I want to be that no ordinary kind of woman that meets herself every time through words. To remind her, that because of words, we can survive, live, love, pray, as we escape the unthinkable. These are cold days, but words can lead out to our breakout as we learn what life is. So if I am to live up to my middle name, if I am to bask in the glory of what it means to be named Isioma, then I am prepared to discover all that I am through words. I am prepared to meet myself over and over again, ringing like a bell, of how I survived and survived, because words came and I let them move me, seduce me, transform me, and illuminate all that I am becoming.

It’s our world anyways and we can write till we reach beyond ourselves. I want to write too, every time we meet ourselves. For this gift of writing, this gift of putting our thoughts into words, is a treasure. I am grateful that our cup continues to overflow. I am learning day by day that I live to write. A note, a phrase, a poem, or even a collection of things to keep if only for my sanity in a time of a pandemic. Today, I met myself. Today I went on a long conversation with the woman I am becoming. A storyteller that writes to live. We spoke of our love for words. Our love with putting down all our ideas into words that are pleasing to our soul. We encouraged ourselves too. Like two birds nestling by a stream, we told ourselves that we are doing fine with every single moment we note all the words that come to mind.

I am pledging allegiance to this freedom to write our lives through words we put together. How rare to live a life in words for ourselves first, for our dreams, our love, our heart desires, our morning sunshine, our children as dark as night or for the one called to save us. And words, have been our savior, our Chizoba in a world full of despair for a pandemic that refuses to dissipate.

More than escape, writing is life and a way of being still with ourselves. For we know, he knows the plans for us. The earth may shake. Cities may crumble. But happy are those who tend to life through words. This dancing of the mind, this communion with oneself, is like bread. It continues to give me new strength. And through his words, we are living in the pleasure of discovering and uncovering the plans for ourselves everyday. Writing is like the sun and it continues to set my life everyday. Writing also continues to move me to a place of divine connection to the power working within me. That’s what myself and I concluded and we will continue to choose the path we take, choose to put them in words, all because we know of his love. All we ask is that you continue to breathe on us daily so we make new words in us again and again as we escape from this world again and again.

How do we approach the complexities of ourselves fearlessly? How do we do it whether as a mother, a writer, a wife, a sister or a friend, fearlessly? How do we uncover our untapped power fearlessly? How do we accept all our tensions or even our chaos fearlessly? Yet still somehow, unleash our ambitions fearlessly?

To become fearless, to become an ambitious her, I marvel at the thought of somewhere, somehow, a woman like me, bathes her four kids for the night, gives them their vitamins, reads books that tickles their noses, and kisses their heads goodnight, not before they tell stories by moonlight or pray for guardian angels through the night. Then she darts around the house, checking for locked doors, and alarm locks, washes the night dishes and sweeps the floor one more time. Then she makes a cup of tea, lemon ginger with a twist of lemon for her insides. She turns of the lights and snuggles, beneath a grey fuzzy blanket, not before she picks up her phone to write this note, of how somewhere, somehow, a woman like me, lived wild dreams of herself, gliding through paths untrodden fearlessly. This dream, she always knew, would come through one day. And today is that day. Welcome to my most ambitious year.

My husband painted this painting yesterday, he called it gods must be crazy, called it our craziness for an ambitious year. I agree.

Dear New Year,

What to make of thee, from all who seek your new? This time, our hunger grows day by day. For paths our feet are prepared to walk through. This rich promise for new the morning sun will not betray.

To begin again with repeating this cycle with you. To bask in your glory like morning dew across leaves at the bottom of trees. To marvel at the debut of a life in light, in view. Is to begin with grace, like the simple elegance of a daffodil.

So I close with a prayer old, yet full of renewed blessings. That when the fullness of time comes. That you will bless us and keep us. That you will shine upon us and be gracious to us. That you will be kind and give all who seek you peace, this new year of yearning. This new year of being in light. Amen.

Happy New Year to all of you and may your 2022 be full of God’s blessings. Amen.

