Friday, October 26, 2012

beading summer away...

Waking up this morning and remembering that it was only a Friday and not in fact a Saturday and, best of all, a public holiday so no school, was like winning something.   Waking up and remembering this was real, I lay back and played it all over again before I took the horse out into the hills.  

The rain is nowhere near. What did Damian say? Mid October?  Nada. Presently, the stars are spread like jam across ink black nights, fat, petulant, pretty and red from the dust. I drank far too many whiskies on Tuesday night with one of my bestests, swopping tales of hosses and the big plains of Mongolia. We look to the stars, saying nothing, listening to the dogs barking far away. And silently wish for rain at the same time.The aloes burn bright, a splash of hot yellow in the dry. Soon the sun birds will arrive. The acacia have sprouted bright new green leave in anticipation of the rain. There is a vague coolness to the mornings, which quickly burns away, like tissue in flames, along with the blue of the sky, leaving it a milky, white blind eye stretched, uninterrupted,  from horizon to horizon.

Francesca is here from Milano with new designs for Maasai Women’s Art. She is an incredibly talented jewelry designer from Italy who comes out every year with new designs for the project. She gives her time freely to teach the women. MWA is a fantastic NGO which supports Maasai women living in West Meru. See the site here  They're using the coolness of the veranda for today before they move to their real location next week. Last born sat with her and Ellen learning the fine art of beading.

"Beading takes patience and dedication." Francesca Soldini.

 What manner of sparkling treasure they weave outside my window.

 I wander out to smoke and watch them. It seems Ellen has magnet magic, the way those tiny beads shoot onto her hair thin wire.

It was a day to finally start the painting on the blank canvas. This has morphed into a collage of my dear friend Carlos, the Spanish horse whisperer from Kilimanjaro. These portraits were taken as he was telling me a story about how Ronaldo pulled up all his beautiful sunflowers because “they drink too much water” and then as if that wasn’t bad enough, pulled up his beloved spring onions. You don’t do that to Spanish vaqueros. No. The work is not finished, yet. But I already love it. See his horses beaded up here..

Music tinkles out the wide open windows to summer where the women bead; Mama Paka, the cat, snoozes on the old landrover chair; the dogs lie on the cool floor of the veranda periodically snapping at flies and passing bees; I wish my life was like this every single day, the slow, full of music birth of soft, twinkling, beautiful ideas...

Today I’m not wishing anything away.  Not even the heat.

Kitchen Board: Holiday Friday: Hot With Certain Late Sweet Moon October 2012

toodely toot, y'all. bisous. X.X.X. twinkly beaded ones 'round your neck x j

Thursday, October 18, 2012

waking from wind dreams...

Waking from bad dreams in a grey morning that never rains,  makes for a heavy feeling.
The ceiling is pearl white, shadowless. The mosquito net hangs glacier still. The house is quiet. The dogs bark. On and on and on. I think I hear someone shout, “Bella!” Who else knows my dog’s name?  Perhaps it was a shout in the wind. Like the night I woke up at three in the morning, the wind tearing into the eaves like a pack of hungry dogs, teeth in bones, and I thought I could hear the wail of a baby…I stood rock statue still at the window, head cocked, alert, in the attic of my bedroom, gazing out onto a wind torn, moon slashed 3 o clock morning. The wailing of neglect and cold faded, disappeared into a cave of sound and then floated back, imperceptibly. Awake, I trudged downstairs to the loo, perplexed, slightly unnerved. As I stood in the bathroom, the lights dipped dim and rose lightning bright three times, ethereal. Goose flesh crept like urgent little caterpillars up my spine. The rational mind is a godsend. She speaks to me: “ Oh it’s TANESCO, obviously. There you go thinking ghostly thoughts. Honestly.  Stop this nonsense and go back to bed. Yes. There you are. But before you go up, best switch the computer boxes off so you don’t have to schlep downstairs when the lights finally die, ok?” I obediently agree.  

When you turn off the UPS box, you have to firmly hold down the button for a good few seconds. There is nothing loose about that switch. As I leaned under the desk, hundreds of creepy crawly caterpillar legs scurried across my spine. I felt someone or something behind me. Rational Ruth Mind: “It’s nothing. Now stop this at once!” Yes, yes. I cautiously climbed the stairs to bed, blinking myself to calmness, ignoring The Thing Behind. I paused by the window to listen for the baby wailing, but only the wind again, star littered sky and skeleton ceilings. As I began to drift off to sleep, I hear footsteps downstairs - slow, heavy, shuffling definite footsteps – as the wind takes a breath.  My body stiffens involuntarily. I freeze, ears like long stethoscopes. Yes. Definitely foot steps. My heart thuds like run away village drums. My cold sweaty hands clench into balls. My ears hum with fear. I hear the UPS box beeping, switching on. I hear the printer click to life. And then nothing. “ Rada swami. Rada Swami. Rada Swami,” I whisper in my head, chanting, chanting, until  the wind breathes out, sighing long, sad songs and sleep.

