The grief comes in waves

The grief comes in waves. I was doing okay, having tea, cleaning up, and then Roshani called. Thankfully, her family there is okay, but she is shaken, of course. The diaspora Sri Lankan Catholics are feeling it heavily; it must be so much worse for those who are there. Kavi was getting ready for school while I was talking to Roshani; she overheard the conversation, and interrupted to ask if all of our family was okay.

I had asked Kevin to talk to her, and he had, but I guess Kavi wanted to hear it from me — she’d apparently been on CNN’s website too, and one of her teachers had asked her about it. I tried to warn her to be careful of what she read online, that even generally good news sources like CNN sometimes got things wrong, because those journalists are just people too, carrying their own biases and assumptions. I don’t think I reassured her very much. I hate that Kavi has to think about these things already. I hate that these things exist.

And then I went to Trader Joe’s, and got coffee and berries and chocolates for today’s writing retreat, and I was doing okay again, until I saw their sample, of chili-lime seasoning mix, and I tried a bit of it that they’d put out on pineapple, and it was delicious and it tasted exactly like home and it made me want to cry.

I spent the rest of my shopping trip starting to write in my head a little capsule history of Sri Lankan history, because while many of you kindly reassured me the other day that it’s not my job to educate people on this — it kind of is my job.

I’m a writer, and a professor, and I studied Sri Lankan history in large part so I could both understand it and communicate it to others, and frankly, the timelines and the info you can get from Wikipedia or otherwise googling are inadequate, in my opinion. That gives you dry facts, when what you need is relational: how this leads to that, and how it made people feel, and what we are at risk for now. That understanding needs to be communicated urgently, at least to Western audiences who are trying to pay attention — Sri Lankans know it already, in their bones — and I am one of the people best placed to do that particular job.

I just…need a little time to pull myself together. I’m getting there.

Fresh pineapple chunks on skewers, dusted with chili, salt, and lime.
Fresh pineapple chunks on skewers, dusted with chili, salt, and lime. Source:

I bought two jars of the seasoning mix, one for me and one for Roshani, and I will serve pineapple sprinkled with chili, salt and lime at lunch to Roshani and Janea and whomever else shows up for writing day, along with the chicken curry and eggplant curry and mixed vegetable poriyal that I need to re-cook and re-take photos of for the cookbook.

Sri Lanka is observing a national day of mourning today. The death toll is at 310 now, and the funeral photos have started appearing, with stories of the victims. One little girl was thirteen, just a year older than Kavya. I can’t even look at the photo of her mother. I can’t stand it.

I’ve turned on all the lights on the first floor, and closed the windows, because it’s blustery out today. I’m going to borrow from the Danish hyggeligt tradition and light a forest of candles now — for Sri Lanka, for comfort, for hope.

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