The perfect light of resplendence

In between certain places

In between places

when our bodies were done
we found ourselves
more or less in ashes

bound to a mantle
we caught glimpses
of ourselves through
creases in open doors

the children were scared
and peered into our urns
the cat ran away

we attended the wake
wakeful and filled with space

somewhat surprised
at the turnout we were

still warm
empty
alive and
ultimate

A secret valley

A secret valley, Langtang

A secret valley, Langtang

                                                it is said that no one knew about this valley
                                                that it was secret for some 500 years

                                                but i wonder at the role of such fables,
                                                somehow able to illusively embolden us,
                                                to make masks for the fact of our smallness

                                                                                    the fact is
                                                we are procured from thin air
                                                and other astral flotsam

                                                                                    our one ostensible aim
                                                to make sense of the strangeness of being

                                                coaxed cleverly by specific histories
                                                we have evolved to think we speak for all things

                                                how we cannot

                                                in this secret valley, hid for 500 years
                                                memories of ascetic pilgrims are stored
                                                in the stellular veins of mica rock

                                                much later down the track
                                                we walk and hack our heels in,
                                                lustily

                                                these rocks are ghosts
                                                that weave our clothes
                                                with silver dust and

                                                now we are made from earth
                                                our own ascetic robes loosened by
                                                valley echoes of benevolent laughter

                                                                                    the truth is
                                                                                    (though mostly we don’t feel it)
                                                we thrill the pilgrims with
                                                our thorough artlessness

                                                we are so out of touch

                                                but for such
                                                intents and historic purposes
                                                this does not mean
                                                so much to us

Screwed up and human

we are this wanting –
belief to be believed
vulnerable and small
like children we scream
“see me! tell me what
you think!”

moles on porcelain
screwed up and human
wanting to be none
and everything and
always, ever
trying

This is not a grand declaration

bedroom still life

bedroom still life

this is not a grand declaration

this is not a banner and plane

this is not one of those
love song dedications
web testimonials or
tattooed names

not a play in three acts
nor twelve sonnet verses
not a ring on a finger or
a silver-filled purse

’cause with you

i don’t need to make
those kinds of gestures
or use so many words

We are the keepers

we are the keepers
archaeologists
we comb catacombs
like beggars our
fingers irreverent
for sprinkled gold
filling bags with
trinkets sage and
shining under dust
we are hoarders
we grab with
lust and just
store things away

When we were young #1

Self-portrait

when we were young
(teenage girls)
i suppose we had fun
being ponied about
upturning our noses to
other noses and
kissing on both cheeks

i suppose it was fine to
make artless portraits
of faces and nails (mine
always chipped)
hair loose on ironing
boards, toes cut
for shoes that poked
other girls like needles

when i was young (a teenage girl)
i glossed my lips with rubber filler
and prayed for no gaps

but backed against
confessional scrawls
on toilet walls when
we clawed at each other
and you rattled off flaws
(a trademarked munition)
the dog-eared bits at
my fingertips made
jokes of the chips on
your shoulders

could i be forgiven
that when we were young
(as teenage girls)
i tried on your short dress –
but once, and
only for size

Treading water

The river at Pashupati

The river at Pashupati

                                                               we tread viscous circles
                                                               convinced for the dive
                                                               now hours, days, years
                                                               have made ridges in our
                                                               heels
                                                                     we are wet ghosts

                                                               you trick me for buoys
                                                               but i know you swim
                                                               if you make me laugh
                                                               you’ll only choke me and
                                                               bust
                                                                     water through my nose

Gutted or not

Barn

garbed by
mourning skies
rivers carved
in our cheeks
we spoke without
speaking breathed
between breaths
throats fish-hooked to
intercostals breathing
and not breathing
ribbed palms reeling
in and out and in
and out we watched
strewn crumbs
disappear
i like to think
somehow
gutted or not
to some stranger’s
eye we were
pretty