The wind is more persistent at this time of year, greedy, knowing the rain will not come, blowing supreme. It isn’t a kind wind. It smells of dust, dry grass and hot rocks. I want it to fly lightning balloons behind it. It holds unseen stirring things in its claws, dropping them where it pleases. Wendigos waltz with dervishes and dust devils, spinning wildly on.  I lie in bed at night staring at the shadows like ribs on the ceiling.  Great swells of wave like wind break on the edge of the hill, like an omniscient sea. Sometimes wind spirits hook into your dreams.  

I open the door to the barking dogs and give the Alsatian a breakfast of the chicken carcass from last night. He needs it more than the other two. He is recovering from the cobra bites on his back leg. I sit with the other two out in the courtyard, drinking my coffee, rubbing silky black dog ears. I watch my spotty horse. I call him, “Boeliboelieboelieboelie” in a high pitched rolling bubbling sound. He knows it. His ears prick up and he stares earnestly at me from his stable, demanding breakfast. Slowly the bad dreams start to curl away, as morning stretches like a cat, slowly, slowly, a white morning pleasingly licking itself.

 My man boy child stumbles out, a crumpled face, mumbling, “Hi Ma. Did it rain last night?”   

Kitchen Board: Thursday Morning: Austere.

time for more water already and a vague reminder about new exercise regime...
things are looking austere. and rather dry.
i think the board needs decorating, rather.
toodely ole toot, y'all..and bisous X.X.X. gravely tender ones. x j

Monday, October 8, 2012

the stickiness of being human

So the poetry and the water post are both rubbish, obviously (eyebrows wriggling in your general direction), in which case I’ll have to lambaste you two slackards out there with horse stories. The thing is I know you both  like snake stories and robber stories and goddamn tragedies. That gets you elbowing your way onto the comment page, doesn’t it? I love you both dearly. Please, thanks god. I am going to gushingly write about my children now. Stay at your own risk.  And please, if you do, be nice. Otherwise I’ll have to ‘see someone’.

I am so proud of this one (first born) who I have just collected from a school sports trip in Nairobi.

 As I roared in, after a few wines, Dutch cheese and other delicacies at C’s (gorgeous inspirational neighbor. Oh god, what is it with anonymity? Claire Baker, ok? Dietary preferences: ID Number: Bank Account Number. No. So silly, Janelle.) beautifully eclectic house, he was standing alone at the top of the school steps in a blue tracksuit hoodie type affair. (I know!) I thought, gosh, he looks cold and tired, all zipped up. As he walked up to the door, he unzipped the jacket and there was a medal, for being Champion Of The World or something like that. Oh my. But I’m more proud, in a way, that he still likes X, (who will def. remain anonymous. also on said sports trip.) who, on being asked by a perfectly respectable elderly teacher, what she would do to help her country if she was ever the president of Tanzania (high on her life ambition list, apparently), woodenly replied “Kick out all the whites.”  He was the only white boy sitting there. He said he just laughed. “She’s quite nice you know, Ma.”

Where was I? Yes.

I am proud of this one not only because she didn't fall off the pony at trot. Or when he leaped about and threw in a little buck.

But more to actually see her on the pony, Sukari. We’ve had this little pony since he was, oh, a baby. She has spent most of her last growing up years either wrapped around his neck or teaching him 'tricks'. But on the ground.  My heart burst from my chest to see them happily pootling about in the school ring.

And proud of this one because, well,  he’s so courageous and we all know why. (gulp)

I don’t think it’s cool to be peacock proud of oneself. No. If I was, it would be because I have birthed three incredibly beautiful worthy people, from my very own womb and all by myself. Yes. Yes. The midwives were lovely at the time and the doctors were very good indeed, but I frikken did it, ok? But for the rest, I remain bunny in the headlights wide eyed about life generally. It scares the shit out of me most of the time, no matter how fervently and frequently I froth and preach about NOT doing fear or guilt or regret or any of those shitty worthless emotions…. I certainly acknowledge “the stickiness of being human”(Kiran Desai  – ‘Hullaballoo In The Orchard’, a wonderful, glorious read of rich hyperbole.) I love people, in fact, in all their stickiness. How could you not? No matter how sticky, because you are one, no? 
So there.

Kitchen Board: Monday October 2012 
Yes. And even a kitchen board. By now you should both know that maji means water. And land puncture?
G'waan. Give it a twirl. 
The rest is par for the course.