I am gliding into 2022 with an undying commitment to simplicity. Like bundles of sticks, I intend to find strength with those that choose to stand together with me. It’s a commitment after all and you are either in or out as I follow my star. I am also prepared to endure all that life throws along the way in 2022. Like chaos. I went into Christmas Day for example prepared for the chaos of a merry day. Like heads without bodies, I watched as my kids rambled through all they got. Watched as the chaos continues to unfold through the holidays where all work ways are banned. I remember my dad and the look of content on his face this time of the year. Joyful that it is now my turn to observe his contentment with how merry days with chaos end. With kids of my own. I miss my dad terribly. And in 2022, I intend to find beauty in chaos like the three wisemen did with Christ.

Yesterday we began an adventure into 8 days of Christmas fun.

In fact, we are living our lives through a book written and illustrated by my daughter.

All I can say is that because of her, my world is Belle.

Like Lotanna Belle, there are no limits.

She is one who opens our hearts to truly remember the love of our fathers, every time, beautifully.

Belle, writes, and illustrates, and shows us love that reminds me of my father’s sweet embrace.

She lives out her live in words more elegant than sweet. An elegant love. Her love burrows deeply into my heart. Deeply like a stone, crushing it, until it’s all love. That’s what reading my daughter’s words does to me these days.

A world fully Belle is genuinely Belle.

There is a Belle in all things, all around my world and this Christmas is Belle all because of her. I am loved. She makes me remember the elegant love my father showered on us this time of the year too. He is so missed.

Let no one silence or suppress your truth. Whether unpleasant or uncomfortable. May no one stifle or suffocate your significance or shared responsibilities. Scam or strangle your sensibilities or collective senses with lies. As you strive for uncomfortable representations beyond unpleasant shadows. Rather may you continue to connect and commune. Reveal and reveal. Every unpleasant or uncomfortable truth. As you voice all there is to voice for a people long denied their voice. People still absent in images like this below. The unpleasant truth is that we are not all the same, not all man, and not all equal never mind their comforting lies. Pandemics are not individually focused, never mind the comforting lies many still perpetuate. Vaccines too are not for individuals neither are masks or your decisions that you think affects you alone. It doesn’t. Omicron is here because we forgot that we are a people first. Pandemics are not concerned with individuals. Never have and never will. There are no personal responsibilities in pandemics. Only shared ones. No individual responsibilities too. Only collective ones. Individualistic countries won’t get it. Collective ones will. And pandemics will still not be concerned about individuals. Only what the collective do. These are unpleasant truths worth spreading.

Like many, I have been reading and rereading all the bell hooks books I have in my possession. I have been struck with how urgent her work is for those desperate for word work that awakens us all to our possibilities. bell hooks was a prolific writer. As I looked through her writings, I gathered she knew writing was supposed to do something. You don’t pen these many diverse thoughts if you don’t expect the words to do something. That’s the urgency I felt just looking at book after book. She knew writing was supposed to do something. Not things that keep you powerless or inarticulate or unable to assert your agency. To her and from what I have read these past days, writing is supposed to be something meaningful. Writing is supposed to be courageous that all I can say to you this morning is that you should keep writing. Your words matter.

Keep it because writing is supposed to reveal. Illuminate. Challenge. Or simple stir up. Writing is not supposed to traumatize. Exploit. Oppress. Or simply cause suffering. Rather writing is supposed to testify. Best witness. Feel. Or simply engage. Writing is not supposed to shame. Violate. Humiliate. Or simply frighten. Rather writing is supposed to nurture. Heal. Uplift. Or simply affirm. Writing is not supposed to dehumanize, distort, deny, or simply destroy. Writing is supposed love. Celebrate. Remember. Or simply awaken. Writing is not supposed to silence. Dominate. Punish. Or simply exile. Rather writing is supposed to resist. Critique. Demand. Or simply voice. Writing is not supposed to threaten. Marginalize. Alienate. Or simply colonize. Rather writing is supposed to value. Imagine. Desire. Or simply create. Writing is not supposed to abandon. Diminish. Ridicule. Or simply ignore. Writing is supposed to liberate. Burn. Renew. Or simply free. Writing is not supposed to erase. Deprive. Annihilate. Or simply be racisit. Writing is supposed to be radical. Sustain. Open. Or simply transform. However you choose to write, I hope you use it to reveal, illuminate, challenge, stir up, testify, bear witness, feel, engage, nurture, heal, uplift, affirm, love, celebrate, remember, awaken, resist, critique, demand, voice, value, imagine, desire, create, liberate, burn, renew, free, be radical, sustain, open and transform.

