Thursday, May 24, 2012

What a Way to Wake Up!

Imagine!  Adam Levine! … and it goes like this:

“I’ve got the moves like Jaggar! I’ve got the moves like Jaggar! I’ve got the moo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ooves like Jaggar!”  and I think I might have even been dancing in my bed.

So, I hopped out of bed and fed the dog, the cat and the fish; made me a pot of kaghwa. It is Arabic: the original word for coffee – we have quite a number of “English” words that originated in Arabia, but the Arabic Numerals that we were taught in school are all wrong!  

Years ago in Khartoum I couldn’t understand why our 3 in Arabic looked more like a backward 7 if we used Arabic Numerals in the west.  None of the numerals matched our numbers: our the zero was a dot; their 0 meant 5.The answer is, I found out a quarter century later is that our numerical system is descended from the Hindu “Arabic” System!  Who knew?  Apparently not our teachers.   It gets worse from there:  Hindu Arabic uses V both right side up and upside down which in my book makes a big fat plate of spaghetti  out of the Roman Numeral System, I tell you.

Those were the days, though, in Khartoum.  Who would have guessed I would end up there.  It is a far cry from my wine country with carpets of green vineyards which turned impossibly impudent reds in fall.   There, in my valley, yellow mustard grass grows taller than an eight-year-old child beneath what must be the bluest skies in the world. 

Khartoum shocked me.  My first immediate impression was of a world lacking in color.  I saw variations on shades of yellows and tans: thick, dirty and glowing yellow above me, air I could taste on my tongue.  I saw never saw sun against a blue sky there.  We had no shadows.  The sun tried hard to send light through pulverized sand in the air, and failed.    Buildings loomed in shadowy shades of mottled tans, and in the tradition of poor countries like the Sudan of the 20th Century,  awkwardly constructed, beat by the desert winds, and without décor. 

The only brilliance I saw during those first days were the occasional red and white Marlboro cigarette shacks.   I was new to international travel, and was dismayed that my country’s representative in the Sudan was cigarettes.

Against all that desert yellow, I learned a hunger for my home.  The valley that stayed alive with color throughout all seasons, even the stark patterns of winter were inspirational.  I learned that indigenous art is relative to nature’s bounty:  when one sees color and pattern, one repeats it in creative design.  We create what we see, and the art I found in the Sudanese souks was testament to those who by sheer creative determination produced pieces of cloth and carvings of wood or ivory no visual inspiration.  Did they create from memories past?  Did they hear stories handed down from ancestors?  Artists will always produce, and so in Khartoum it was in monotones of their personal surroundings.   I learned to throw away my criteria, judge less, and appreciate the artful effort on its own terms.  That dingy sand and rock was the world I learned to walk in, learned to respect, and grew to love.

Learning, walking, respecting, growing and loving are desert gifts. Thoughts came easily of  spiritual men who went to the desert for 40 days.  Clarity comes when there are no distractions, and it is easy to meditate in the desert. 

Adam Levine, you certainly took me for a ride this morning, with those moves like Jaggar.  Thanks!

No comments:

Post a Comment