Saturday, March 28, 2015

Almost Ordinary

I flew out of Tanzania on a warm March night.  Clearing immigration 26 hours later at LAX, my parents whisked me home for a cup of tea and the world's fastest shower before I went directly to my friend's salon for a much needed hair cut.  (Thanks, Laura!)

Next morning, we were on our way to Seattle where I had the great pleasure of helping with the wedding of My Niece Elise and her Good Man Drew.

As I enjoyed extended family, smooth roads, sweater weather, the Seattle vibe and umbrellas, Byron carried on as per the usual in Tanzania.

And it's the usual that has given me pause this morning.

The usual.

In the first 48 hours, Byron reported the following...

*He came upon a car that had skidded on loose gravel and rolled off our road.  He attached a tow strap and pulled it back up onto its wheels.  The people were shaken but not badly hurt.  They were, of course, incredibly thankful for the uprighting.  I'm not sure how long they would have been there if someone hadn't come along with a little gear and know-how.

*The dogs got into a ferocious barking fit and, upon investigation, Byron realized there was a rabid dog provoking them through the fence.  They were all greatly intent on killing each other through the chainlink, and one of the most determined Jack Russells was just about to make it under.  There is, of course, no one to call in a situation like this, so Byron went out and dispatched the poor rabid creature.  He used what he had on hand, which was a fine old Maasai spear.

*Driving to work the next day, he passed a terrible bus accident on the road into town.  The killer buses careen at high speeds and we can only shake our heads.  This one did not manage to deliver its passengers safely to their destination.  Very sad :(

What struck me was not the individual pieces of news, none of which are things we haven't seen before.  Instead, it was the almost ordinariness of their occurrences.  It wasn't that Byron was blas√© about them, because he sincerely was not.  It was more that they were part and parcel; par for the course.  They fall into the category of unavoidable realities that you can't be shocked and stopped by or you'd be perpetually shocked and stopped.

But from this vantage point of comfort, this place where the bar for normal is set so very much higher, I read his texts and do wonder at the difference location makes in the "normals" of life.  It's flabbergasting, really.

There is a calming kind of normal here that I confess I can't help but enjoy.  Yet much as I appreciate the absence of rabid dogs trying to get through the fence, there are some simple, rich realities I'm pressed to find in this developed world.

Food, for instance... Is it real?

Don't get me wrong-- I love the ease of tearing open packages of frozen berries, cut mango and other smoothie joys, but there's something viscerally assuring about the messiness of food that is closer to its original state.  In Africa, I cut into ripe mangos, slicing the meaty flesh and dropping pieces into the blender as the sweet sticky juice runs to my elbows.  Each chunk is slippery slick, and tastes sublime.

Unless, of course, I happen to get a bad one.  Yes, there are times I find the wiggling presence of tiny worms and have to discard parts of the beautiful fruit, but local produce is warm and vital in my hands.  Nothing looks perfect, but the blemishes remind me that life is bruising and rich, tasty and tarnished all at once.  I can taste its fullness.  The ripened and over ripened fruit, the freshly butchered meat (blood, sinew, feathers and all) is anything but pale and packaged.

The juicy, messy, richness of real (wherever we are) is sweet and savory, wormy and wonderful.

I could call it almost ordinary, but there doesn't seem to be anything ordinary about it.


dana said...

This is perhaps the most beautiful piece of writing that I have read in a very, very long time...

lisa said...

Thank you, dear Dana! That's quite a compliment.

Julie Clark said...

Hi Lisa! I am so happy to have found your blog. I was reading parts of your beautiful book at a friends lake house. Your poetry really hits deep in my soul. I can so relate to this piece on "Almost Ordinary". We have spent many years in Central Asia and China. We have actually met. Bill and I and our then baby Michael,(now 31!) lived behind your parents for over a year in the 80's. I also have a blog:
I would love to "put the kettle on" and have a long chat with you sometime!
Julie Clark

lisa said...

Hi Julie! i remember when you and Bill lived in the back apartment :) Our oldest son is living there right now with his wife as they expect their first. The pattern of blessing continues :)

Nice to hear from you after so many years and so great to hear you're enjoying the book! I am always very encouraged to hear it's meaningful to someone. I'll make sure to check out your blog.

Hello from my folks! Blessings. lisa