Writing Exercises

Shouldn’t you be sleeping?

It’s semi dark in this room. A little light filters in through the holes in the blinds on my window. I’ve always wondered why people who want to cause others harm were afraid of the light. Is it the element of surprise? Maybe.

Darkness seems more scary after a movie that focuses on the degenerate nature of twisted human beings. There have been quite a few. They’ve followed unsuspecting women for months, even years and studied their habits. Once the need to kill cannot be suppressed, they take their chance!

However, tonight is one of those nights when the fear of darkness is as rational as poking my eye out with my finger. Science teaches me that in the absence of light darkness must exist. It is just a state of being. There is no in-between place. Either it is dark or there is light. It looks more velvety in my room though. Like it’s flowing about the place in the manner of a dark shadowy ghost. Not the kind that shriek in your ear every time you turn away from them, but more like the kind that will come sit by you and tell you a story of days gone by when all this was inhabited by people who lived close to the earth and had names like Broken Branch, or Strong Toes. I like this kind of darkness.

I remember being in at my grandparent’s house in a small rural town where the night sky was dark enough to see each individual star brilliantly displayed. Like diamonds strewn carelessly about on a velvety cloth. God definitely knew what he was doing! The moon was about as much light as we wanted in order to see the stars and the absence of artificial light made the entire presentation very dramatic. Each star twinkled to it’s own internal beat and I would imagine they were winking at me, daring me to live past the thin layer of breathable air on the surface of the earth, and reach out to discover the secrets they were itching to tell me.

My grandparents house did not have glass windows. Instead the narrow openings were closed using wooden shutters. They were not air tight, but they were strong enough to deter thieves and critters from entering the house. At night the shutters were closed and their house became very dark. As we sat around eating dinner or talking, I would stare at the walls enraptured by the sudden movements of the shadows cast by my family gesturing as they spoke. My Mom’s head would be sharp at one angle and quite oblong when she would turn to speak to someone else. When my grandfather leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and held his Bible in his hands, it seemed like the book became a part of him. Rather than a man holding a book, a strange face would appear just where the book was, creating another alien. As Obloong and his baby brother Bookertoo spoke in strange gurgly language that I couldn’t quite make out, rafters of the roof would distort their shapes and gestures making it impossible to read their body language. Slowly but surely, the thick smell of burning wick and kerosene (which irritated me so) would fade and I’d make up stories in my mind about these weird visitors from outer space.

Darkness. Light. Umbra. Penumbra. Darkness. Light. Zzzzzzzzzz….


Just reminiscing

Growing up sometimes Christmas involved visiting my grandparents who lived in “the village,” a rural town that had no electricity or running water. When my dad finally had a parish in 1988 we stopped going to the village and instead had to figure out a different way to make Christmas exciting.Turns out we were all musically/theatrically inclined and loved to visit one of the bigger churches to see their plays and sing along during their carol services. Dad laid down the law and said it was okay if we visited other churches, but we had to bring back the good stuff and create something interesting for ourselves that we would enjoy. He gave us free rein and we ran with it. Soon every Christmas, Easter and Summer (just for the heck of it, even though there is no summer at the equator) we had a major production that included skits, choreographed dances, tons of singing of all kinds and it was amazing! Friday night of any weekend we chose, we’d have anywhere between 4-5 shows. We brought in the crowds and enjoyed every moment of it.

We’ve gone on to become lawyer, engineer, journalist, worship leader, DJ… and sometimes I find myself longing for those times that we rushed home for dinner after a dress rehearsal, with about 30 cast members of the production, hurriedly devoured the delicious food Mom prepared, ran out of the house promising to do dishes when we got back home and worked hard to calm the crazy chaos of frenzied butterflies that had lodged themselves firmly in our bellies.

It’s Christmas eve. I’m in a new town nearly 8,500 miles and 7 years from those memories, cursing the nearby church for not having Christmas services or Christmas productions I can be a part of. I’m left watching Clash of the Choirs hosted by NBC.

There is the feeling of Christmas at our house. A tree that is decorated and has two boxes underneath it. My best friend worked so hard to get me that tree! Two little friends of mine got me presents and couldn’t wait for me to wake up so I could open them up. Their eagerness to give me presents and their absolute cuteness at keeping it all hush hush so it could be a surprise was so touching. It remained a secret for a week which is pretty awesome for a 4 year old and a 9 year old.

It reminded me of the year my parents introduced secret Santas to us which eventually graduated into a Christmas allowance from which everybody’s presents would come. The excitement at picking out a present for someone and making sure they didn’t see you as you selected flowery handkerchiefs or a perfume or whatever was amazing. Then watching them open the gifts felt even better. I wish I could say that the only motivation was giving gifts. LOL!

Just reminiscing.

For Maureen

We don’t know each other and you’ll probably never read this. I hope you do though. I didn’t come to your wedding because I’m so far away. But you’re the wife of my nephew and therefore my family. In some weird warped sense.

Andrew’s passing (never been able to call him Kats) is devastating and believe me when I say, we mourn with you and feel for you.