Sixty-nine seems like a very odd age to rest. My dad left at sixty-nine. I have never felt completely at ease with it. We are all supposed to have 70 years. 80 years if we are strong. So leaving at 69 just doesn’t sit right with me. bell hooks left at 69. I am sure if I created a list, I would come across many other notable figures that left at 69. We will all one day return to what we are. Dust. We will all last like a dream too. Life is short. The only thing left is to be wise and speak our hearts to God. No one will understand. But he will. Especially when you open your heart and talk to him unafraid. My heart is open and I am wondering why 69. Her gifts were immeasurable.

Nestled within book after book by bell hooks were hidden treasures. To her seeing ourselves should be pleasure. For there is power, freedom too when you see yourself. With her, I saw myself. There were no boundaries. Light was revealed in unthinkable ways. Light that remain uninhibited with each passing day. I am able to write out all in my head because she allowed me to see myself for what I am: A woman. A black woman with value.

She once wrote that many people have difficulty with appreciating black women as we are. With her, I was appreciated just as I am. With her, I can cry like Sojourner Truth once did, ain’t I a woman? With her, I am as outstanding as Anna Julia Cooper and my voice will cry out in these Midwest rivers. bell hooks introduced me to her. With her, my horizons were extended, my empathy broadened, all because I finally stopped to smell the Dahilas in my life. They were many. With her, I touched nature in ways that stirred my spirits. She cleared a path for me to see myself, know myself, love myself. She helped me keep what mattered to me. Her death at 69 years is a blow and continues to weigh heavy on my heart this morning. I am consoled by the fact that because of her, I will forever learn all about love, know what it means to belong, teach communities how to love, how to transgress too, use art like writing to heal, teach myself how to yearn for things like fresh fields of green grass while I boldly declare to anyone listening, ain’t I a woman. I am. I am all woman and black and loved and blessed in light always.

I took my time to write this. Good people are remembered as a blessing. So I wanted to take my time to remember your blessings. For you have indeed blessed us all bell. Your blessings give life like a fountain of water. So I knew I had to take my time to write this. I knew I had to do right by you who loved words. And your words are like pure silver destined to shine brightly now that you are gone so taking my time to write this was crucial to me. You are crucial to me. I got the kids ready for bed early. By 7pm they were headed for sleep. I wanted to feel your warmth once again and none of my children as much as I love them will get in the way. At least not today. Once in bed, I headed for that quiet place I reserve for thinking. Not the kind that flows with whatever situation I find myself in, but the kind destined to move me to higher glory. For you, I am prepared to rise higher. So I took my time to write this. Got some food to nourish my soul. They call it African salad. I call it love. It always hit the right spot. I made myself a bowl, with some catfish. An unusual combination but perfect for writing these thoughts I have for such a sterling and unsual woman. There were no wine. I wanted to feel everything I wrote for myself first. And only lemon yogurt would do. The Noosa brand. The perfect combination for cleansing that I would need to write these thoughts down for you. For you were my everything. You were more than the brightest moon on a clear dark night. Even the night has nothing on your brilliance. If God came down from heaven today, he would truly announce that you are his daughter, the one he is truly pleased with. We mere mortals were not fit to tie your shoe lace. With words you stirred trouble. You showed us the transformative power of words. And how by themselves are manifestation of divine spirit. With words you forced us to write so we too could see ourselves. I see. I see myself. I have been doing so with everything I write here because of you. So I wanted to take my time to see you again.

Some of bell hooks books that helped me make sense of me.

