Troubles, left behind swirl, blessed, released, among images of family far from Burkina Faso. Slowly these vanish with a growing sense of morning. Somewhere between dreaming and waking, Mary has a sense of the healing vitality underlying existence, in the improbable corners of states of being. She meant to grasp something from its hold, even while she had little idea what that state is.
Something inside that held her cue to being alive...
From her viewpoint beside a few weary-looking stocks of wheat atop the maison soukala, the flat terrace roof connected to the compound below by a ladder, Mary orients herself to the birds. She rises from her bedding---she is still trying to achieve restfulness, such as she encountered her very first day here as a reaction to the sheer exhaustion of her one way journey to the place her mother visited before ("when I was near her, in spirit?"): a village lying about one hour away from the one airstrip in this part of the country Burkina Faso, former Upper Volta. Like every village for miles around, they call it "Dano."
The radio---a Panasonic, two decades vintage---plays out of the neighboring hut, African pop music from a station in Ougaoudao. In French---a little attention in high school has taken her a long way---a disc jockey excitedly extols a coming film festival. The golden stallions, she'd deduced, were the awards. There was more talk of horses out here than she'd ever associated with Africa, so at first she couldn't be sure. She'd tuned out commercials before, but tucked away in this village, they seemed to present a fantasy of the city, far down the flat dirt roads past the gum tree grove.
With the relief of curving her torso down to her knees in the darkness of the earthen hut, Mary's heart energies flow over her head, blood enriching her tissue with a warm sense of being. Before long, everyone will rise and share greetings; for now, those who gather water, risen early in the well, must walk with earthen pots, to questions of sweet dreams and stories riverside to tell.
Her mind drifts back to the fleet leopards in the W Nazinga Park, spotted out of her periphery during her visit there with Aaron and Wobogo. "It's strange, how there's no place for romantic love, in the usual 'boy meets girl' sense. But Aaron is so different from the villagers in many ways---and his Dagara people in the Ivory Coast might be more Westernized, and he's been a journalist. Who's to say there's not a spiritual connection everyone will recognize, anyway? At least I've had a strong connection! " She realizes she's gotten very identified with the village ways in this new life; already she anticipates having their opinions, help and acceptance should this become a love.
In light of this being her last hurrah, the very idea of loving someone intimately suggests a faith for days to come. What do you know? I've built confidence for a hope in this life.
She imagines, miles distant, the lions sleeping away the day long, except for these mornings, the time of the hunt. Once, she'd watched a wildlife program, cautioning of their possible extinction; yet before her eyes a pride had emerged, evoking singing within her wild self---the very life force that kept her living. No longer was she here to only die in peace. She gazes upon a green mask with stripes of tiger-like energy, Kourgi Kambire's creation, upon the compound wall of the maison soukala, on the side of his closest male kin. She knows that mask is a call towards understanding, a gentleness, acceptance, and ancestral wisdom concerning friendship. Every piece of art has several meanings, a lesson that evolves with the viewer's immediate situation, the sharing of inner selves—a point of rituals.
In the early morning's faint embers, Kulinah passes a cart of yams, fresh from the labors of the day before. Yams, two feet long! The rains, now patiently awaited in these hottest days, had been kind, swelling the plant life with nourishment. As she and Sapla and two dozen others had tended the harvesting together, Desiree had come outside with the newly finished dress for Osun's wedding. The dress, too, had meaning, in the renewal of her relationship. Aside from the opportunity every five days to freshen their commitment in ash circles, the wedding holds a broader celebration of one another. "Every wedding is a chance for the whole tribe to marry," Sapla had said, many times. "Everyone's spirits are wedded!"
At the moment, she sees Sapla, whose sight makes her as happy as cartoons of childhood.
"What sweet thing came to your dreams, Sapla?" she asks with a broadening smile.
"The comfort of a happy friend," she replies, "who's come to join the beginning of the day." Sapla sometimes wakens a little slowly, remembers Mary, who notes sluggishness in her demeanor.
"And Sisquekwo---all ready, gagner petit?" she says, putting a soothing hand to each of Sapla's sides. "Before the ancestors on the other side, baby Thurisaz parle, 'je demande la route' (I'm on my way home!) She immediately realizes a connection in her question and Sapla's state of mind.
"C'est caillon, "she replies, shaking her head. "Yesterday, we thought the child was coming, as well as many times in the night. But she is having trouble breathing and her dilations are not wide enough." Sapla tears up, looks off to nowhere particular above Mary's strong shoulder. "We are trying to keep hope, be wise and strong…but we were not yet sure what type of ritual we'll need, after all."
They embrace a long moment, eyes closed, sensing the touch and the wafting smell of shea butter.
"Mary Kulinah, you are welcome to pray in our thilde when you get time in your chores."
"Je suis en bouill"---I'll go wherever you like. Sapla loads up her lovely red calabash of water and shambles away, as Mary completes filling her calabashes and pots as well.
"Oh, God, no," says Mary, weeping. "Oh, no, please, no, you can't"---the word pours forth from her quivering lips, dissolving into an impassioned sob. "Oh, please, oh, please," she cries pleadingly, to the source of the world inside herself. She pictures some hazy figure, clad in a kaftans robe, standing over Sisqekwo, holding her baby, for whom she's waited since the day the Dano villagers greeted her, acknowledging her, welcoming her, enfolding her into the embrace of the tribe.
"Thur-i-za," Mary would sing, joined in the work of daily life, "little Thuriza…" so happily as a child's heart, when gentleness settles therein. At this moment, many of her fellows come along to collect water as well.
The kindness of people of all ages made Mary celebrate her decision to be here. When she arrived, fresh from the crossroads that took her from incarceration to this village, she'd only sought some way to fill her remaining days with hope. She left behind the betrayal which painted her the "ringleader" of the Robin Hood ploy to cyber swipe money already stolen inside the company---but she could not erase the Crohn's Disease, discovered in her last prison physical. With the 'honeymoon' of culture shock and a friendliness that she considered "down home," she'd begun the great mental distance from fear, captivity.
At first, she'd resisted. Then she watched what belief was doing, how free of unnecessary cares one could become, face to face with cooperation. The fear became her possession through ritual; she began to live from a part of herself beyond disease, beyond death.
Now, at least, she feels better, and someone else feels good. And if sadness is to be, between them all, the separation may not feel so painfully lonesome. In fact, the conditions for a spirit to visit---to be treated as a presence, felt beyond mortal fear---could they be any finer? Everyone would understand. An entire community knows.
The character of fear, the bereavement, could be transmuted---is that the word? Still, she watches the visiting Mossi trader parking his motorcycle, detached, with a bubble of sorrow inflating now, and takes a deeper breath with heavier eyes...
Thurisa, she thinks, willing a thread of power between herself and the baby she wishes to comfort. Here is my life. Take my warmth---please don't be afraid.
(chapter continues; I'll post the rest of it next time)