Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lessons From Wadi Do'an


Yemen has been disintegrating in the past decades due in large part to water shortages. Bin Laden was born in Yemen, in Wadi Do'an, and that seems relevant to me given the country's water story. 



This desert nation was likely the first to build skyscrapers, back in the 1400s, and famously exported coffee from the port town of Mocha. 



Now it may be the harbinger of what's to come for the rest of the world if we don't start acting on our knowledge that life begins and ends with water (and air and food and love, yes).




The podcast, Reveal, did an excellent piece earlier this year looking at current forecasts regarding humanity's relationship with water. 



I am reminded of the difference water makes as I enjoy landscapes made possible by deep wells and pumps in Taroudant-- gardens that host the handsomest of peacocks, pools for refreshing dips, and orchards heavy with fruit. 



My grandmother will always be linked in my mind with luxuries such as these. I marvel at how quickly we pass from one age to another. Between us lies the dawning consciousness of the Anthropocene. Poolside in Morocco, it looks doubtful that these findings and their warnings will dictate a change in our behavior. We can certainly hope, but more relevant is whether or not we can apply lessons learned.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Boss


True musicians at work (and play)...



Goes to show it pays to risk failure. 

Even when you suck. Maybe even especially when you suck (sometimes painful for the audience).

Incidentally, Springsteen and his band do not suck. 

They rock.

Always have. Always will. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Maroc


I arrived on a Dutch plane full of children, including four sets of twins-- improbable, but true. I sat between an elderly Berber couple who offered to share every bit of food they brought with me. They paid in coins for milky coffee, smelling of dust and sweat. As the plane landed, a herd of camels veered off into an argan grove. Bedraggled cypress stood at attention in rows, acting as wind screens for crops of oranges along the highway.


I arrived at the garden outside of Taroudant under a sliver of moon. Bread was baking in the heat of a clay oven's fire. Candlelight flickered over the faces of the French team on assignment from Cosmopolitan as we dined on poached pears and samosas. The Atlas Mountains stood in profile above the garden walls.


I awoke to the sounds of birds chirping, donkeys braying, and roosters crowing-- stray dogs barking a notable absence in the cacophony. The air smelled of pollen, smoke and sunlight. A tortoise stood in the shelter of a fig tree surrounded by purple jacaranda blossoms. Green toads leapt away from my shadow and dove under lily pads. Bees buzzed in the canopy of yellow flowers over my hammock. I swam lazily back and forth beside a profusion of cacti.


Soft music and a nearby call to prayer (which sounds more like a declared state of emergency or the blowing of a shofar to my unaccustomed ears) mix in the courtyard, buried deep in the heart of town. The dar is well insulated-- far from the concrete houses dotting the desert beyond the adobe walls of the fortress, empty structures that testify to supply outstripping demand. The riad's nondescript exterior yields to an interior world of climbing vines, lanterns, and the textures of wood, clay, wool and stone. Outside is a slurry of Arabic, Berber and French spoken by men on bicycles. Women glide by swathed in loose folds of cloth. Carts drawn by emaciated horses, motorcycles, and donkeys race to market piled high with red onions and herbs.


My plan while here is simple: Study, Eat, Walk, Swim, Walk, Study, Eat, Repeat.


As I walk, I wonder about the economics of latitude. There is a familiar dissonance between the wealthy and the rest here that reminds me of other deserts I have visited north of the equator. Encounters with material privilege and deprivation in Taroudant are giving me déjà vu.



Sunday, April 16, 2017

On Retreat




Soothing The Child

Sweetness, Sweetness.
You know nothing
and yet you know.
So it is. So it is.


Passthrough Moment

Now is no podunk station.  

Surrender --yes-- 
to this precious present.

It is everything, our all. 


Fear Falls Away


This is the time of day 
when the spider is still.

This is the time of day 
when the lizards compete.

This is the time of day 
when the caterpillars are on the move. 

This is the time of day 
when the flies show off.


Neither Separate Nor Equal

Funny how one thing
can sound like another.

You mistake whitewater
for wind brushing over the landscape.

A frog makes you think for a moment
that a bird has taken flight.

Funny how one thing
can look like another.

You take a patch of grass
for a desert watering hole.

Oxidized rock resembles scrap metal
a desiccated carcass.


Substantial

Tethered by gravity
to the core of the earth.

Relaxed. In repose.

Yet --all the while--
spinning, whirling, revolving.


Born In San Francisco During The Age Of Foghorns

If I lived in a lush, pastoral place,
I would be the type to walk byways
stealing blooms that reached out 
over fences and through gates.

If I lived on a battered coastline,
I would be the type to close my eyes
and inhale the salt air until 
it clung to the roof of my mouth.

If I lived in an urban jungle,
I would be the type to read graffiti
in the bathroom stall and lay my forehead 
against the cool glass of a bus window.

Yet I live on a high desert flanked by peaks,
so I am the type to feel a sense of abandon
crossing vast spaces, dwarfed 
by expanses of subtle light and color.


Détente

The plane's unanticipated 
swoops and dives elicit
exclamations and inhalations.
An "Oh!" escapes unbidden.
  
Fever plays like a breeze 
over my forehead. 
A startled stewardess 
careens down the aisle.

Memo pad narration seems 
called for, chicken scratch for later. 
It occurs to me that I opted out 
of choosing an emergency contact.

We jutter to a landing. 
Contrails of fear and anticipation
stretch out behind me. And
already they begin to evaporate.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Chiaroscuro II



We are gods, all of us, for someone
[at best, ourselves].

The wonder when love propels us
beyond the margins of explanation.

What alchemy did you perform
to make possibilities so expansive?

For whom have you been unshackled
in your splendor?


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Fat And Happy


A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

Just out of hibernation in Yellowstone, Wyoming.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Chiaroscuro I



We are monsters, all of us, for someone
[at worst, ourselves].

The horror when we track the beast 
back to our own feet.

Whom have you breathed smoke upon
to pilfer their honey?

In whose imagination have you stalked,
drooling, down inroads of fear?