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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

blogging off for a while

I've sprained the middle finger of my left hand. I'm left handed. I knew how much I relied on the hand - I just never realized how much I did with that particular finger. Until now, when it throbs and winces at each impact and flexion. How many times in a day it hit the keyboard, curled around objects, moved, twisted, executed.

So until I've rested, iced, compressed, elevated, and splinted it back to full health, I won't be posting blog entries.

A thought to leave you with, though:

If you hear a story, you are indebted to others, and should tell your own story.

Wangari Maathai


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

in the next 15 days I have to

send out dozens of DVDs and press packets for Migritude
follow up with every one who was interested in Migritude at the NPN Annual Meeting
get submissions in for 6 fellowships / residencies / festivals
rehearse and prepare for the San Francisco show on Dec 1
do interviews and tapings for KQED's Spark show
do several other interviews
pack up all my belongings
put them in storage
sell all my furniture
move out of my house
prepare to leave the country for 3 months
stay standing until I get on the plane on Dec 7

Monday, November 20, 2006

I leave bindis

on mirrors all over the country. Like fingerprints. They are my tagline:

Shailja was here. She forgot to take her bindi with her.

it's the ghee

that makes me cry.

Not the soft wedge of dust that comes off on my finger when I run it along the bathroom railing. In all the years I have visited my eldest aunt, now 73, first in Ohio, now in North Carolina, I have never found dust on any surface of her home. I have rolled my eyes at her compulsive (to me) cleanliness.

Not that she asks me what else, beside tape, will clear the blackheads on her nose. And I am shocked to realize that at 73, near-crippled with osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, struggling with chronic pain, she still cares how she looks. To herself. In the mirror. I am angry at my own shock, my failure to open my heart and imagination fully, to her internal and external world.

Not the savings coupons she's clipped and piled carefully on the table for me. Coupons for electric toothbrushes, fabric softener, makeup - the kinds of things I thought you would use. Why pay extra money?

Not the pile of wheat flour rotlis, millet flour rotlas, coriander-studded theplas she insists I must take home with me. She calls up the Gujurati woman from across the apartment complex. Asks her to come over and make them, for my niece from San Francisco who doesn't have time to cook. This woman, recent immigrant from India, has 3 children, and an unemployed husband. She works 2 jobs - one at Wendy's, one at a catering company - and squeezes out hours in-between to cook for my aunt what my aunt can no longer cook for herself. As they come off the griddle hot, my aunt spreads ghee over each rotli and rotlo. The next day, she counts them out into travel-size stacks - nine in this one, eleven in this one, for your sister. Wraps each stack in cling film. Then silver foil. Then ziploc bags, to go into my suitcase.

But it's the ghee that makes me cry. When she asks me to unwrap sticks of butter, pile them into her largest pot. All the memories I have of my parents making ghee when I was a child. The way it simmered on the stove, the milk solids rising to the top in thick white-yellow foam. Skimming off that almost-crust to leave a deep, translucent, glowing well of golden liquid.

Ghee is still the taste of comfort for me. Heaven on hot fulka rotlis. Deep nourishment on a bowl of rice, at 2am, when my body's too tired to digest anything more complex. Ayurveda calls it the elixir of life.

My mind is throwing up broken phrases of poem, metaphor, image. Something about clarifying. About what keeps, what we throw away, what stays golden and liquid. Something about love. Something about home. Something about what we run from, return to, can never forget.

Something about the ghee. That makes me cry.
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