Be wary of joy without a source tangible, she cautions
You can’t trust a happiness that shows up without announcement, he says
But when lockstep, good intentions and plans shuffle to a side
And happiness decides to betray your professionally curated excuses for misery
Your heart chooses to celebrate without asking permission of circumstances
And your soul goes rogue on the confederacy of gloom, by blessing the Lord
When joy sneaks up on you through doors you didn’t realize were open
And strength shows up after you forget to issue it an invite
With no recourse to facts, it unfurls warmth within you
In unassuming state of bliss, it spites pain
And flat-lines the confusing beeps of life’s highs and lows, ushering in shhhh…peace.
Although I have recently become painfully aware of climate change challenges and hope to talk about it on the blog at some point, that is not what the blog title is about.
It is about over 4 years of crickets going off on this page.
The things that can happen in a year, have happened 4 to 5 times over, without some kind of record.
Once I hit the 12-month mark of absence, it became easier to stay away rather than try again and be inconsistent.
I convinced myself it didn’t matter if I stayed away. I lied.
It does matter to me, because I love to do this and it makes my days more fulfilling, when I do. And because this probably makes some difference, however small, in the world.
It takes a lower temperature to keep an icy state, but when it gets hotter, the iciest of them all start to sweat. The intention is to ramp up the temperature (in my life and on the blog, hopefully) and get some writing activity going, break some ice, maybe even pop some cubes into a cup of *gaari, y’know. We’ll see.
And I hope to not just pick up from where I left on the blog, but to possibly take this in a whole new direction. What’s it they say about under-promising and over-delivering?
If you’re reading this, thanks for dropping by. Nice to have you here. Hope you see something you like!
Finally, after an approximate 3-year hiatus, I’d like to say : Hello again, world!
*gaari – Processed Cassava flakes
I first put up this piece as a Facebook note last year, the thoughts expressed persist till date and I still find myself marvelling at the unique dynamics at work in the ancient city of Ibadan, Oyo state, Nigeria.
Do dig in, please. Bon appetit 🙂
running splash of rust
and gold – flung and scattered
among seven hills like broken
china in the sun.
– J.P Clark
There is a song by a female American singer about New York City, it talks about how the streets of New York make you feel like you can do anything and how its lights inspires.
Whenever I travel the streets of Ibadan(the largest Western African city), the song often plays in my subconscious.
Suffice it to say, in the city of Ibadan, the lights will inspire you.
A different species of light maybe.
Embers of coal from the grilled plantain seller; glowing stumps of carelessly tossed cigarettes and mid-road bonfires; flashlight held with the mechanic‘s teeth under broken down vehicles; and lone commercial bikes in the middle of a darkened road.
The lights will inspire you.
Flashy outfits and sequined dresses on motorcycle; colourful epithets from angry road users; and rows of grand architectural designs with sudden break-ins of tattered taverns.
The lights and sights will inspire you.
Hawkers prodding you in the face with different products, faceless men excusing themselves in unseen disabilities, asking for money; calloused hands, dark faces, hopeful faces, hardened faces, soft hearts; people on roads going somewhere, coming from somewhere, or having nowhere to go.
It has got to inspire you.
A city knit into a mat of peoples, cultures, stories and places delicately interwoven into a vibrant energy.
Ibadan at dusk is a silent opera of light-spangled darkness; there are rude interruptions of expansive darkness by brightly shining bulbs. A vast collage of wealth and squalor; bustling life and hustling lull, expensive light and costly darkness.
Interestingly, the evening merely continues a story that the dawn started, and the noon gives stage lights to, because suddenly:
From the spread of rusty corrugated roofs of ancient ancestry, haggard looking structures that seem like they were hurriedly thrown together, there would often stand the sudden startling beauty of some architectural ingenuity.
Some form of sanely planned and well executed projects make an appearance with no prior warnings in the middle of obvious disorganization, and it warms your heart. It catches and holds your attention; it can go as far as to stimulate your imagination and quicken your heartbeat. It is welcome and welcoming. It is beautiful. It is inspiring (?)
