The Year of the Toothache

2013 began with a toothache.

A terrible, pounding toothache. A toothache that kept me awake all night. I was travelling to India in a few weeks and had to find a quick solution to the pain. I gargled with whisky and ate cloves. But the pain wouldn’t go away. My wisdom tooth wanted out.  Thankfully,  my tooth was pulled out without surgery, so my recovery was quick and relatively painless.   I found my facebook status from the first week of 2013 and it might as well have been a premonition for the year:

Facebook Status

Being uncomfortable is part of the human condition.  But staying miserable about being uncomfortable is a choice. 

A few weeks after writing that facebook status, I was off to India for the Jaipur Literature Festival ( a dream of mine for a long time).  We visited Delhi, Ajmer, Pushkar and Jaipur all within a couple of weeks. It was a journey of career highlights (reading in front of 1500+ people, sharing the stage with some of the finest poets in the world) and personal milestones (holding up my khata for H.H Dalai Lama, bowing to Ani Choying, visiting the Ajmer Sharif).

Mom & I in Ajmer
Mom & I in Ajmer

I spoke to students at JECRC University about the Idle No More movement in Canada and how they too can become catalysts for change in the home of my ancestors. I also learned, firsthand, about the consequences of words. The physical consequences. Before taking the stage for a panel/reading,  we were warned that protestors might heckle us or throw shoes at us. I was escorted by bodyguards after signing books. At another reading tent, a prominent speaker was taken into police custody and interrogated.

Be prepared for unpredictability. Nothing is certain, nothing is guaranteed. Be vigilant, be skillful.

Reconnecting with nature.

If you look at some of my previous posts, you’ll see that this year has been a year of land art for me. Exploring, walking, hiking, canoeing…finding my place back in nature and not being afraid of what it has to offer, even if it’s unpleasant. Nature became more than scenery for me. It is a teacher.

Youth Poetry Retreat
Youth Poetry Retreat

And sometimes the lessons aren’t glaringly obvious or profound. Sometimes they’re as simple as a wing nut, a branch covered in slick ice, or a yellow leaf. Nature allowed me to create from it, and give my creations back to it. As a writer who is obsessed with finding the perfect words and crafting perfect sentences, I had to let go of perfection.

Learn to let go of what you create. You can’t control how it’s received. Let the wind take it. 

Coming back home.

Returning to Kenya after many years apart- how do I even put the feeling in words? With my newfound respect and love for nature, I was able to fully immerse myself in Kenya’s natural beauty, and to honour the land through mandala offerings.

Mandala offering in Eldoret, Kenya

Lying in the grass in my grandmother’s garden, collecting shells during  low tide, hearing the huff of buffaloes in the middle of the night, hugging nieces and nephews who have grown past my memory of them, recalling childhood stories with my cousins, sipping real Kenyan coffee & tea, having fascinating conversations with my uncles & aunts, spotting the Sleeping Warrior mountain for the first time, spending all day chatting with poets and writers…and the list goes on.

As the trip came to a close and we were packing to leave, we heard that the airport had caught on fire and no planes would be leaving for at least a few days. After standing in a long lineup at the airline office to find out that we’d have to take a bus to Arusha to board a flight that might’ve left without us,  we decided to stay.  More cups of coffee to be had, more hugs to share, more time with friends and family. But then, a day turned into a week. Work was pending, deadlines were looming. After countless calls to the airline contact, my aunt was able to secure us a flight to Toronto. But our flight to our stopover was late, and we nearly missed the connecting flight. We made it just in time.

The Westgate mall attack happened a month after we returned to Toronto.

The only reality is impermanence. The sooner you accept it, the less you will try to resist it. 

2014 SJ website greeting

To the family who has supported my craziness, the new friends, the old friends, the silent readers, the supporters, the audience members, the event organizers, the fellow artists, the collaborators, the facilitators and the teachers:

Thank you for including me in your year.

And here’s my motto for 2014:

“Ships in harbour are safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”- John Shedd.

One thought on “The Year of the Toothache

  1. It is nice to know that the toothache was gone and the recovery is immediate. I also experience a toothache before when I eat something hard. Somehow I cracked my wisdom tooth while eating and I have to endure the pain. It is good that the pain is gone after my appointment with a dentist.

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