Thursday, September 29, 2011


I'm sitting in a nice corner hotel room in Glens Falls New York. It's been a long good day, following a beautiful day yesterday driving from Toronto to Charlotte, Vermont. I woke this morning at Susan Stuck's house, its beautiful old farmhouse proportions so welcoming, and felt rested and at ease. That's partly the effect of Susan's company, and the welcome embrace of her house, but also because I feel clear for now of the complications of the Burma manuscript, Rivers of Flavor. I've now reviewed the edited manuscript, made my own changes and rewrites etc, and just before I left home I got it all photocopied (in case the original gets lost along the way). Once I'm home, tomorrow night, I can package it up and FedEx it back to NYC.

Getting to this stage before I left Toronto yesterday was a huge boon. My head feels clearer and my step lighter.

I enjoy working hard at things. So why this pleasure at having finished this intensive stage of work? I think it's because I get anxious when I owe something to someone else. When I work hard at something for me, it's not so fraught. But when I owe the ms back within a certain time, it feels like a load. At the same time I think deadlines are desirable and useful things, constraints to keep me in line. But why this over-reacton to them? Why do they weigh so heavily? I suppose it is doubt, an undermining doubt that I will get done what I have undertaken, so I get impatient to be finished, impatient to be reassured that in fact I can and will come through in the way I need and want to.

And then I turn on the TV here and who is on? Aung San Suu Kyi talking to Charlie Rose, live on Skype. Amazing. Now there's a person who has come through. I'm sure she's had doubts, and fears. And yet she has delivered. She's talking now about democracy, clear-thinking, human rights...and the need to go step by step. An amazing world, this, in which a very closed-off place Burma can be linked to the rest of the world. This cross-linking feels like a powerful weapon against totalitarianism. She's talking about the need for awareness, the need for the rest of the world to follow what is going on in Burma, and to really pay attention. "We need change in the right direction that is steady and sustained." Listen to hear what the people of Burma want, and then help us get what we want: that's her request to the people of the rest of the world. "We need a better education sytem, better health care, a more open society...[in Burma]". "I had to learn not to let fear control me." "You have to get over the fear in order to get committed to your ideals."

It's a good reminder. Let go the anxiety, admit the fear and then try to shed it, in order to be free to take action, move forward, commit... Some people need a lot of courage, people like the demonstrators in Yemen and Syria, who are being shot at and tortured by their governments. But we all need some measure of courage every day, and that takes admitting that we all feel fear and anxiety from time to time. It's not shameful, just reality.

Thanks to everyone who came out this evening in Glens Falls to hear me talk about RIce and taste some rices, and ask questions. It was a lot of fun. I love engaging with people, especially about basic foods. So, as I say, many thanks, and to the Crandall Public Library too. I'm looking forward to my drive back across New York State tomorrow. The landscapes are so beautiful, the greens intense with all the recent rain, and the leaves just starting to turn. The Adirondacks frame the horizon here...and will keep me company for the first part of the drive. What a treat.

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