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Monday, November 02, 2009

Perched On My Rock

My mother told me that on the night I was born a storm of freakish magnitude hit Tartous putting the fear of god in the hearts of her people. The little town was ravaged by torrential rains and strong gales. The power went down and all hell broke loose. Psychotic lightening raped the sky with lunatic vehemence, quavered then climaxed in deafening rolls of thunder. Tormented shutters flapped on hinges in agony and moaned. The wind howled in between the alleys chasing genies deep into their holes. Rain drummed on tin roofs in a sadistic crescendo. Thunder bellowed threatening to disgorge the earth beneath. The sea pounded the beach a hundred meters from the room with a view to the sea, spitting its froth on the window. It roared above them all with deafening anger: “Be quiet!”, then I cried.


As a toddler I sat all day in my playpen on the balcony facing the sea. That was the only way to keep me content, my mother's bedtime story went on. Browsing old black and white photographs, I see myself swimming by the age of four. I have no recollection of my first steps nor of my earliest plunge. I do know, however, that the passage of years did not change me in the least. I still run away from it all and stare at the sea with an insatiable hunger and a profound thirst. Even in the dead of winter, when only a fool with a lantern roams the beach, I am there perched on my rock.


One thing about Tartous which made it different from all the landlocked cities I lived in is the expanse of her horizon. I remember an early trip to Damascus when my mother and father were traveling abroad and had to leave me at my grandparents'. I searched for the horizon but could not find it and I was afraid. How did they live within walls of mortar and shadows and not suffocate? Where did they escape to when their world closed in? There was no salt in the air to breathe. They did not sweat nor feel the caressing fingers of a westerly breeze cooling their bereaved souls. No sail carried their cravings to foreign lands. No ship horn wailed in the dark of night filling their minds with vocal scenes. Did they ever dream while they slept or did they barely live, fearless of getting lost at sea?


I have counted my days and ways by the ensuing tides, my spirit rising and falling with the imminent swell. I spread my wings and soared with the seagulls above. I let go, drifting, till I turned into a far-flung spec then disappeared. Time, being left without me, panicked. It gathered its hours and minutes and scurried beyond the mountains to the east, waiting for me to reappear.


I fell in a waterspout, morphing with the distant ripples. By dawn, they made it as breakers to shore. I climbed on my rock, naked and strong. I filled my lungs with mist and walked the desolation. The cowardly time, finding courage in my return and eager to please, asked me when I wanted to go.


I slumped in my bed, where I was born in my home by the sea. My nightly voyage left me invigorated and alive. I shut my eyes not to sleep but to see you closer. And I did.

32 comments:

Fantasia Lillith said...

How is it that your words always find a way to make my heart sing, soar and feel so alive?

They carried me on your thoughts, showed me your heart and left me wondering if I will ever meet in person the man with such warmth in his spirit.

Mariyah said...

The sea is the rhythm of the beautiful song in your soul, dear Abufares. This piece is transcendent and exquisitely inspiring. Thank you.

Karin said...

You have a very beautiful soul dear friend!

I love the sea as well, dearly, passionately - I can relate to the way you feel. I would sit for hours at the beach and just look at the water, listen to the ripples and waves, smell the salty air, let the wind touch my skin ... it all has an incredibly calming effect on me, it is MAGICAL!!

Thanks, Abufares .. for this beautiful, beautiful post!

Omar said...

What a wonderful peace of writing. Your description of the thunder painted a better picture in my head then if I had seen it before my eyes.

I've always been envious of people living in coastal cities. To have the sea right there, available whenever you need to take a swim, relax, or just get lost in the sound of the waves and the smell of the salt, is a privilege that I always wished I had.

abufares said...

@Fantasia
When my heart is singing, soaring and feeling alive the words come easy.
We will meet and I know it. I can't wait to see your smile when I tell you here I am:-)

abufares said...

@Mariyah
If I knew that the way to get you back here was to write about the sea I would've done so ages ago.
The sea is me Mariyah, the lake, the river, every drop of rain.

abufares said...

