Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chewing sponge

Questions infect my mind these days.  What is my purpose in life, for example.  More specifically: what job would suit me, and still allow me to support my family?   I wonder if I have guts and endurance to do those scary, tedious things necessary for changing career. For several stressful months, I have actively sought, googled, conversed, and outlined. Now, in honor of the first full day of winter vacation,  I have decided to leave questions alone.  Instead, I shall focus on one of my favorite rituals: teeth cleaning.

 In Ghana, our hosts used toothpaste and toothbrush, but many people still use traditional methods to maintain oral hygiene. Near the toll booth on the way from Tema to Accra, we saw several vendors weave through motorway traffic with baskets of chewing stick . I never tried chewing stick, but have developed a chewing sponge habit.

   A friend gave me a large quantity of chewing sponge, or kotsa.  I  chew at night when I have more time. Chewing sponge has become a favorite ritual.  At first the stuff has an unpleasant, acrid taste, but the meditative process of chewing and spitting is enjoyable.  If I skip kotsa for too long my teeth go back to feeling weak, and overly sensitive.  The toothpaste/toothbrush method requires less time, but  doesn't make my teeth feel as clean: it's also a ritual, but not one where I have time to get lost in thought.

   I believe that rituals, like dreams, have power to silence nervous minds, and open space so that truth may speak clearly.  So, here's my winter vacation experiment. This week I'll do no active work toward answering  questions. Time will be for daughters and for winter rituals like scraping ice, stamping down snow with boots, knitting through old movies, and chewing sponge.  I believe that answers, or at least solid new insight, will appear by the new year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New season

Walking across an empty lot into biting wind, I saw the man who lives in the woods near our school.  The man stood alone talking, but moved outside of himself to say hello to me.  I recognized myself in the way he pursued his conversation. Sometimes, I talk to myself  too.  I bought us both coffee and doughnuts at the 7-11, then walked into a warm, still viable (at least until June) classroom.