There are no pictures

A bed and corn

Beds and corn

there are no pictures

the scuffed knee freckle
rawbone part

the garden sprinkler caper
sticky hand and tender skin part

the stumble off the mark
little athlete clutching mud and
ribbons at the heart part

there are no pictures

growing up is hard and
fast without them

Prayer wheels and sunsets

Boudha sunset

i have turned
so many prayer wheels
burned incense like bridges
crept away from myself
now my longing lives in a
box with no features
it hides amidst ridges
carved deep by rivers in
canyons made from
old love

i have spent so many
of these nights and days
a pilgrim inward-wandering
i’ve pondered my fragments
the space between atoms
expanded like stars
in my solitude

and

i’m still to arrive at
the meaning of you

One day the words will come

The dead burn at Pashupatinath temple, Nepal

The dead burn at Pashupatinath temple, Nepal

I’ve been trying to find words to convey the enormity of my experience at Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu last night. I’ve done hardly a thing today, though not for want of trying – I feel like I have been split open and it’s hard to be coherent in that state. Though some garbled words have come to me, it’ll no doubt be a while before I’m able to articulate even part of the story to my satisfaction. Indeed, that time may never come. The decision about which parts of this story I want to share publicly and which parts I want to keep for myself may also take some time to reveal itself to me. Until then, I will share with you one of the very few photos I managed to pull myself together to take. In deep, deep gratitude and wonder. Briony.

 

Outside the city walls…

Outside these walls...

I don’t often venture outside the impressive city walls of Taroudannt unless I’m travelling somewhere specific. There’s really little need to.  All that one seems to require can be found within them: artefacts and essentials alike abound in the city’s two souks; the crooked back lanes and colourful murals provide a calm escape from the buzz and dust of the city centre; and I can make it to work from my house in about five minutes (and back home again for lunch even more quickly!).

Most of the government buildings exist on the outside though, and today was one of the rare occasions I needed to visit one of them. Instead of waiting for my friend outside the police station, at which my Visa extension papers await approval, I wandered over the road to the park. There are many similarly gorgeous and impeccably maintained water features like the one in this picture surrounding the official residences of Taroudannt. They’re lovely! Maybe I could lobby the pollies to install one inside the city walls…

Stay tuned for more music!

In addition to my update on work, play and pain below, I thought I’d just post a short update about my music. After spending the large part of two months lazing around on the couch, my guitar has *hurrah!* decided to forgive me my infidelity and take me back. Since last weekend, I have been furiously writing and composing, and feeling so inspired! Today I sat with my window open, the sun pouring in, and spent hours rediscovering myself musically, playing around with new chord progressions and riffs, and jotting down lyrics and ideas.

Photography: Kim Holgate-Ryan

I was feeling a bit guilty and sad about not  being able to find the time to do something that I love so much, and that makes me so happy, though I suppose that often it’s actually a good thing to take a step back from creating; to let yourself absorb new and familiar surroundings and experiences alike, without thinking too much about how you can use those things for the production of your music.

Because I’d been so busy (and still am) I hadn’t really noticed I’d not only stopped playing, but stopped listening too. So I’ve started listening again to some great music both new and old; after reconnecting with both my music and that of others it feels like a new creative space has opened up! I’m really excited to be able to share some of my new material with you soon via YouTube.

Thank you also for everyone who has bought my album, and made such incredible comments about it. If you haven’t checked it out already, you can visit the ‘my music’ page on this blog on which you can play a number of tracks, or go to my Facebook page (in the right-hand sidebar of the blog).

Details of how to purchase a CD are available on both of these forums. They cost a measly $15 AUD + $3 postage, and include 7 original tracks in diverse styles.

What are you waiting for? More?

Well, stay tuned, *ahem*. You know what I mean.

Photography: Kim Holgate-Ryan

Moroccan healthcare: value for money (at least for some…)

Taroudannt mural depicting Gnawa musicians

I’ve been told I look quite comical writing my blog entry today. I’m sitting on one of the house’s many couches, with my knees bent and my laptop precariously balanced on top of them, in an attempt to keep everything at eye level. This somewhat unnatural contortion (for me, anyway) follows an excruciating last four days with debilitating shoulder and neck pain, which I have become convinced is caused by the not-so-ergonomic plastic chair I sit on every day in the office, my desk being too low, a bad night’s sleep, riding my bike over bumps in the road and slumping over my guitar. Of course, a small disclaimer regarding the writing: I will make the effort to spell check though please be so kind as to forgive any oversights due to the seesaw effect my computer has as I hit the keys.

