seek and find

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

two hours of goodness

24 June

It’s nearly 9am. It feels like 2pm. My patience seems to be tried.

“the finest pleasure is kindness to others” – jean de la bruyere

I wonder what a spell of Enlightenment thinking would do to African culture. Would the Muslim in Malians be tried by self-awareness?

The simplicity of subsistence culture is often times contemplative but (according to me and my openly cynical self) only to those outside of it. Because in its simplicity comes the ultimate daily decision to continue in it. The task of reducing every question to one that can be answered simply; squelching any difference not validated by money; allowing awful things to pass from generation to generation and chocking it up to Allah’s will. In this, the hardest time of year, the beginning of sowing season and the rains of hungry season are upon us and kids go hungry, entire families eat only one meal a day, because money from last years crop is gone (no one knows where – ahem: cigarettes and tea) and rationing this last bit is terribly important.

My time with Wurdia was lovely. Dabi cried as we walked up the hill and out of sight. We walked along the red dirt road north towards Sirakoro. With Nymuso, a beautiful young girl who lives in Mourgoula with her grandmother so she can go to school, and the crazy lady who bites at her nipples when asking about Fisher (according to everyone who has seen my disgusted laugh at this explains, every time as if I may have forgotten it the time before, that biting at your nipples symbolizes motherhood. Yea, I think I got that.), we walked and they gossiped and I held my 1 ½ liter water bottle in front of me with both hands and daydreamed of a bouquet of hydrangeas, blue and camel and white, tied with a lovely bow, walking down an isle with my Dad at my side, my eyes fixed on Ryan’s. I strolled along with music in my head: “Golden” by My Morning Jacket and laughed when I realized I was walking alone. The three women had stopped and were staring at me and grinning hard. Sighing and shaking their heads in confused fun, “eh, Oumou!”

The four of us broke off to our separate destinations, down paths and shoots you don’t know unless you grew up walking them. Once we arrived at Wurida and Brahima’s huge sorghum field, filled with shea trees and infiltrated by annoying tuber weeds, I realized the work set in front of us was just that: our work. She and I tackled a 5 hectare plot in one afternoon. It was fantastic and hard and hot and hilarious.
We spoke on many topics; many things that she had not yet shared with me and some those we’d gone over for 10 months now. Her 5 dead children, her trip to Abidjan, her fear of meeting my American mother, her wish to have a plough, problems with shea trees and their fruit and nuts, the difference between Western months and African months, women as machines, Brahima’s failing eyesight and its immediate and direct effect on their family’s food security and why I’m going to miss her.
We cut plants and uprooted weeds from 12noon until 3pm. We took one 20 minute break, during which she drank more water in a sitting than I’ve seen her drink in my 11 months in Mali, and went back to work. The work was relieving, the water cool even though not, the silence and simultaneous noises of the forest surrounding us was what I needed. It cleared my head; it hurt my hands; my right hand has 3 major blisters and my back aches and it is great.
We sat quietly together, two women working and enjoying and doing.
Our duty was before us and we did not leave until the job was done.

(She knowingly did much more and probably better work than I did, but she was happy; and so was I.)

It was a truly lovely day.

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