Middle of the night

Fell asleep like Alice falling down a tunnel. My tunnel was short though and I emerged from it after just a couple of hours. What woke me up? Anxious thoughts or the smell of garlic from the evening’s cooking? Absurdly awake at 12:55 am, I’m currently looking at 12 powerhouse vegetables you should be eating to be super healthy (WebMD). Beetroot greens are one example. Full of Vit K apparently. Beetroot. Such an earthy, Polish peasant-y veg. Used to hate beetroot. Its ever-lasting red stains on my various childish outfits marked the saga of my anti-beetroot rebellion. Next go “microgreens” – what the f is that? Baby versions of bigger things – you find them sometimes in salads served in trendy restaurants with health bells ringing. It’s very annoying actually – the whole idea of a salad. You usually get a few bits and pieces on top of a mountain of green leaves, micro or macro (cost cutting?). How the hell do you eat that lot in a restaurant without making a mess of yourself? I might have a major rant about that one day. OMG, the rest of the listed veggies are all green, kale, spinach, peas, etc. I like green – colour of hope – even though it’s also the colour of mould. Oh, now red peppers, like I didn’t know before. OK, whatever.

Moving on, as my former student used to write in his essays (I told him how much I hated the phrase, yet he insisted. He failed my course, but is now taking his revenge: the bloody thing is stuck in my brain forever). So, moving on to Bertrand Russell – his Decalogue of liberal thinking is an interesting read (included in his article on liberalism published in the NYT in 1951). I like the last commandment:

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

I’m thinking, using the word “commandments” is really quite illiberal, but well, let’s not be too pedantic. As a teacher, I do like this:

The teacher who urges doctrines subversive to existing authority does not, if he is a liberal, advocate the establishment of a new authority even more tyrannical than the old. He advocates certain limits to the exercise of authority, and he wishes these limits to be observed not only when the authority would support a creed with which he disagrees but also when it would support one with which he is in complete agreement. I am, for my part, a believer in democracy, but I do not like a regime which makes belief in democracy compulsory.






Morning walk

A morning walk sets you up for the day. I took one today and the green bits, plus the blue skies, plus the sparkling, shimmering early sunlight, plus the still sleepy birds singing, plus all the random, chaotic but increasingly happy thoughts that flooded my brain as I walked amongst all this beauty – they all fused into a new wave of energy.  My spirit, low though it was before, got lifted. My thoughts took a different path. My heart started beating more regularly and my blood pressure dropped (or so I imagine). All it took was a walk at sunrise. That is the power of nature, stronger than the landscaping meant to tame it. The manicured lawns of my glamorous compound were no different from a jungle. I jumped over a bench and went back home.


My friend Bob the Poet told me about it. A terse verse tercet. Seems related to the Japanese Haiku, but apparently originates from the Philippines. I’ve found an obscure website about it: http://www.baymoon.com, which says the following:

In a traditional Hay(na)ku, there are:

  • 3 lines.
  • A total of 6 words: 1 in the first line, 2 in the second line, and 3 in the third line.
  • There is no restriction on syllables or stressed or rhymes.

Variations include a ‘reverse’ haynaku where the longest line (3 words) is placed at the beginning and the shortest (1 word) at the end of the poem which still has only 6 words in all.

Here is mine this morning (OK, I cheated, ditched an article, used a hyphen, and made the lines look inconsistent):


Sitting motionless

Dead or alive?






I can still see my friend A standing in the door of N’s office, tugging at her abaya and singing “I want to break free”. She did, although it was years before “free” re-entered her dictionary. Now she looks radiant and has a purpose in life. She says it takes her a long time to make a decision, she is slow in weighing out her options and choosing the best one. But once she’s chosen, she goes with it and takes it to its conclusion. Today she showed me a video a friend sent her from Iraq of a glorious sunrise on a farm full of palm trees and chirping, trilling birds. No sound of bombs. Only beauty and freedom. No need for decisions, just breathe in the dawn.

My decisions, if rash, can be like exploding bombs, leaving rubble and devastation, scorched grass, broken glass, injured parties. They are marginally better when I don’t make them immediately, but sleep on them after drinking suitable quantities of thought-inspiring beverages. There is a lot to be said for hangover as a source of insight and serenity.

In general, I think, my decision-making skills are mediocre at best. Therefore I have made a decision not to make decisions. “Don’t rock the boat”, a good friend told me last night. Let the sleeping dogs lie. No decisions. Let it be. I’m feeling decisively mellow having made that decision.


Sleeping and not dreaming

The young ones sleep well

They fall into sleep and sleep in a shell

Still unafraid of the fading light

They dream dreams softly with their young dreaming might

Dreams of mountains un-climbed and oceans un-crossed

Of apples un-eaten and dice still un-tossed

Of lights un-lit and dresses un-made

Sleeping while dreams begin to fade

Not seeing light turn into shade


We envy the young the soundness of sleep

We envy the dreams, the light, and the lightness

We watch them and whisper and even weep

To see encroaching, impending slightness

To see ourselves not long ago

To hear our elders say ‘told you so’


Morning after

After a blast of a Thanksgiving party last night, an unexpectedly early start followed a very late finish. At 4 something this morning a strange noise woke me up, like a thud or crash or something. I was alone in the house and in complete darkness, including that present in my still-inebriated brain. I froze under the duvet and had a rapid succession of not entirely coherent thoughts: what the fk…, a werewolf, giant cockroach, masked intruder robbing me of my bottled goods and sprouting potatoes I keep for a special occasion? Not an awakening one would hope for after a night of imbibing. “Get out you stupid bastard!!”, I shouted in the strongest whisper I could muster. Finally, curiosity replaced fear and I ventured out of the bedroom to discover that Katherine’s bookcase had collapsed under the weight of education: her notebooks from Doha College fell out through the bookcase’s back passage so to speak. Some questions arose from that experience, as I noted on Facebook: What is education really for? Does anyone know a carpenter? Or have a bookcase for sale? 


potatoes bookcase-1 bookcase-2 bookcase-4 bookcase-5 

Lifebelt experience

I tried to explain the power of words to my students the other day. Words, I said, have power in and of themselves (paraphrasing a great writer of course), they create our reality – it does not exist in and of itself, but only through words. They sat in dead silence, but one was less dead than the others. I think her reality came into being at that point.

On a seemingly unrelated topic, I must state here for the record that sometimes one needs a lifebelt to swim to the shore when one is “not waving but drowning”. And sometimes words fail me. That’s when I go back to black and spend money on new clothes. Anyway, my friend Adina is coming over for pre-party drinks shortly. We’ll talk.


“A word has power in and of itself. It comes from nothing into sound and meaning; it gives origin to all things.”

N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain