I was on call last night. I left the hospital at eleven, and was not called. still I woke every hour with a “was that the radio?” thought that somehow slivered into all of my dreams. I was up at first light. sleeping in is for inside.
it was 630 am and the compound was quiet. with a sleep headache behind my eyes, I laced up my running shoes and ran out of town. it is an important anchor in my day, to reach open space and find there the wide horizon. this morning, over the cracked flat earth a few kilometres north of abyei, the sun and the moon shared the sky with
here in abyei, outside my hospital and in it, I am witness to the most beautiful things. yesterday I was walking in the measles recubra with a child from the feeding centre in my arms. measles had once again swept through our hospital and infected his mother. she was too sick to care for him, too sick to care for herself. I was
hoping to find a mother to help feed him until she was well. I looked at the beds, and saw a woman take the most
gentle care to offer her child water from a plastic cup, watching intently so that not a drop was spilled. the child refused, and the mother offered softly again and again. it was such a beautiful, intimate act of love. I asked the women in turn if they could feed this child along with theirs, even if just for a day, even if they did it in turns. they roundly refused. no. I will care for mine. I pressed, and they resisted. the fittest survive. here beauty and the hard truth of nature share the same recubra. like somewhere a butterfly fold her wings once, twice and take off on her jittery way, and as she does, a swallow swoops in, eats her, then wheels away.
I spent the morning at the tree I spoke of last week, in my letter to Samantha. we arrived early, and there were no patients. I walked out into a field nearby and a million birds flew by. the flock pulsed and changed like smoke. when I turned back, I could see bright flashes of clothing moving through the woods as people approached.
i saw a woman with this rash. if anyone has particular tropical disease experience, I am curious about what it is. she has had these diffuse plaques for four months, involving mostly the extremities andd sparing the palms and soles. it is pruritic. otherwise, she is very well. doesn’t appear HIV related. onchocerciasis? fungal?
it is now midday. most of msf has the day off for easter. the temperature is 49 C, by my thermometer. I don’t see james the falcon on my tukul anyore. but high above, the falcons drift on hot drafts of air. some move so high that they become dust, then disappear like an untethered helium balloon. the other night, my field coordinator fran and I were talking about how we would like our ashes to be reanimated. “falcon”, I said.
annie dillard once offered her opinion on whether birds fly for pleasure. she found her answer when she watched, from her window, a barnswallow fall from his nest in the loft, like a stone. just as he was about to hit the dirt, he spread his wings, skimmed the ground, and flew out of sight. of course they do.
it is easter. in lac la biche, Alberta, my family will be sitting together and watching cold ducks test the ice of the lake. they will have an afternoon meal and talk about the things they are thankful for. being grateful is a lesson I was taught well. it is one that the world keeps repeating. each of us is lucky to be alive and to be surrounded by people we care about. there are a thousand million ways it could be otherwise. but somewhere
an opaque reason met an impossible chance, and we are all here at the same time. it’s such a lucky thing, it’s hard to believe.
I wanted to add some easterness to this email, so that I could participate with my family, and my family of friends. I sit here, in my tukul, 49 C, sleep headache and all, content with the calm certainty that of all the luck in the world, I have been given the most. thank you for being the proof. all my love.