10. Dry Season

June 04, 2006

I’ve been moving continuously since I came to Africa
looking for water in the desert
a spot to relax and feed
a place that would sustain me
where I could build a shelter of branches
set down my load
and let the animals graze.

But I never did find a place
With more than a drop or two
of beauty and sweetness
the dust swallows up any moisture
that touches the earth.
It is the dry season after all.

I wait for the rains to come.

 

 

I realize that I have been traveling, physically moving to a new location, a new community (or lack thereof), a new bed, on thirty-three of the last sixty days since I arrived in Africa. And this includes a fourteen-day stint in Essaouira and nearly two weeks in Bamako. This cannot be healthy.
And indeed it is not.

There must be an optimal pace for movement according to the land and social specificity. But this is not it. Nomads move slowly, gently. They tend to move together - in families, in clans. Or if traveling solo - a man or a boy leaving with herds and then returning periodically like a ship gone out to sea and coming back to port.
It is important to return, to rejoin.

Instead, I feel like I am blowing across the land like some deranged sandstorm. Misunderstood, unseen, cursed and unwelcome. The people are all tightened turbans and closed doors, squinted eyes and pursed lips.

I’ve never before left a place because I couldn’t see the beauty in it. It is the most painful and complete defeat I can think of. Now I am running away from Mali because I can’t feel anything that isn’t sharp.

 

furry transportation

 

When you’ve been on the road for a long time you eventually hit a point when home is the memory of all the places you have passed through. When you travel alone you live in a house that your mind has built for you. You are perpetually a guest in the homes and community of others. But you find that you become a host through your words, with story, as your address bears no post code, but falls between streets, towns, borders.

I think of all the houses, apartments, tents and spaces that I have lived in since I left my parent’s home. It is an odd assortment, filled with curious characters that make up my chosen family. It is thoughts of these people and these special places, some whom I have known for years, and others with whom I shared only a few weeks, that fill my head on the long bus rides and in the night. As my year comes to a gentle end and I think about coming home, I am glad. It will be good to be amongst familiar faces. But I am not sure just where that place is. If anything, it seems I miss the space between the places of my life, the movement between them, the conversations, moments that remain fluid.