Yes, it has been a painful few days. Though luckily for me, there are pretty decent healthcare services in Taroudannt, Morocco, and I so I was able to visit the physio yesterday. Of course, being from Australia where you pay through the nose, and by the minute, and generally get the vibe that your physician is glancing at his/her watch as you’re lying face down and ‘oblivious’, coupled with the fact that I am ostensibly a ‘tourist’ and didn’t want to get ripped off, I was pretty keen to get a general idea of how much bang I’d get for my 100 Dirham ($10 AUD) buck. I received a range of responses as to the length of the session: a vague “Oh, between 15 minutes and half an hour”, said one friend, “it depends” said the receptionist upon my arrival. Depends on the extent to which you are out of whack, I took that to mean.

I must have been really, really out of whack. For an equivalent of $10 AUD, I was in session for no fewer than two hours, and worked on by three different doctors who insisted on remarking every five minutes on the poor diagnosis (something I felt didn’t bear that much repetition given my acute awareness of my condition, stemming from an incapacity for any movement whatsoever in the upper region of my body).

After a massage and an ultrasound treatment, and more remarks on the direness of my condition, I was somberly informed that I had to be hooked up to some electrodes. Having not experienced such a treatment at any Australian physio before, I,*ahem* asked a few questions, whilst trying to suppress a vivid mental recreation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest though with me as the protagonist and in a more exotic setting. After my fears had been appeased, and following twenty minutes hooked up to this thing – a machine that contracts and relaxes your muscles – I think I am going to invest in one. Success!

With my newfound mobility, I went for a walk. I decided just to walk and keep on walking; to venture into a part of town that I might not have stumbled on before. I suppose it was a bit of a meditation for me, and it was made even more lovely by the fact that my boyfriend in Australia was taking a walk with me – though he in Australia. Just as an aside, and without wanting to harp on about love and relationships and all that mushy stuff that I firmly believe should be kept between two people and not on blogs, I will just say that for anyone trying to overcome the natural challenges of a long distance relationship, we’ve found that this synchronisation of activities is a really nice way to connect besides just talking on the phone. I mention this in the hope that it will save others the time it took us to realise that when we’re at home together we don’t just talk – we do other stuff too – so why just consign yourself to phone conversation after phone conversation when you’re apart?!

Anyway, enough of that! Whilst on this walk, I deliberately ventured into a new part of town, winding through the backstreets just inside the city walls. Here, I made a glorious discovery:  a small community garden, around which all the walls of peoples’ houses were decorated with beautiful murals. I have posted a couple of pictures – the first (above) is a depiction of some gnawa musicians (a spiritual and repetitive type of Moroccan music in which the musicians play to induce a trance-like meditative state in the listeners). Below are three parts of an eight-piece image, which I thought were so lovely I just had to share them with you. I have translated the French for you below.

The first: “Each journey is the dream of a new birth”; the second: “The one who seeks the stars touches the moon”; and the third: “Don’t go where the path may lead, go where there is no path and leave a mark”. Such beautiful messages to find on such a meditative stroll.

Work has also been coming along fruitfully and enjoyably. We have been continuing with our weekly Women’s Group meetings in anticipation of creating an income-generating exercise based for the mothers of the children who visit the Centre AFAK (for children and their families in situations of difficulty) which is run by the local NGO Groupe Maroc Horizons with support from British NGO the Moroccan Children’s Trust. Each week my Moroccan colleague and I have been designing activities so that the women can engage with the creation of ideas and knowledge forming this enterprise. It’s truly inspiring to find that with each week the level of discussion amongst the women and their engagement with the process is increasing, and I can report that the great deal of information we have gathered with the women will now form the bones of the proper proposal for the enterprise.

In other news I am vastly looking forward to my mother, sister and a friend coming to Morocco in the first week of July! I will be taking a couple of weeks (well, 10-12 days) off from work so I can travel with them, and really get to see the country properly.  I will be catching a Grand Taxi to Marrakech then the overnight train to Tangier (the Northern tip), where I will meet up with them and slowly voyage back down to Taroudannt once more. I will also be enjoying a visit from my boyfriend at the start of October; though that seems just too far away to report on now (it needed a mention though, of course, due to my uncontainable excitement)!

Fear not, this victim of modernity and technology will be taking her conveniently small laptop with her during her travels, and will definitely be posting some beautiful photos and (hopefully) interesting commentary along the way. Stay tuned!