Sadly though, it is often not the lights of Ibadan that inspire as much as it is the darkness. The people whose reality the dark has become, the ones that have been robbed of light by insensitive and unfaithful mansion dwellers holding office- the 100watts bulbs that betrayed public trust; the sirens and endless convoys that go home to generators fuelled by the sweat and blood of the city’s poor.
Souls live in darkness of human making, while people that could have been of help chose to turn a blind eye.
A day for the people and her government shall come. Today is the day to challenge the lights of the world shining.
Howdy Light? How do you affect the darkness that’s around? What can you do (to help) that you’re not doing?
How much inspiration can an onlooker garner from your illumination?
You belong on the lampstand, where city slickers like Mary J. and I can see by your shine, not in hiding. Stop cursing the darkness when you can light a candle!
There is enough light in you to power up the world.
This creation still wait on you to manifest, oh light. Inspire us!
As I make my way back to my seat in the midst of the rousing ovation, the small voice was unmistakeable, it was insistent and clear.
“Well?” the voice says
“Well, wow!” I say, “This is some great reception. Are you seeing this? Almost everyone is on their feet clapping” I continue.
I hear the dry chuckle in my heart.
“Huh huh, and you made certain you did not say a word of what you were suppose to.”
I carefully take my seat, adjust my cuffs, and make a show of rearranging the sullen looking cutlery on the table- which seem to have perked up with interest at the conversation (or is that reflection from the sunshine whose cunny rays have somehow boycotted the barricade of the heavy shutters?)
The ambience in the room is great, the lights are low, the mood is relaxed and everybody is friendly; back pats, handshakes, air kisses and almost warm hugs.
“You were given an in-season word for some in this room, and you traded that for intelligent sounding vowels and impressive consonants, because you doubted the acceptance of the original message.
That was a brilliant talk, but sadly, you’ve hardly taken a seat, and it’d probably be the camcorder alone that remembers what you said and is truly affected by it.
You see, God’s word (read message) never goes empty, His counsel is ever sure, His division is precise and His direction, accurate. He backs up what He says with power and whom He sends, with authority. Did He endorse what you just said?”
“Okay” I silently retort, “so maybe I didn’t exactly say what needed to be said out there, but I emphatically implied it.
Potential connection to big players in this continent is just an introduction, or a nod of acknowledgement away in a place like this”
“Besides”, I continue, “I think there are certain things that are basic knowledge, going on about them would look like I didn’t know my onions, my brilliance was under a laser microscope out there.
The way I see it, that was a make or break speech. It determines whether I am in or out, and if I am out, how can I ever reach them for God?” I rush on to respond, in time to catch the admiring glance and silent courtesy of the beautiful wife of a well known politician.
“So it’s about your status then? You say IT determines…?”
“No, no”, I cut in, “ it is not about my status. But you have taught that wisdom is profitable to direct, and I simply employed wisdom there.”
In a gentle but firm voice, he says, “It’s interesting that you choose to employ wisdom rather than allow wisdom ’employ’ you. Have you forgotten who the person of wisdom is?
Christ is wisdom; the word of God. He is understanding and direction”
I adjust on the seat, “What I meant to say is: of course, He is my priority”.
“What do you think is His priority?
People! They are the subject of Love’s unfailing affection. You. Them. Your well being in every facet of life.
People. Everyday people: the bigwigs that many feel too awed to talk to about Christ, the homeless bum you’re too pious to give a kind word; the teary eyed other at the Hospital gate, the tattered kid, the old man, the bubbly youth, the jaded divorcee, the man in the prestigious white house, Mr CEO, Miss celeb, the Forbes list-er… they are all just humans, mortals, hurting, needing help somewhere and needing God.
The precious souls behind the sunglasses and rafter caps; them in the latest model cars and designer labels; and the ones in the scorching sun and on bare foot. They are all the same priority on God’s list and He loves them and has had His love commended towards them. The word is His way of reaching out, because he wants them to know how He loves them.
Besides, as basic as basic knowledge sounds, not everybody has it. What you’ve taken for granted since you were barely a boy could be a surprising, life altering insight to a 60 y/o somewhere.
