Monday, October 10, 2005

pakistan : polo : prayers

polo match at the highest polo ground in the world : 3 days june 2004 : shandur pass @ 3700m straddling the hindu kush and the himalaya and the karakoram ranges : chitral vs gilgit at the mooney polo ground : thundering afghanis ... thoroughbreds ... pelts and hearts and guts and sheer power ... glistening flanks of these horses ... bloodlines : the elegance, the skill and grace of polo men : a freak mountain dust storm ripping tents and blinding men and turning cars but leaving ricebag untouched in her macpac : illegal cherry wine and homemade mulberry schnapps by army fires in the hutch : mountain-men whirling dirvishes and beating weatherboards among glittering log fires under a moonless sky : dignitaries and helicopters, tent city and tea groves : beautiful japanese girls hitching with sleazy operators : ... sexy dutch kevin with the sexy dutch-english, pale blue eyes and reserved smile, his red nuristani belt : mangoes for breakfast and long afternoons kissing my dutch-man in my one-man : a waving sun burnishing bridled heads in the low of an ice-capped vista

Lord what can I tell you of Pakistan? Of the 2.5 months last year that I walked and hiked and mountain-climbed and breathed in Pakistan? I heard my soul there. I understood the tools required to be able to accept who I already am and honour what I am becoming. I began to identify and claim all the little shitty and all the little perfect parts of me. I realised that love has a place in every act and every action does have a consequence. Pakistan kind of stripped me down to my essential parts and it wasn't cathartic but it was emancipating.

I understand now what beauty is. And how completely transcendant it is. Do not even begin to underestimate how powerful that knowledge can be. It releases you. It gives you freedom you didn't know you'd been denied. Freedom from human frailty and regret and fear. The freedom to know and to be the love-in-everything. And that is the dynamism of those mountains. Of those monolithic ranges. Of the vast and the sublime. Pretty goddamn humbling. You start to become or at least understand that you are sort of irrelevant. And that can feel pretty damn good if you let it.

So when I heard of this earthquake emanating from Kashmir and measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale, I shuddered. Then came the pictures. Early estimates say 20,000 have died ... but I know it's going to be much worse ... whole entire schools were buried.

Massive landslides have ocurred, making it impossible to travel up the Karokoram Highway and into the mountains ... we can only imagine what has happened to the hundreds of villages perched along the valleys of this himalaya.

My prayers are with you the Pakistani people. And especially my 2 dear Aussie friends working their dream in Chitral - Cathy and Kirsten ...

There was so much incredible. So much vista. And the people. Open hearts. Intelligent. Questioning. Struggling. Learning. Ancient. The people. Were the best part. Are the best part.

I know on this blog I speak vaguely of my travels - refer in general terms to specific events and distant geographies and various emotions and all that breathing hesitant love - it's mostly that those memories remain a little alive and a little too real/unreal for me to capture and put their startled bodies & beating wings in an old jam jar for mine and your magnifying yet cursory, non-commitant scrutiny. I don't know how to tell you how fucking physical and hard and terrifying and boring and brave and brilliant and escapist and educational and breathtaking and lonely and selfish and self-defining and awesome and introspective and retrospective and just bloody exhausting most of it was. I don't know how to do that unless I have the freedom to write it all out or say it all out and you have the time to absorb at least the heat of it and touch it somewhere other than on this internet space. It's not the stuff of blogging.

Here is part of a (very) lengthy liturgy I wrote in email to my friends when I was in Pakistan. I had met this German farmer in a small town called Minapin astride the brown foothills at the base of Mt Rakaposhi (7788m) ... where one afternoon I had a blinding black-out, a fit, a fainting spell. He roused me in the gossamer shade of a thinning cherry tree ...

As I lay in the recovery position, willing away the tingling sensation in my head and welcoming the hot kisses of sunlight on my toes, Habib said that the biggest voice in me is fear. Habib Aziz (Translates: Free Friend) is a German man, 50ish, organic farmer and mountain-walker of Austrian extraction, which makes his hobby our adventure, his walk our pilgrimage, his amble our conquest. He spoke slowly. I shifted my weight on the bristly goats-wool rug and understood that what he said was true.

Before I had said a single word, Habib Aziz looked me long across the shadows and said: "You have many voices inside you. Some of them are beautiful. But the one voice that is sitting on top of all the others is the voice of fear. Fear is making you think too much.

Don't think too much. I don't know much, I am just a farmer. But don't think too much. It's dangerous."

