SIMPLY BEING

Tag: faith (page 1 of 1)

A strategic writer (not)

I am currently facing a writer’s conundrum.

Previously I’d wait for the writing to come to me. And it generally did. Some of the best pieces I have written, those that virtually flowed from my head through the keys on to the page and to the world, came to me. Most of these pieces that I loved writing and reading and re-reading made their way to me. I didn’t go seeking them out. I simply responded to their call. They whispered their presence to me, and I had gotten smarter over the years… so I made haste to get to the laptop, and wrote them out.

Like the time I was driving home from work, and a prisoner transport van passed my car. I made eye contact with a handsome black man, young and brooding, dark eyebrows and deep set eyes. I couldn’t look away. He held my gaze steadily, and our vehicles weaved in and around each other, until I had to take my exit. His van sped away. I could hardly get home fast enough. It was a compelling experience, and I had to write about it. I wasn’t sure I could describe the feeling fully but I tried. That’s how Locking Eyes came into being.

And that’s how the best of my writing has come to me.

Yes, I have always played bride to my writing (thanks, Mary Oliver, for the apt description). I have waited and waited for it to make an appearance, and when it does, I welcome it with joy and love… utterly glad that it chose me. I have often felt like a midwife, birthing a thought or a series of ideas into the world. That’s why I can never claim this writing as my own, because I cannot summon it at will. And I know this because I have been trying to do JUST that the last few months.

And I hate that method, I simply do.

I have been trying to think about my writing in smarter, more strategic ways. What should I write about? XXX sounds like a good topic. Let me give it a try. And it has been somewhat okay, I admit. But there is no joy either in the writing process or in the outcome. The end result feels terribly sterile, lacking in vitality. And what is on display is the effort, my attempt to string together alliterative phrases, trying hard to wring out emotion and feeling from a set of words. Sometimes, the final piece delights others but to me, it feels very hollow, pretentious.

I am no bridegroom or adventurer. I am a wanderer, a purposeless rambler… I am one who responds to Life. I have responded time and again to love, joy, beauty. And my knowing has taken me to beautiful places. Thus I developed trust in my knowing.

I have responded to Life through my writing. I have never sought to understand Life. I didn’t venture into the writing universe, determined to make a mark; I only responded to what called me. So it’s hard for me to make a plan for my writing. Because I am at the mercy of what’s out there, not always what’s in here.

“Let’s submit an article for publication; let’s write something for this magazine.”

Sure, I can give that a shot. But it feels terribly dull, lacking in juice and zest. I cannot seem to write fully and joyfully for another person. Heck, I cannot even do it for myself!

I can only write as an echo, a faint and wondering answer to Life. I am fairly okay at catching a ball but I am far better at catching cues… and I hope to improve. I have hurled many a ball in the sky, and the Universe has taken pity on me. I haven’t got rainbows, but I got published articles.

So I have decided to stop playing the bridegroom. I will be the midwife, the bride, the solitary walker. I will be the one who watches the stars, smells the fragrance of the wind.

And I will wait.

True Dancers

We are the true dancers,
The ones who fling the hands with abandon, throwing our waists and hips out into the world.

We are the ones who trust our Partner unconditionally, follow them unquestioningly,
We know no fear or doubt, our ego having lost all substantiality, submitted at the altar of the Universe and its mighty winds.

We dance with courage and merriment, placing our weight fairly and squarely in the willing arms of our Partner,
We falter occasionally, sometimes failing to see the light, feeling as though about to fall,
but the hands grasp us firmly, no sweat or nervousness in sight.

We dance in perfect sync and rhythm, eyes searching for the light, ears open for the music,
Often dancing in the silent dark for hours, or years, on end.

Our senses are limited, but the hearts are free and unbounded, filled with loving trust,
Because we know It knows.

Marrakech

Marrakech is a city on steroids. At least, some parts of it are.

We fixed on Morocco as a vacation destination, and it was only because… well, where do you go in the dead of Northern Hemisphere winter? India was too far, and Europe was too cold. North Africa seemed a good option. In fact, we had decided to visit Morocco in 2017 but P’s father had had to undergo surgery, and we ended up canceling all plans.

2018 came around, and this time we made it to Morocco. There were two cities on the itinerary: Marrakech and Essaouira, two places that couldn’t be more different from each other.