Stop psychoanalysing God’s ways and intent, just open your mouth, let Him fill it. There is enablement and life in God’s word…”
There I am, I just gave the most impressive speech of my life and had the room on its feet, but I knew in my heart that I had hidden the truth. In the hope of affiliations- of nuisance value- and some crumbs of stale bread, I had chosen to scratch itching ears rather than feed hungry hearts. In a haystack of ‘intelligence’, I had set the truth ablaze.
But it will not die, the truth will not disappear just because I had been disobedient about sharing it. It will forever the truth remain.
The next speaker walked on stage after an impressive heralding bio was read and the thunder of applause swallowed up my thoughts. Until another time.
With a word, a pink hammer,
apples of gold and silver frames
**Beep… beep beep… beep beep beep… FOUND!
My first ever guest blogpost on here! And it has the double satisfying pleasure of being written by an uber amazing friend of mine. His mind is a treasure field and I absolutely love it. I would blaze his identity in liquid gold and diamond stones, but he prefers to go by ‘Anonymous’ -wealthy people do that, you know 😉
Er, this is still a copyrighted piece though.
If you’re reading this guest blogger, thank you, you are Midas.
I hope his brilliance touches you as deeply as it does me. Stop all movements (except for your scrolling fingers’), this one will require your concentration. Good. Now, enjoy his contribution.
I know I said my tale wasn’t epic, but it seems ironical that epic is the way that I’ve decided to explain myself.
I find it the most apt.
How else am I to attempt to explain the calm and not-so-calm state of mind in which I find myself? In this instance, I’m not anxious, it’s just, that calm must switch to aggressive soon. And it seems somehow funny that one knows he’s about to get agitated in say 10 seconds, and for the first 9 seconds he sits apparently unperturbed; as quiet as you may want. Not baring teeth from the 3rd second to show any indication of intent as the canines would do.
So here’s the epic: I am the member of an army… Hannibal is at the Gates… and I’m one of the brave, (or is it choice-less?), men who get the honour of being the welcome committee, frontline, all in a day’s work, I suppose.
One way or the other, by mutual agreement or through a consideration of history’s repetitive patterns we know that no terms have been sought and none given. The relentless drumming and banging of their improvised brass knocker has since gone from being a startling interruption, to an incessant noise, to an ominous sign, to psychological torture, to the normalcy of a pained reality…the dulcet tones of a sadist’s lullaby: harbinger of something inevitable.
With every hit, the gates creak, the beams rattle, the posts give in a little, but the structure holds.
Extra rickety this morning our age-old gate is.
Mine eyes, and those of the myriad others around me behold no illusions: these proud gates will come down this day! So we stand. With hoisted shields and girded loins, uneasy smiles and nervous glances, endless cycles of the cresting and falling of our courage. Unearthly sounds carry over the walls…” but that’s just our ears playing tricks, it’s humans on the other side” *then with a faltering smile* “or is it?”
By the way we have spent our time, we’re as prepared as we’re going to be.
Which is about as comforting as it is not. And so we wait, calm yet not so calm. It is nothing less than this situation requires. When these gates come crashing down, we know the gloves will come off. And as most seasoned veterans would tell you, your carefully laid out plans take on the persona of treacherous comrades and race full throttle into the chaotic courts where Lord Murphy presides. Out with the calm and in with the aggression; passivity will be your epitaph! You will conquer OR you will be conquered. Logistically simple.
I, and the men that surround me, am jolted from my reverie by yet another thud. No different from the hundreds that have preceded it… not different- not in any way explicable, that is.
It begins as a whisper and then very quickly gathers pace. Hannibal must’ve heard it too for his forces abruptly halt their efforts. Now everyone stands motionless as it reverberates: the piercing shriek of a deafening silence. Then in a flurry of activity the helmets come on and the swords drawn.
We know without a doubt that the next hit will be the last.
Silent prayers uttered, some…that the next hit would not come. Some, that it comes so that the torture can end either way. And yet some, simply for their courage to hold as it’s clear to see why the next hit must/will come.
And then it comes. For the fleetest of seconds all eyes shut as each man receives his answer. Even before the gates hit the ground what is to come flashes before our closed lids: The first “hellos” are exchanged as arrows whizz past. Some finding their mark, the bulk splintering off shields and cannoning off the walls. And then the charge with the war cry (the only thing powerful enough to propel men into such…dare I call it madness). As the seconds race by the distance between both raging armies shrinks rapidly. Maintain the pace else you be stampeded by your on-coming army.