Suddenly I found my failures tumbling out of my mouth, telling this father of grown daughters about the detritus of things done wrong, half done and not done. He smiled as I dribbled a litany of the doubtful I have to offer and he said that this is what makes me more. More interesting, more worth knowing, more than the tattiest parts of the sum of me. That those weaknesses require strength and without them character cannot form and having character means sometimes having more.

Several people, all strangers to my past but all friends to my soul, have told me this exact thing, in one way or another, over this past year on the road. Fear is making me heavy ... my heart, my chest, my shoulders ache ... it's making me run, opressed and laden and making my mind manic and disorderly. I've always wanted to do too much, to know too much, to see too much, to understand more, feel more, hear more, see more, know more. Know More. Desperate for accumulating experience, hording all the bitter, all the sublime, the wretched, the poignant, the unimaginable, holding it all like an offering to some weary adjudicator as a small recompense for all the weaknessnes and all the less-thans that form the skin of my Self.

Exactly what forms the contours of this fear remains unclear to me. I thought a large part of it was a fear of failure. I used to name this the Fear of Regret. I didn't want it, not a bar of it, would rather die than rue the undone, the unseen, the unloved, the unhurt. But it's more than that - somewhere it's also a fear of failing me. My own harsh demands on my less than the strongest body, on my less than an excellent mind and on my less than a pure heart.

Pakistan didn't make me whole. She just gave me the chance to break it (me) down, to separate all the pieces and look at them with some objectivity and without shame. And even, with love. That's all. I'm still a little in awe of what I started to see. But I'm not fascinated or riveted or obsessed. I know I am just a part of everything else. Of this massiveness of life. I know that everything does not happen to me. But that I happen in it.

This journey is nowhere near complete. I think, for that, you'll need to stay tuned ...


Anonymous Anonymous said...


does anybodys still live here?

10 November, 2005 13:18  
Blogger islandbaby aka ricebag said...

yes!! i still live here. apology for absence. nice to know someone missed me.

11 November, 2005 15:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I check on the page still about every day...I miss you but I'm sure you're busy and have your reasons! So we'll still be here when you return. Good luck to you!


01 December, 2005 02:06  
Anonymous BabySister said...

shinjuku's neon lights twinkle in anticipation
muji is waiting idley for you the shopper who understands the true symbolism of no brands
udon beckons in steamy wafts
but most of all:
BabySister is calling you like a long lost prayer

dont be pissed of with me
the one who loves you most, yet knows you least, who longs for you the deepest, but suffers from verbal diarrhea & continuous bouts of unpoetic self-expression, for am i not the one whom God sent to protect you - the fighting female warrior, the joy bringer, the kiss craver, the defender of all my childhood fears

and so the years have passed and what did have of you when you went wondering in the desert and trampling through mangroves to end up passing out on distant mountains in a strange mans land? i had periodic emails and 8 hour candles to burn through the night as i prayed 'dear God, her soul do keep...'
the insenstitive soul who drifts between her 58.2sq,meter flat and to a dead-end-job surrounded by pathetic sallerymen and on the odd occasion where her beautiful and so evidendly wonderful yet unfortunately single flatmate MrGuy takes her dancing or more often than not drinks through the night with her- so that she can release her soul and let go of the ache in her arms that can only be filled by you.

how could you possibley be pissed off with me?
as i am consumed by jelousy of the multitudes who must know your different faces better than I? as i live vicariously through the words of strangers who have travelled, shared, felt liberated, loved, lost, gained and cried with you? to step into their shoes...
i read their replies and wonderful that they know so well the my beter half that i am loving for so long and from so far away.

i listen to tracey chapman's 'the promise' and fantaize you listening as i sing to you (karaoke is far from overated). but you know above all others that here - i am free to do as i like, go where i please unmolested and unmollycoddled. here i can be.

and i love you, i love you i love you.
i love you for the Ricebag i never knew, the big sister that read to me and rocked me as i slept, i loved the young girl that was sent away as a babe and returned as a women. and i love the woman now who strives, wants more, and settles for less than the best.
you will not find love, but love will seek you out and adore and worship you for the woman that you are and the person that you so painfully need to be. you are yet to be deserved to be loved and you will be - by one who
understands that passion, dedication and the relinquishing of ones soul should only be done for one as one as deserving as YOU.

i carry you with every breath i take and every essence of my soul, i live to learn from you and take the love from you that i so deserve. i yearn to lay beside my Ricebag - for that is love.


10 December, 2005 06:01  

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