Thank the Lord for hope! I thank God for the opportunity we have as believers to look at this as a journey he’s taken, and he just got there before the rest of us did.  I thank God because my turn will come, and those who have been painfully separated from me by this valley will be united with me on the other side.

The choice we make to  continually give of ourselves, our time, our very heart and soul to another person. The cause of immeasurable pain, dizzying heights of ecstasy, a beauty so intense it makes it difficult to look directly at it, the ache that resides in our chests that wriggles and writhes and tortures.

Space and time are meaningless once love enters the room. Hours of conversation seem like a couple of minutes. Passionate lovemaking, a blur of time in which two people are made one whole person. Distance not stretching the devotion and commitment that two people share. Mathematics and physics cannot make sense of it and psychologists pretend that they understand it.

The name of the One who stood at the brink of the valley and held his hand to guide him through it. The name of the One who held you in His arms so you wouldn’t cross it too. The name of the only One who understands your hearts pain at your loss, and understands your choice to love.

Our spirits endure past this useless and frail vessel with which we celebrate life. We must go back to the source of our spirit when this shell is lost which is why everything that ever means anything to us means the complete involvement of our soul, our spirit. The imprint that our experiences make on us do not happen on our bodies, even though we might use them to express it. Love is engaged with our beings which is why death cannot touch it. We carry it for always.

In the stillness, reach out for it. Touch it and celebrate it like you did before.

You are loved… still.

Gayaza kind of morning

Like sleepy zombies that had suddenly espied a good breakfast, the girls in my class from the dormitories close to mine rushed to get to laboratories, outside which our early morning dance classes took place. The morning was overcast and slightly cold and the sleeveless short uniforms we’d been assigned were unable to protect our legs from the cold.

I could faintly see the outline of Ms. Cutler and her faithful dog rush  ahead of us so I took off my rubber slippers and ran to catch up with her so when she called my name during the roll call, I’d be there to quip “Present” in my most cheerful morning voice. By the time I got to the location of the class, my feet were completely wet and some of the grass from yesterday’s mowing had attempted to fashion a sock near my toes. My parents, like many others, couldn’t afford sneakers, but the grass was always so soft it really didn’t matter. Most of our sports were played barefoot.

I stood across from my assigned partner as the classical music we were going to dance to began. Sometimes I led, other times she did. All in all we shed our sleep and let our feet find the rhythm of the music while we twirled and danced to foreign music in the  complicated formations that are usually reserved for period movies. Most of us enjoyed this exercise not only because it meant the half hour reserved for housework was cut short, but also because our bodies enjoyed the rhythms of EarlyMo as we called it.

My housework leader sometimes let me off housework on the days I had EarlyMo. I’d still have to report to whatever location I’d been assigned, but I’d either find she’d done it for me or someone else had done it and I could go clean up the grass that had dried on my feet. This morning was no exception and she sent me off to get ready for a day that was packed full of as many activities and classes as could possibly be crammed into a couple of hours.

The dormitory to which I belonged stood on the edge of the school grounds, close to farmland that was tended to by University Agriculture students. We never saw them there, even though we could see the tall stalks of maize waving in the breeze. Somedays we would sit in the grassy area behind the junior wing and dream of the day when we would become university students too. I jogged all the way back so I could get a spot in the bathroom before housework was over and the bathroom rush began.

The bathroom consisted of two large rooms with a rough floor, a series of taps on one side and a drain that carried the water away. On busy mornings we’d line up to get into the bathroom with our basins or buckets in one hand and loofah and soap in the other. Any semblance of shyness had been erased within the first week of  school and we’d all learned to have a grand old time getting clean and splashing water everywhere. Luckily, there was only one other girl on the senior side of the bathroom and I could take my shower without worrying about a waiting crowd.

Just as I wrapped the belt of my uniform around my waist, the breakfast “gong” pealed out signalling the arrival of tea in the dining room. The gong consisted of an old metal angle bar that would be hit with some other metallic object. For breakfast we’d have numerous choices that we could pick up and then carry back to our dorms and depending on the amount of time that had elapsed since your folks had been to see you, it could be a breakfast of champions, supplemented with goodies brought from home or just a cup of lukewarm tea.

Tea was served in large saucepans that were placed on the tables with metal jugs. On one end the senior saucepans stood, on the other end were the junior saucepans and in the kitchen, the A-Level students poured tea out of a dispenser into their cups. Sometimes weak maize porridge or millet porridge or soya porridge was served. Towards the end of breakfast time, evidence of sloppy serving and unstable hands and feet was on the floor of the dining room or on the way to the dorms.

My parents visited my sisters and I every fortnight, bringing with them fresh fruit, toasted loaves of bread and cookies which my mother preferred to make rather than buy. I sat on my bed with my rapidly cooling cup of tea and simultaneously read from part 2 of one of Jeffery Archer’s novels while nibbling on a cold, but fairly delicious slice of bread that had been toasted with margarine.

The tea always had a musky wood flavor since it was prepared on a wood stove and the fresh milk that was purchased from the agriculture school close by also had a distinctive flavor. It complimented my toast and lifting my eyes briefly from the adventure of Archer’s hero, I smiled contentedly and thought, my life is good.


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