@Karin
What is it about the sea that makes us so humble yet so infinite?
Could it be that our genes long to return to where it all started on earth? Isn't it the same craving we have when we look in the night sky toward the distant stars? Where would I go if I didn't have the sea but only my dreams? Or is it that I would've never dreamed in the first place?
You're right, Magic!

abufares said...

@Omar
Sometimes my friend we see so much better with our eyes closed.
Living by the sea is indeed a privilege. In the desolation of time and space it keeps me company. It sings with me.
Thank you Omar for dropping by, always a pleasure to see you here.

BIL said...

Yes, it is amazing how a simple yet so complex a thing such as the sea makes one simply want to stop and enjoy all the beauty it has to offer. I too enjoy a seaside oasis where you can just sit, relax, and enjoy the sounds of the water. No matter if the weather is calm or stormy. They both have their unique melody and mood. I only wish I had the opportunity to be by the seaside more often, but alas the distance just does not lend itself to fulfill that wish. I am envious of people who live directly by the ocean allowing them to visit the special place often. Seeing those ships pass and think of what distant land far past the ” horizant” they are off to, and places I have yet not seen. Thanks Abufares for this most splendid post (I am glad to see you are back in the groove of it all). Oh that ride through the country side to your “special Rock” really does wonders:-)

Fantasia Lillith said...

I look forward to that day! and the surprise and smile will be genuine!

abufares said...

@BIL
First I'm glad you two are together again.

As much as I'm fond of the sea I can appreciate how a highlander can be hooked to his mountains or a Bedouin attached to his desert.
Our natural affinity to the outdoors is the common ground. It perhaps explains why I'm not comfortable in the company of die-hard city folks. They are to humanity what greenhouse vegetables are to an organic garden.
Thank you BIL for coming by, always.

abufares said...

@Fantasia
Now that you are aware of my intentions you shouldn't be surprised anymore. I will be grinning from ear to ear though, I promise :-D

Gabriela said...

Once again, you managed to move me. And thanks for those wonderful pictures. Are they all yours?
The sea is one of the most beautiful things we have, but it somehow scares me. So huge, so enormous... and yet so poetic.
Wonderful post.

abufares said...

@Gabriela
The pictures are all mine and were taken from virtually the same place. uhhh, well... from my rock:-)

Any old mariner will tell you that if one becomes complacent he won't last long. The same calm and blue sea is unforgiving when angry and this is part of its eternal beauty.

Thank you for enjoying this story, which is very close to my heart.

Joseph said...

As beautiful as your sea Abufares, here, in this sublime scene from the movie “Il Postino”, the tireless breath of this sea glorifies the poem and the metaphor...

abufares said...

@Joseph
You have an eye for a scene, it's background, foreground and details that is amazingly... piercing yet encompassing.

I loved the scene by the sea. The second one left me breathless.

Anonymous said...

Just beautiful! Living on a small Island, I understand your sentiments completely.

w.b. yeats

Batoul A. said...

I was just in Damascus and there was a day full of contemplations and thoughts that needed mother nature to heal. I found barely an empty spot for my needy mood. Although I don't live near the sea in the States but I escape to a near by lake. How I wish I lived by the sea.

Are those your photographs AbuFares? Lovely!

Joseph said...

Thank you Abufares.
I had seen “Il Postino” more than 10 times in the past. More than 10 times I had cried.
I cried for the friendship, the poetry, the hardship, the beautiful island, the sea,
Maria Grazia Cucinotta’s (Beatrice) lucid beauty, I cried for Massimo Troisi (Mario)
and perhaps I had cried for the inert verses buried deep in me.
If you haven’t already done so, allow me to suggest that you watch “Il Postino” Abufares.
You have to listen to the island.

abufares said...

@w.b. yeats
You know what I think about small islands? Are those living there isolated from the rest of the world or is it the other way around?
Oh well, I want my own island :-)

abufares said...

