Saturday, March 29, 2014

snippets from a zanizibar journal...


Words buzz furiously in my head – like bees swarming….I do other things to distract myself, until they quieten down. I colour in. I read childrens’ story books, lying in the sun in front of the house. When the tide comes in, full and inky and gentle, usually in the early morning, I swim. I swim as far as I can go, until things feel better and the salt is from the sea and not tears.

It’s December. Everything has changed since last year. A house holds memories and the beach is savage. When we arrived, the kusi kusi (the cool south wind) still prevailed. The sea was crystal calm, like glass marble. Sometime last week, things changed, as they are wont to do. The kazi kazi blew in, the great north wind, hot, furious, urgent, pulling deserts behind it, stirring up the sea to hot broiling tea, snapping masts, twisting sea weed around your ankles and knotting stinging blue bottles around your wrists, tangled in bangles. Small jagged waves, full of impertinence, slap your face. The blasting heat drives us into the sea, regardless. We swim out to the last boat. The sea is so ragged, that sometimes you disappear completely. I have strong strokes, pulling myself further and further away from shore, closer to the moored dhow, bobbing crazily about like a cork. We hold onto it, hair slicked back, adorned with sea weed, victorious.

“It feels like the boat is pulling us out,” I yell above the wind and waves, sun in our eyes, hanging from the side like a survivor.

“This sea is warm as wee,” you shout, “I’m swimming back.”

I follow, sometimes on my back. It reminds me of sleeping on deck on that yacht off Pemba, when the boys were little and couldn’t swim yet. At night I’d lie on deck, the stars sliding silently above me. It felt like I was sailing through the stars, air born. Stars everywhere, above and below in the sea, the gentle rocking of the boat, the creak of the ropes, distant drums in a dark forest on the island, beating out demons, sailing into my dreams, Peter Pan style, stars tattooed into my sleeping lids and wakeful mind.

The little deaf boy, Mustafa, comes every day to the house. I give him coloured pencils and paper. He draws strange mermaid pictures of me. 


He is deaf but, I think, brilliant. I think he sees more than someone with all their senses. Perhaps the round thing in my tummy is my womb. Who is the little creature inside me?  He draws strange wings flaming from my head. I like to think he sees auras. He looks at me and draws and cannot tell me. Are those hands or wings? Are those feet or fins? I wish he could tell me.


 Twilight falls and he draws and draws, until his older brother comes to call him, reprimanding him for being late. Mustafa cannot hear the mosque call. He smiles, shakes my hand and scampers off up the beach, until tomorrow.

One afternoon, we stroll down the beach to watch a village boat race. 


The sailors are dancers, elegant, masters of the wind. Great ivory sails billow and twist. I can’t imagine how they shall be controlled…but they are, masterfully. 


The boats shoot out towards the reef, a sight not to be forgotten, like white butterflies skimming across the moon. 

At night, the wind batters the towers. I wake thinking the sea is in the house, the waves tearing at the sea wall, gnawing and thundering, roaring. But morning arrives, gently, sun sliced through the shutters, like lemon. Sipping coffee, the light so gentle, I know, that in the end, perhaps not everything will be ok, but some things will and there is a new day awaiting.


 toodely toot y'all. we're nearly all caught up. it'll be back to kitchen boards and stories from the lush green hill of the ngorobobs. bisous X.X.X. zanzibari ones on yer nose. x j


6 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Hi Janelle!
I think your little artist captures you very well.
Ah Zanzibar.
Always love your posts.

donna baker said...

Loved your description of the sunbeams through the shutters like lemon. I saw two butterflies today, swallowtails. Spring has finally arrived.

Robyn said...

Beautiful photos- of a lost time in someways.
But tears and sadness but bravery too. I hope tomorrow, another new day is better than the last x

Anonymous said...

always enjoy your posts. i pop in from time to time. enjoy hearing about your life.

ann in wdc

family Affairs said...

SO GORGEOUS - just left a long message and it's gone…..so shorter - those are spirits looking out for you that he sees Lx

toomuchaugust said...

yes, some things get better and some things won't or don't, but enough for now. i love this attitude. attitude? this method of navigation. xo - s