All thought condenses into a single moment, and just like that you’re out of time; distance erased…you can tell the colour of your enemies pupils. Shields up… anticipating the collision of wills. A sharp intake of breath… the fray.
Are you ready?
Psalms 137 to 126
Day after day, we would sit by the rivers of the present, forlorn and lost in daydreams and wistful memories of the past.
We remembered all we have been taught. The stories we have heard and virtues to hold dear; songs we have sung- sweet music and beautiful melodies. Joy dried up in our bones, our hearts choked with emotions and tears freely coursed down our faces.
We shared, soliloquised, mused, ranted, dreamed, teared up and prayed. We saw ourselves free; free to live, free to love, free to have dreams and high expectations, free to be (all that we were made to be).
With longings for the days of plenty, we fantasized about overflowing vats and brimming barns, honeycombs and rich corn. We had reveries of family gatherings, ringing laughter and children’s squeal of joy.
Strangers shared glad tidings from lands afar, several others around us popped merry wine and broke celebratory bread. But we silently panted for hearts to sing and make merry, for surely, this is not all there is to us: We shall have His promises take on flesh in us too?
We would sit, not for an affinity for nature, nor overwhelming love for the beauty of the gliding mass of liquid that refused to sweep our amassing miseries along its tides.
The waters have a freedom we hoped for; its majestic expanse invites, flirts, caresses, refreshes and energizes. An harbinger of life, it is unassuming in peace, but formidable in wrath. We wished for a life similar to its’.
disadvantage point, we remembered not just the glitters and gores of a past gone by but we dreamt of the future that may never be.
Strolling in the alley of miseries and darkened shadows of death’s hangout, we dared to hope, we dared to believe, we dared to dream. Every season we did, but nothing seemed to change.
Our backsides burned abiding imprints in the sands of the shore and its surrounding low hills.
We sang kumbaya and our stooped, meditative stance invited curious glances and parties of pity.
Some drew near, questioned us, grieved with us, but still, could not help us; others’ mocking shrieks of laughter haunted our sleepless nights.
You would please understand why we had to pinch ourselves, slap our own cheeks, rub our eyes and do double takes just to be sure:
For when the Lord turned around history, when the pains left and the lines fell into brilliant places, it looked too much like our dreams! Our endless riverside dreams- drenched in tears and sorrowful melodies, an eulogy of stolen innocence, shattered hope, botched plans, lost purpose, interrupted happily-ever-afters and incapacitated visions.
Dreams written in agonizing tears but cast in joy, hatched in the dark of night but screened in the light of day. Produced at the dusk of draining hope, and premiered in the dawn of new beginnings; our secret (night) songs taken up by a heavenly choir.
It was our dream come-to-life but we almost could not believe it. Our fortunes were restored but much more, a new beginning heralded. The awesome things we heard of became our experience and our experience became others’ desire.
We pinch-slapped and blinked, called and texted, IM’ed and DM’ed, asked passers-by to double check for us and eventually, we confirmed and accepted that it was reality afterall.
Our hearts burst within us in amazement and laughter spilled forth from us like the waterfalls.
From our hearts, it filled our mouths, our souls, our environments and even the cloud above us was precipitated with joyous laughter.
We took down our hung harps and cloven tongue, we sang and the nations were bewildered. Our preciously borne seeds, sown in tears have doubtless become glorious sheaves which we joyfully bear- along with this report: “The Lord has done great things for us, wherefore we are glad!”
Yesterday, after a protracted battle over television rights, you managed to negotiate a one-hour deal for the afternoon. We obliged and retired to our room to read. I came out for a drink of water and was surprised to not hear the usual raucous sounds of Curious George or Yo Gabba Gabba. Instead, there was silence. A beam of afternoon sunshine streamed in through the window illuminating a small patch of floor where you sat quietly. Reading a book. Whispering each word along your steady and determined progress through the sentence. I remember not paying attention to what the book was about, I was simply transfixed by the sight I’ve just described. In a few short moments you took me back to some of my childhood’s happiest memories.
You probably don’t realize what an important moment this is, for you and for your parents. We started to get…
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