A chilly winter morning that calls for uncomplicated delicious slow-simmered bean soup. Perfect for a working weekend, beans with a little spiciness, creamy beans in tomato and garlic, some leeks from the back of the fridge softened in olive oil, some diced carrots, some parsley and rosemary from the garden. A little smoky paprika, a little freshly ground black pepper. Something to offer friends who pop in, something for brunch, or lunch, or even a late supper. I par-cooked the beans in a slow cooker overnight.
Uncomplicated. Another word I love. Vegetable soups, bean soups, lentil soups; uncomplicated. Decluttering the study is uncomplicated even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time. A big featherdown duvet to warm the goosepimpled thighs on a cold night — uncomplicated. Reviving miscellany of herbs in the raised kitchen garden — uncomplicated. Dogs, complicated. Editing, complicated. Writing the new fiction, impossible. But bean soup is doable.
Writing is part of the way I process my experience. It always helps to find the form for it and a way to say something, whether it’s my life or some other topic that I’m writing about and exploring. In one way it opens it up and helps you understand better and in another way it closes it down because you’ve written a version of the story that’s now your memory of the event. When I go back and remember something that happened, I may remember it only in the way I’ve written about it, and I’ll have forgotten what was there that I didn’t get down in writing.
A tough month ahead, financially. No treats or outings, no chance to get down to the ocean or over the mountain passes. This is how it goes, a life lived hand to mouth, free, autonomous, challenging. Surprises popping up, unforeseen expenses, hungry friends, the generosity of neighbours, bouncy rain-wet greens from the garden, digging into store cupboard staples, back of the fridge wrinkly turnips and wilting chard, the mild percussion of bean farts, the necessity to bake dog biscuits, bath by candlelight to save electricity. Snatching at daily life as it goes on by, recording a thought or recipe or dream image. For now too, I’m grateful for stability of place.
Because the dreams fill up with images and voices of the displaced, the migrants, asylum-seekers, refugees. My heart aches and strains to make more room, expand with compassion and practical solutions. Seeking the courage and vision to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty:
Refugees are often denied the chance to tell their stories, or forced to tell them, knowing that if they are deemed tragic enough and true enough, they might be allowed to stay. Some are denied entry, their applications stamped “LOC” for “Lack of Credibility”. So the ethics of telling refugees’ stories are hugely complex, and I can understand why writers are keen to problematize the telling; but introducing too much doubt in the reader’s mind can get in the way of empathy.
And the truths embodied in this vast enforced diaspora may not emerge for decades to come, until the children and grand-children of refugees begin to write down family histories and evoke historical journeys retold to them from relative safety. And by then, there will be other movements, other displacements, the turning of cyclical schemas of terror, tyranny and heroism. Sitting at my desk and watching the winter sun burn through diaphanous obscure layers of mist, I pray for the energy and desire to stay present.