I don’t remember ever smelling a raw leak before.
I’m sure I had smelt a raw leak before, but it wasn’t memorable, and I hadn’t done it like this. Anyway why would you? I hated leaks as a child, their slimyness like dungeon gunk once cooked, and even now I mostly tolerate them, masked inside soups and greater dishes that can overpower them.
But today I really sniffed it, drawing in the sweet, zesty spray that seemed to be just puffing out of its freshly cut stem.
Of course it wasn’t the leak that started it, that was the turmeric — fresh organic turmeric I’d just discovered for the first time, that got me hunting around for more vegetable pleasures.
What is turmeric? To me it had it always been yellow powder in a little glass bottle with a plastic top that you buy from the supermarket. I wouldn’t know an actual turmeric plant if one passed me in the street. In fact I still haven’t seen a full turmeric plant but I do now know what the yellow dried powder’s made from — the root. Knobbly, a bit like ginger but thinner and the skin a nuttier brown. I have clasped my own eyes on one, or five in fact, which I’d just brought back from the shop.
Good for curries, yes. But I hadn’t expected to be making a turmeric drink. Yet here I was, with a freshly made cup of warm homemade tea with freshly cut ginger root, and freshly cut turmeric root, with a dazzle of honey thrown in for sweetness. I’m still sipping the last of it slowly, savouringly, as I write these words — and I can tell you it is D. I. V. I. N. E.
How did I come to be making this drink? I won’t pretend it’s an original concoction. But like many of the best ideas, I found it in the wee small hours. Why was I up at 3am on a Thursday morning? I couldn’t sleep because I was sick.
The conventional explanation is I’ve had a bad coldy virus the past six days. In my case it’s led to the creation of industrial amounts of mucus (yes, there’s mucus in this blog, surely not enough written about it?!), which in turn led to me having a near-constant gut-sucking cough. (Cue: google search for remedies, of which turmeric is one – it’s even an antibiotic.) I’ve been pretending that’s the illness that’s been waking me up at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning every one of these last nights, and to some degree it has.
But the way I really feel is, I’m flushing out a deeper sickness that’s been waking me each night, and the fresh turmeric and the ginger and the leaks and the walk to get them are the cure, in a surface sense and a deeper one.
My wife and I are packing up our life in London and making a big, big move not just physically away, but towards reconnecting with nature, with our joys and fire, with the wildness that runs through all of it.
As I write in front of me are a pile of boxes, much of our stuff ready for moving and a load more has gone to charity shops, recycling, or the rubbish dump.
Although I can’t see it so visibly, what I’ve felt coursing through me — and out of me in the streams of mucus — is what my soul has needed to dump, recycle or give away too.
My response to being ill this week has been pretty textbook: like I usually do I started out donked in front of endless shit TV and movies, seeking out sweet and fatty foods to comfort stroke my sorry-for-myselfness, and then too soon I tried to do too much and went back to work when in my body I knew I wasn’t yet well. (All of this was mitigated to some extent by my amazing wife insisting on cooking healthy food and encouraging me to rest, but generally I stayed disconnected from how I felt.)
Then last night I faced up to how crap I was really feeling. I was due to be going to Bristol for a job interview today — a round trip of 9 hours all told, which I could only do if I had energy, and if I wasn’t yet well I would definitely feel worse afterwards. I asked myself what I needed and my body came back with a quick and unequivocal answer: rest and heal.
And as I listened and I followed the answer and I just stopped, I felt the flood of deeper sickness come through me. Most of it I can’t put into words, partly because I’m still in it — like it’s much harder to take a photo of a river while you’re swimming through the rapids than standing on the shore. It’s fragments and feelings.
The head-yness of most of the work I do — like a pinball bouncing round and down and round in my brain — without the visceral satisfaction of doing something physical…
The prepackaged plasticness of food on supermarket shelves…
The noise and frustration and sad tiredness I see on so many city faces…
The way you can be in a room or a tube carriage or a pub and see every pair of eyes glued to a tiny screen that shouts “notifications” at them…
As I walked to buy provisions to help me heal, I felt so many joys too though.
The feel of my body moving, warmed by itself and warm in the afternoon sunlight…
The smiling thanks of a stranger as I moved to let them pass when others ignored them…
The water of the canal I walked past…
The joy and hope of the way things could be…
…And the zingy delight of a freshly cut leak and a turmeric root, natural and resplendent and lifegiving, like the longlost friends a weary traveller is searching for.
Conventionally, I’ve “caught the cold that’s going round”. More deeply, I feel for a long time I caught a deeper illness that’s been going round too. Slowly I feel both coming out.
Time to heal.