What is going on? I ask myself, as I realise that once again I have been absent from this blog for two weeks. The answer is busy-ness. Why should that stop me writing? After all, one can always make time for things, even if it takes extra effort.
The answer is I think that writing, communicating ideas, requires first some clear time to develop the ideas. In other words, I am not making enough time for reflection.
And the result is a little sad. Not only am I not getting renewed enough to write here, but I am also a little scattered and disorganised in other areas.
All of which, in turn, makes me understand that good memory, good travel, good writing, and good relationships all require the same thing: enough time and consideration, reflection and attention. When I am rushing around (most recently to give a talk at Cornell, then to write a couple of small articles, then travel to San Francisco for the IACP conference and to give a BURMA demo; then travel back to Toronto to be on a panel at the Terroir conference; then give an interview and two BURMA talks this week), I have no "still pool" in my head or heart for reflecting, assessing, contextualising. This is not only not good, I think it is dangerous in some way.
For without time to reflect and remember, it is too easy to lose track of what is important. I find I am rushing to meet my commitment to give a public talk or whatever, and thereby neglecting friends or failing to tune in to them.
But I firmly believe that it is our relationships with family, friends, and even casually met strangers, which are the most valuable contributions we make to ourselves and our society. And so if I am so focussed on the next task that I fail to lift my eyes or turn my attention to the human landscape, I am failing in some important way.
As I write now, I am fighting back intrusive thoughts and anxieties about my "to-do" list. "Get down!" I say to it in my mind, as I might to an importunate leaping puppy. "Let me be present to these thoughts and not distracted!" It's a bit of a struggle, for sure.
And now, to yield for a moment to thoughts of the to-do list: It includes the small bits and pieces I need to take care of before I leave on Sunday evening to go to Georgia, that is, the Caucasus. I fly in to Istanbul, then the following day to Tbilisi. Can't wait.
And I sure hope, as I spend my two weeks there eating and looking and photographing, and engaging with people, that I can retrieve a sense of focus, so that I can give the trip, and the people I meet, the honour and attention they deserve.
Please wish me luck.
AND A NOTE ON BURMA: The Burma book was honoured with the "best culinary travel book" at the IACP awards this week in San Francisco. I am thrilled. It has been nominated for a James BEard award too. That result we'll hear in early May, in New York. The other two nominees are remarkable solid popular books: Maricel Presilla's Gran Cocina Latina; and Yotam Ottolenghi's book Jerusalem. It's an honour to be nominated with them.