When words leave a mark…

A chance meeting –  via the ubiquity of the internet – with Yousef Komunyakaa’s  poem ‘Ode to The Drum‘ left an indelible mark on me.

The sheer beauty of the lines,  rich imagery that harks back to a time of hunting for sustenance in Africa and the ritual of drum making are things that I have never been able to forget. In the poem  a hunter kills a gazelle, skins it, and uses its skin for a drum. The hunter maintains an ongoing monologue, almost apologetically stating the case for killing the gazelle. There is meat, and the need to drive trouble from the valley via the beating of a drum. In the process of creating a drum, the gazelle is reborn – from dead weight slouching in the grassy hush to a drum beat filling the valley and exorcising evil. This, to me, is the under-girding theme – transformation; from evil to good, from death to a different sort of life. As the year 2010 wraps up, perhaps the closing lines are apt..

Now I have beaten a song back into you
Rise and walk away, like a panther.

May 2011 be a year to be re-born indeed.

Reflections…. The Year in Happenings..

Having earned (if I say so) the right to put my feet up and relax at the end of what has been a particularly hectic year of working, travelling, reading and volunteering, one has the luxury of reflecting on how the year has panned out on a personal note. This time last year I had just packed up my bags, cut my final ties and jumped on the East Coast train service up north to Aberdeen. There was the small matter of needing to restart life on a number of fronts – new job, new city, new house, new friends and all. The first few weeks took getting used to, especially as the  job description involved a change of focus – from being the bossy, fastidious-to-a-fault, hard to please client to being part of a service delivery team. January was spent managing the work transition, eased somewhat by having the use of shared company accommodation alongside  a colleague with Geordie connections. There were many nights of discussions on a motley of topics well into the night as we both grappled with coming to terms with redemption and second chances –   he after invasive heart surgery, me upon returning to daily work after a messy resignation.

Winter was hard and bitter – the coldest temperatures on record in the city for 20 years by some accounts – were the worst sort of welcome. The Siberian air, usually channelled elsewhere in the winter months somehow got thrust upon us – cue travel chaos, unsafe road conditions, messed up bus schedules and all. Those who would know blame it on high-pressure systems and other fancy stuff, those with a political axe to grind blame the chaos on the ill preparedness of government.

I made the trip back to the North East for nostalgia’s sake. The sameness of it all, almost a full year after leaving,  was a jolt to my constitution. The continuous struggle for survival amidst job searches, mounting bills, and dreams deferred that confronted me back there etched a reminder to thankfulness on my mind afresh.

On the book front, I managed to complete  20 of the 25 books I planned to read this year. The list got chopped and changed all through the year – a chance re acquaintance with the BBC World Service and Off The Shelf brought a couple of seminal Gabriel Garcia Marquez offerings to the fore. Re-reading ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ and ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ as well as finally reading  Gregory David Roberts ‘Shantaram’ ranked up there as highlights of the reading year. On the African reading front, there was Helon Habila’s ‘Measuring Time’ and ‘Oil and Water’ (his 2010 offering), as well as catching up on my Chris Abani backlog. As part of my continuing ‘education’ I saw  ‘The Marriage of Figaro‘ at HMT. I ended up at the Music Hall instead of the Theatre and had to make a dash for it. The opera more than made up for the hassles of finally getting there.

On a less self-involved note, I finally fulfilled a ‘life long’ ambition to sponsor a child via World Vision. Early days on that one so far – but the spectre of eating one less Platter to Share at Nandos being a lifesaver for a kid somewhere else is humbling, if not shocking.

All told its been a fun filled year… 2011 can’t come soon enough it seems..