I began writing vespers this week. The death toll from the pandemic was overwhelming. Majority have died this year too in a time of vaccine. So the only thing left to do at the time was pray. Hence the birth of develing into what I will be calling vesper. The first one was okay. It reflected how I felt about the deaths from the pandemic. Today’s own is for a woman who has touched my soul in way that I really can’t fully convey. I dreamt that we would meet one day. I dreamt often of what we would discuss together too. Waking up to the news of her death has left a big hole in my mind that the only thing left to do is pray for an eternal rest. bell hooks lived a life many of us can only dream to live. She lived it radically in her own terms and along the margins that made sense to her spirit. She was my spiritual mother in my quest to keep what matters to me on this blog. So many of my prior posts were inspired by her writing. I can never really do justice to her influence hence why I choose to pray. Keep Vesper or an evening prayer for the sterling spirit of bell hooks. May she sleep well and may her family know that she did her part to the fullest in this thing called life. I’m sure they are aware of this but I just want them know that because of her, I learnt to see. And that is a legacy worth keeping. May this evening prayer I write, give them peace as well.

If you ever forget how to see, I pray you look. I pray you look for spaces that touch you in unimagined ways. I pray these spaces whether you create them or not, are in harmony with the beauty and peace your spirit desires. There is safety in numbers. Find your safety. Find numbers too in harmony with your spirit so you remain open to seeing love. Not the kind that is hard to define but the one focused on choosing love. I pray your spirit chooses love in whatever space you find yourself in. I pray this love will help you learn to see. To become a being who simply sees. And when you do, I pray you see art in the intimate spaces of your life. See it as life giving. See it as love giving. Light-giving too. I pray art becomes life and love and light for you because you learnt to see. For what you see, in these spaces, everything you see is crucial for the struggle. Not to escape our plight but rather for its spiritual ecstasy. The type that lets us see light in all things. Know light too for yourself and in see it in all living beings. I pray you come alive to the resurrecting power of light. The intensity of light. The fullness of well-light light, the wholeness of life is transformative. I pray you see for yourself this transformative power of light. Though tears are falling down these evening, I pray you still let your light shine through the tears. Other needs to see you shine so they flourish. Everyone needs to be touched by you. So touch them.

Then, I pray you find the power to be self-determining. I also pray you let nothing cloud your understanding. Cloud your commitment to act, to love, to light a world longing for your spirit. Let nothing stop you from stirring up your spirit for trouble too. Good trouble. The kind that doesn’t harden hearts. For every single close proximity to you is for our survival. So I pray you survive trouble. In winter, it’s not uncommon to see up to 12 Wrens roosting together for warmth. They learn to embrace their suffering together. I pray you find your dozen Wren. May they help you endure whatever sufferings you encounter. May they also help you awaken to your blessings. For you are blessed. You were blessed. I pray these blessings live on forever as we keep all that we learnt from you. I pray you also let it flow like rivers on days when you need warmth. Days like today. The world needs warmth now. But heaven needed it more. Rest in Power bell hooks, till we meet again.

I prefer to avoid you completely. I prefer to runaway too. Time is slow. But your stretch is deep. Unfriendly too. I tried to stay put. Wished this would all go away. I was a fool. The risks were plenty but being your fool was easy. I tried to give myself the maximum chance of survival. Even the minimum almost ruined me. So I preferred to runway. My own words were a trap. I dug a hole for myself. Moved up and down the hole and was still trapped. Even my spirits were drained. Survival too seemed far away. I thought to pray. I hoped it would give me the fuel to withstand the cold. Hoped the prayers would tide me through this period. For what we pray for can mean life or death. I prayed for life. Though death seemed to lead the way. 800,000 deaths today and it’s shadow still looms deep.

The walls of my throat are thick. Tears have stoped flowing. All we can do is defend our own. So our eyes are open. I pray you find more pair of eyes. The more pair of eyes there are to see, the more hearts there are to feel. We have lost our ways with seeing and feeling that death is now us. So I pray for more pair of eyes. Those bold enough to fight undetected. To single out those who prefer to die rather than protect themselves. So being with more pair of eyes, moving as a flock would represent real security for those of us prepared to live. Robins in the winter adopt a policy where the males and females, hold for a time, separate winter territories they defend. I pray you find your Robin, if male or female. And when you do, be as strong as a lion and run from nothing. Your clouds have no rain.