Marrakech is colorful, loud and exciting, sometimes dizzying in its intensity. It is a city of winding lanes, old Riads with colorful tile inlays, outdoor cafes and cigarette smoke, Hammams and leather shops and old museums and brass lamps and sticky sweet treats, and everything else you’d ever want to bring home with you. In contrast, Essaouira is like a chilled sorbet, or cool warmth, shining blue skies and seagulls in flight, families admiring the sunset at the promenade, sipping mint tea in the old square.

(I must take a pause here to mention that many travel blogs write endlessly about aggressive vendors in the Old Medina in Marrakech chasing you down, trying to sell you stuff. THAT never happened to this brown couple, meaning P and I. Just saying that it is important to take these travel experiences with a hefty pinch of salt. P nearly decided to start a blog of his own: Brown Vegan Traveler. Because, context matters.)

Back to Marrakech. (I’ll write about Essaouira in a separate post.)

We landed one afternoon at Menara Airport. Our AirBnB hostess had arranged a taxi that brought us home. During the taxi ride, I realized that my knowledge of Arabic had dwindled to basically, nothing. I’d lived a year in Cairo (2002-03) and picked up a smattering of Arabic around that time. But it was so many years ago, and I recollected very little. My knowledge of French was somewhat better, and P has some familiarity with French too. So we figured we should stick to French and give up on speaking/deciphering Arabic, sigh.

Riad Larouss is a small neighborhood, and that’s where Valeria runs her cozy little AirBnB. We had a sweet little room, and there was a common area for breakfast and lounging. Valeria gave us a map with markers showing the locations of the Riad, the bus station, Jemaa Al-Fenaa, Old Medina, museums, etc. She was a wonderful hostess, and we got off to a great start discovering the vibrant city that is Marrakech.

Koutobia Mosque, Marrakech, Morocco, Jemaa Al-Fenaa

We went out the same evening and walked to the Medina. It was late evening, and the central square known as Jemaa Al-Fenaa was already filling up with food vendors and street performers. The air was cool, and I felt so comfortable, so happy to be in Marrakech. I felt very much at home… there was an instant connection, a sense of warmth and joy and familiarity that pervaded the entire trip, really. Perhaps it came from the fact that I had been in North Africa before, that I had fallen in love with Arabic language and culture all those years ago?

We had a couple of days in Marrakech before we left for Essaouira. So we did what all tourists do.

Walked through the countless lanes in the Medina, all ending in Jemaa Al-Fenaa; bargained in a very decent and honorable way for a beautiful silver teapot; landed up at a quaint store selling all manner of olives and pickles where the owner, a sweet old man, generously allowed us to taste an assortment of items (we bought so many kinds of olives); gawked at the gorgeous Bahia Palace; walked and ate and walked and ate.

Marrakech Museum
Olives, Jemaa Al-Fenaa, market

The search for vegan food takes us everywhere, and I have learned that it’s mostly good to steer clear of eating joints that have “vegan/vegetarian” in their name or description. You will be better served by finding out what local dishes you can consume safely and happily. And we learned that harira and tajine, two North African preparations, can be made vegetarian.

We chanced upon Dar Mama, a tiny eatery situated close to our Riad, run by a group of young men (Senegalese?) who played the most amazing North African music on their boom box, and kept the space warm with a tall brazier. This was February, cold and rainy sometimes, and we were happy with all the warmth we got.

Harira was delicious, as we realized. Day 1, P and I shared a bowl. Next visit, we ordered a bowl each. Then, we ordered two bowls each! Harira is a chunky soup of chickpeas and tomatoes, and it kept our insides warm and comfortable as we walked miles through cold and wet Marrakech.

We ran into some drama, and yes, it was on my account. Turns out that I had booked our Riad for two nights, and we were in Marrakech for three nights before heading out to Essaouira. It was a mad scramble, as we frantically tried to find a place on AirBnB to spend the night. We were lucky. We found an old Riad, managed by a pair of friends. They ran the place like a hostel for friends. They served us a sumptuous dinner. They had a folk musician visit that evening who played for hours, lulling us into a sweet space that felt raw, special. They served us the best breakfast ever: lacy beghrir, toasted Khobz, delicious Msemen. Every meal included mint tea, freshly squeezed orange juice, butter and jam. We feasted like kings. It was such a precious experience, and it came about because of my AirBnB gaffe!

We headed off to Essaouira the next morning in a state of wonder, and also understanding that THIS is what travel teaches you.

To be spontaneous, to be courageous, to have faith in oneself and one’s partner and in the kindness of strangers, to be aware without being fearful, to be both kind and accepting of kindness.