I stepped outside to leave for work this morning, and everything smelled like Africa. This probably sounds entirely strange, but it’s true. I can hardly describe what happens in that moment, when I’m safe and sound in my usual, comfortable routine and something triggers my senses to recall somewhere else incredibly far from home. It’s magical every time, almost like I’m being teleported to another space and date–and every memory that comes up when this happens is a good one. I wish I could bottle this feeling.
To be honest, I woke up in a terrible mood this morning. I hit snooze three or four times, I grumbled about getting up later than planned, and I had one heck of a hard time getting motivated to face the day. But the second I set foot outside our back door, everything shifted. This phenomenon is amazing to me. I’m standing on my back porch, dressed for work in a jacket and heels, juggling keys, computer, water bottle and breakfast, and suddenly, I’m transported to Africa. And not just any Africa. Fresh, bright sunny Africa, on a day when hanging laundry was my biggest charge, when Daphne and Josephine and Bruce would all pass through the seminary kitchen and dining room and we’d exchange greetings, stories, prayers. Africa on an afternoon when we ended the work day with a run through the mission house neighborhood, cleansed from a days’ work with sweat on our necks and miles on our shoes. Africa. Walking through an uncut field to the home of our dear friends, sharing the events of the past week over rooibos tea with milk and sugar, cakes (shortbread-like cookies) on the side.
I miss this place.
For all of the times I wanted to come home, and for all of the days I wouldn’t choose to relive halfway around the world, there were so many wonderful moments, and so many incredible memories still linger…
In the same way that this morning’s fresh air, temperature, sights and sounds brought me back to Africa, this momentary respite from the present and into sweet places from the past happens on other occasions as well. Not long ago, I tasted the streets of Cairo in a bite of peach coffee cake–suddenly transported to the bakery down the street from our rooftop residence, to the sweet shop on the corner with mango and banana ice cream. The busy taxis rushed through my head, the dewy rooftop mornings and every last prayer spoken over its edges and into the city dripped into my spirit. The sunrise, sunset pattern of walking and sharing, worshiping and changing, stretching and longing all flooded back in one mouthful. Memory is a magnificent thing.
I never expect these flashback moments when they happen–am always pleasantly surprised when they do. It must be God, knowing that a recollection, however brief, of seasons that have shaped and molded me will somehow alter my mindset, recharge my system. It was indeed that way this morning. As I settled into the car for the short jaunt across town to begin my “real” day, other days streamed through my mind, filled me up with joyful, thankful emotion, ushered me gracefully away from where I was and placed me, somehow, right back where I needed to be.