@Batoul
I may sound as if I'm being too harsh on Damascus and other landlocked cities in Syria but I really can't see how one can go on living like this. The only excuse we have in Tartous and Lattakia is the sea. Because of it we might be able to tolerate and forget momentarily aboutthe monstrosities all around.

Ahhh, a lake. If I had a dream, one only, it would be to live the rest of my days by a lake, somewhere secluded and far away from it all.

abufares said...

@Joseph

Don't worry mate. I already ordered it on DVD. From that one scene I knew that it's my kind of movie :-)

abufares said...

And Batoul
Yes I did take these photos, at different times but always from or near "my rock".

Anonymous said...

PUERTO RICO

¡Borinquen!, nombre al pensamiento grato
como el recuerdo de un amor profundo,
bello jardín de América el ornato,
siendo el jardín América del mundo.

Perla que el mar de entre su concha arranca
al agitar sus ondas placenteras,
garza dormida entre la espuma blanca
del níveo cinturón de tus riberas.

Tú, que das a la brisa de los mares,
al recibir el beso de su aliento
la garzota gentil de tus palmares;

Que pareces en medio de la bruma
al que llega a tus playas peregrinas,
una ciudad fantástica de espuma
que formaron jugando las ondinas.

Un jardín encantado
sobre las aguas de la mar que domas,
un búcaro de flores columpiado
entre espuma y coral, perlas y aromas.

Tú, que en las tardes sobre el mar derramas
con los colores que tu ocaso viste
otro océano de flotantes llamas;

tú, que me das el aire que respiro
y vida al canto que espontáneo brota,
cuando la inspiración en raudo giro
con sus alas flamígeras azota
la frente del cantor; ¡oye mi acento!

El santo amor que entre mi pecho guardo
te pintará su rústica armonía;
por ti lo lanzo a la región del viento,
tu corazón lo dicta al corazón del Bardo,
y el Bardo en él su corazón te envía.

¡Oyelo patria! El último sonido
será, tal vez, de mi laúd; muy pronto
partiré a las regiones del olvido.

Mi juventud efímera se merma,
y ya en su cárcel habitar no quiere
un alma melancólica y enferma.

Antes que llegue mi postrero día
y mi cantar se extinga con mi aliento,
¡toma, patria, mi última poesía!
¡Ella es de mi amor el testamento!
¡Ella el adiós que tu cantor te envía!

(First stanza of a famous Poem written by my Great great grandfather José Gautier Benítez)

I wish I was proficient enough to attempt a translation in English for you, but I'm afraid that my English vocabulary is not so rich. My Great great grandfather was sent to Spain as punishment for being in favor of Independence when he wrote this poem. He eventually was allowed to return home.

w.b. yeats

أنا سوري said...

Thank you so much for checking Abu Fares. I answered you on my deserted blog :). I have to take care of my pain and the business, but I'll be back. I always enjoy reading your eloquent articles.
Peace.

abufares said...

@w.b. yeats

I first used Google Translator to get the general meaning of the poem. Then read and savored it in it's Spanish glamor, charm and magic.

It's beautiful!!! and what makes it more so is its inherent simplicity.

Gracias por compartir este bello poema

abufares said...

@Ana Sourie

So glad to see you again. You're always welcome:-)

KJ said...

People underestimate the healing power of water; they forget we lived in water for 9 months in our mother's womb. It's our comfort zone. Cities emerged by being built around rivers, lakes and shores.

Even in Dubai, though overlooking the Gulf (but it's nowhere close to the glamorous east coast which overlooks the ocean) they figured the healing power of water and have (and still are) cutting through the land to let creeks in and around the city.

Thanks for the refreshing post this morning :) Sorry I haven't been around or blogging for over a month too.

abufares said...

@KJ
Yet before the 9 months, some millions of years ago we emerged from the sea and eventually walked the face of the earth.
Our genes remember where we came from and we perpetually long to return.
So glad to see you again and I look forward to your next post on your blog.

Joseph said...

Great Abufares, Enjoy every bit of it.

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