Bisalama,

Briony

I am now covered in henna

I am now covered in henna

protected by
a fragrant drying shell
reddish ink settles in
making a home
of two hands
and happy feet

What would WorkSafe have to say?

What would WorkSafe have to say?

There always seems to be a lot of construction work going on in Taroudannt, and coupled with that some very interesting scaffolding configurations. This photo, believe it or not, is of one of the less hairy set ups; honestly, if I’d taken a photo of the scaffolding adorning the construction that lay just around the corner from my house a couple of weeks ago, I think the click of the shutter might have collapsed the entire building. So instead of posting a picture of an entire support structure balanced on the end of one piece of wood which sat upon three precariously piled concrete blocks, I’m posting a picture of some bits of wood shoved into holes in the new wall (which ostensibly will be filled in later, perhaps from the inside?)

Throughout Morocco, you’ll find a lot of unfinished buildings like these. Usually they are big, square concrete structures with iron rods poking out from the ‘roof’, left there to facilitate future expansion. As far as I know there are two main reasons for this. The first is that in Morocco, as in other parts of the world, families stick together for as long as they are able. This means that as they expand, and as children grow up and have their own children, houses also tend to grow (upwards!) with new levels stacked on top of the existing structure so as to accommodate new family members. The second reason, I have been led to believe, is that an unfinished home commands fewer taxes…

I’m reluctant to make a value judgement on this one, but tend towards applauding a clever way to get around paying the Man in a country in which the taxes may not make their way back to the people anyway. That said, even though corruption exists the Moroccan government has taken steps to combat it, so…What do you think?

If only I liked watermelon…

If only I liked watermelon...

It has become apparent to me over the last few weeks that it is watermelon season in Morocco. Even though I have never had any interest whatsoever in eating the bland and watery, yet strangely popular, fruit, I must say I do enjoy them spilling out of shop fronts, tumbling off the back of donkey-drawn carts, or being smashed open theatrically on the ground by enthusiastic vendors. Luckily for me, I have managed to acquire a taste for cantaloupe, which is also in abundance, as well as many other different hybrids – I was shocked to find a yellowish melon I indulged in the other day tasted exactly like a pear. Innovation at its finest, I say.

Turns out that riding a bike is actually like riding a bike

Turns out that riding a bike is, indeed, like riding a bike

 

Couldn’t really help myself posting a snap of my new bike! (Exclamation point!)

I’d been toying with the idea of buying one for a few weeks; everyone in Taroudannt owns a bike, and being the absolute conformist and callous consumer that I am, I really wanted one. So on Sunday I found the energy from somewhere, braved the brutal heat and toddled off to the second hand bike market over the other side of town.

I emerged victorious, having paid the equivalent of about $70 AUD (700 Dirham) for a fixed gear complete with handy handlebar basket (for pet goat), working brakes (very important) and lock for ‘kidnappers’ (as was kindly explained to me). My happy success has been made even sweeter by friends’ many exclamations over my ‘sweet deal’. Always nice to know you haven’t been ripped off.

Though I haven’t ridden a bike for about a million years, I have found that funnily enough riding a bike is, well, like riding a bike. It’s bloody fast to whizz around the town now, and to my dismay I have come to the realisation that owning the same mode of transport as everyone else has indeed given me a sense that I’m, dare I say it, fitting in. Ugh. Well, at least it’s not a Mercedes.

Cous cous amongst wonderful friends

Cous cous amongst wonderful friends

The first thing my darling friend and star pupil said to me when I arrived at her house for a delicious cous cous lunch last week was (and in English, too): “Welcome! This is your home now too; you are welcome here any time. It’s very small and there are lots of us, but we are very happy here.”

The rickety fishing vessels of Essouira…

The rickety fishing vessels of Essouira...

The marina at Essouira…

The marina at Essouira...

A côté du Centre Afak

The rhythm

The rhythm

The road outside…

The road outside...

To begin a new phase…

To Eddrouman

Just a bunch of rocks

When doors open

From the rooftop…

From the rooftop...

The road by Lalla Amina…

photo 2

So many couches…

So many couches...

Picture the same setup in every room of the house over three giant levels and you have a vague idea of how many couches there are here.