After two hours at my desk, I’ve finally admitted that I’m stuck in the middle of a non-fiction chapter. I may need to redo an interview and do some more research. Damn. To give myself a breathing space while ideas percolate, I shall spend the morning making vegan dim sum, an intricate and finicky task that should take my mind off all my writing problems. Dim sum means ‘touching the heart’ and I liked eating them very much when I was travelling around Asia, finding tea houses in Guandong province in China, sitting down at food stalls in Singapore and Hong Kong. Tender juicy little steamed vegetable dumplings. I make my own wrappers using a hot water dough rolled out whisker-thin. Then stuff them with a simple filling of flash-fried spring onions (scallions), julienned carrots, broccoli, pak choi or Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, baby spinach, minced garlic, a trickle of smoky sesame oil, a little soy or tamari. My scrubbed and trusty bamboo steamers lined with cabbage or lettuce leaves.
The housemate had a great birthday — we sat outside in the garden laughing at long-tailed mousebirds and malachite sunbirds squabbling together in the stone bird bath. The gargantuan dog who is a thing of beauty and a joy forever lay on the grass wagging his tail in lazy arcs from time to time. The stars came out and the cicadas roared away into the night, the noise of a typical summer night in Africa.
Woke to hear armoured security vans and trucks passing, private security firms guarding farms as the harvest of grapes and peaches is gathered in. If wage demands are not met there will be more protests, more strikes and more unrest. The darkness of the militarised society, the cordoned heart. So it goes on. Inevitable processes of change, conflict, more change, resistance, more change.
“Some people, when they hear the word process, interpret it as meaning something inhuman. But it’s actually quite the opposite. I’m not referring to a process in a flat, mechanical, materialistic sense. This process is alive. And it’s you. The process is you. Indeed, what is so important about this shift of perspective is that you begin to see your own sense of self as part of a vast unfolding stream of development. Your understanding of what it means to be human expands almost infinitely, because you start to see your own humanity and your own potential for greater humanity as a result of this process, and an inherent part of this process – and as far as we know, the highest expression of this process. In this way, evolutionary spirituality enhances and enlarges to almost infinite proportions your sense of the significance of what it means to be human.”
- Andrew Cohen
She has just won the National Book Award for her novel on racial injustice, The Round House, set on the North Dakota reservations Louise Erdrich knows so well. She’s a challenging poet too, and my sober friend Steve sent this to me yesterday, commenting, “Helluva a thing to read at 2:30 in the morning when you get up to pee, I’ll tell ya.”
Advice to Myself
by Louise Erdrich
Leave the dishes. Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.