even wish to work on to turn into something publishable. Do you get my dilemma? What do I do with all the filled journals I’ve written over the years, and how come I can’t stop myself from going to the next bookshop and picking up ten more journals and beginning to write in all of them, sometimes at once? Is this something curable?
Leaving Dakar, I owe Dakar space on my blog. It’s one of those places where I did some growing in a different direction. The tiny pessimist in me is asking; was it meaningful? The larger than life inspiration tells me to ignore this tiny pessimist and move on with the story of my leaving. It wasn’t one of those teary moments, I must say, but it was one of those staring out the sea and looking deep inside you to see what was being left behind, to know where I was, to anticipate the journey literally and metaphorically, to seek strength from the ocean so as not to be overwhelmed. That’s the other thing, I can visit oceans and coastal places and adore them, but I cannot permanently live close to the sea. In the long run it would have a negative effect on me. Staring at the sea long enough makes me feel insufficient, while rivers, God bless the mighty rivers and the less intense streams, they leave me with energy, passion and drive. It must be something in the rivers’ flow that tickles me and buoys up my heart. I love the rivers, and the rivers are alive in me. Lakes are okay too.
Back to leaving Dakar, I had found myself a small loving community, which of course, I’ve carried in my heart. My workplace, TrustAfrica, was energizing and had a direct influence on my productivity. The people, generally, were kind and good to me. Welcoming. When I decided to leave a part of me behind, it was in this thankful state that I chose to publish my latest poetry collection—Give Me Room to Move My Feet, with a publisher based in Dakar—Amalion. I didn’t make firm connection with the land. I felt it passing away. The sand and buildings were very dry for my seeking spirit. Every now and then I came across people cutting down the trees and it pierced my heart. You don’t want to know how many times I have bled. The music scene, that’s something, had an erotic vibrancy, the mbalax, the wailing, moaning, dancing and so on. Cheikh Lo and Baaba Maal remain my favorite singers. They deserve a separate chapter. The cultural intricacies embedded in the food, dressing, and drumming, were too much for me. I let go of the discourse. On the writing-living side, Dakar opened doors of research that will be the stuff for my next novels.
Finding Syracuse The name is like a song, musical. The environment, trees galore, makes my heart sing. I love the green in its unpolluted form. To witness what the trees are speaking to another, to listen to the sighing streams and catch a fish on the lake, it’s heavenly, only its earth beautiful. The university, where I will be for the next couple of years, sits on its elegant hill and that alone invites confidence and ease. It’s not enough to say I’ve liked Syracuse in its unhurried state. It’s right to say Syracuse is very much like home, and home is not only where my heart is, but where my feet find centering, connection and anchor. What is not surprising to me but to my friends is that I have been here before. I have seen this Syracuse before but it’s my first time here. Years and months ago I was here, only I didn’t know it was here. One of those recurring, vivid dreams that you dismiss at some point, but when you finally find yourself in them, again, you know they were speaking to you. That is me and Syracuse. I saw the Finger Lakes and said it was Kyoga—what we know as the Palm Lake back home. Fingerlike. The verdant green and terraced hills I thought I was in Kabale, my birthplace. Then the long and wide stretches of farmland I was so sure I had revisited Muyebe, my ancestral home. But I was in a writing workshop that seemed more like a picnic in the green. Fast forward. Last week on Wednesday when I arrived in Syracuse, the dream flashed through my mind I almost wept for all my disbelief. To recognize that I was here, have been here, makes me want to revisit all my sleeping dreams and see early enough where else I will be. Have been. Will go.