Toodely ole toot, y'all. Bisous X.X.X. sticky pretty ones all about ya like butterflies. x j

Saturday, October 6, 2012

poetry, birds and saturday afternoons...

the girl and i were supposed to go away for the night.
but things happened so we stayed home.
home where the wild wind blows and the horses are frisky. 
i'll take tea under the thorn tree.
i'll watch the dogs chasing crows and the lanner falcons race by.
i don't like my little water rant from yesterday. so please excuse me. 
i am posting this in haste to forget about it, then. 
i thought i'd share some poetry instead. 
if you can bear it.

smile (aug 2011)
there’s a smile that slides onto my face
from the side.
(i think.)
it spreads then slips away.
i’m  not sure if it’s born from inside
or outside of me.
but there it comes,
like a bird’s shadow on the plain.

a little wave passes through me –
curling furiously through my stomach
whirling sometimes faster and faster
shooting out my palms like fountains…
birds fly from my chest.
feathers float in my head,
making me ultimately
quite useless,

toodely toot, y'all. bisous. X.X.X. perfectly poetic ones. x j.

Friday, October 5, 2012

october dust yarns...

                                              (taken a few months ago. now there is no more green left. anywhere.)
I’ve been meaning to write all this deep and meaningful prose about water in these parts. There isn’t any. That’s the thing. Every day when I drive down the hill to school and back again, I watch people walking from miles, with strings of donkeys and herds of skinny cattle, towards the two watering points between here and school. The watering points are always colourful affairs from all the buckets around the tap.  Children flitter around them, like ragged wind torn butterflies, playing games in the dust. I watch this and think about the world across the sea. The First World. How spoilt it is. I am repulsed by the billions that are spent to keep nations from nose diving into debt. The fat bankers that make millions. How much does one person need? The trouble is that there isn’t any cash left in the first world. It’s been melted into plastic and computers. Why does the world go bananas then? Oh. My. God. Where’s all the money gone? Well. You’ve bloody well spent it, like water, mind, and have been living off air and plastic since. That’s why. Here people have no water, no electricity and at this time of year, not much food.  We live by cash here. Cash in hand. Japhet, who lives nearby, kept all his money in a hidey hole in his house. He went to go and get some the other day and the termites had eaten it. Fortunately for him Marc managed to salvage it at the bank because they hadn’t eaten the serial numbers. Japhet is lucky. Cash is cash and no one has cards. Here people don’t trust cards. Or cheques.  You won’t be able to survive without cash. Call it backward, but we laugh in the face of recession. We’ve never known anything else but recession this side of the equator. You’re very spoilt that side of the sea. You have responsible governments, no matter what you say. Even the unemployed have electricity and televisions and running water.

There are folks out on the plains here who have nothing. Nothing. Who sew scraggly maize out of the dust lands. There are no schools nearby. No clinics. No electricity. No water. Only wind. Except when it rains then the landscape turns into  turgid mud flats. They become inaccessible. You see children walking to school carrying their shoes so they aren’t eaten by the mud. Children walk for miles. There are no buses or trains or trams or taxis. Sometimes they leave home before the sun rises. But to learn is a noble and honorable thing. To learn is to hope. This time of year, the children walk tiredly home in the heat – surrounded by clouds of dust, following the tired skeletal herds. Tractors and water bowsers crowd and huddle around the only water point near the factory. Everyone is waiting for some rain, some water, some moisture, some greenness. That’d be nice.

The horses have finally broken through to Kim’s shamba. There isn’t much grass left on this one. Everyone is quite understanding about it so far. Grazing is a highly guarded affair. The Baker’s even have mzee william's cows on their shamba, for now. Sometimes my head bursts with trying to equal worlds. It doesn’t balance. In the gentle twilight, I saddle up the spotty one, and we head out. We try and work a little in the school ring. But there are too many things to watch – the wide views flung far and beyond, the rainbow, which means there must have been some water falling somewhere out there. We pootle up Baker’s hill. The wind is howling at the top. Wendigo style.  But the horse and I, we don’t care. We stand like Braves, still like boulders, staring narrow eyed at our desert kingdom below. The wind tears at our hair, twists and dances and flattens the dry threadbare grass which the horse nibbles at with long teeth. It will rain again. We must  be patient. We plod home. Happy and full of heart, waiting for the late moon. 

Perhaps it will rain after the next moon. Damian says mid october but then he's always been completely rubbish with weather predictions... I need a sailor's advice. Someone who can see rings around the moon and can tell clouds apart.

toodely toot, y'all. bisous X X X dusty boot ones behind the stables. x j