Waters with a Taste of Mountains.

„First the earth was created, the mountains and the valleys. The waterways were divided, their branches coursing among the mountains. Thus the waters were divided, revealing the great mountains. For thus was the creation of the earth, created then by Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth, as they are called. They were the first to conceive it.“

-Popol Vuh

River and Mountains

River and Mountains

 

Very gently, like a thief entering a sleeping house, the fairy Morgana slides through the gates of the mountain: the mouth of Rio Dulce. It is the entrance to another world. Rocky shores (temples without roofs) overgrown with dark trees. Dark trees (sorcerers with sleeping birds and snakes in the hair) stretching thin fingers down, down to the green waters of the river. Green waters of the river (messenger of the tallest mountain and forgotten places) carrying aromas and the petrified reflections of ancient gods.

 

The Entrance of Rio Dulce

The Entrance of Rio Dulce

 

Nothing happens. Like in a vacuum. Like in a dream. Rocky shores, dark trees, green waters of the river-serpent. Only forest butterflies, men of maize in cayucos carved from tree trunks fishing with nets made out of Mayan secrets, and our alien boat sailing through the mountains perturb the slumber of this enchanted world.

Nothing happens for three days and three nights. We remain anchored near Cayo Quemado, a few mile before the town of Rio Dulce, unable to continue, slowly letting Guatemala soak in our bones through our skins, through our eyes, ears, and mouths.

Our mornings are populated by crystal drizzle, the smell of small fires, and the cry of a black forest bird.

A silent cayuco sneaks next to our boat. A mother with three children older than time are selling tamales. She made them this morning over the fire, with her hands and her magic. She put a chicken bone for a skeleton in the middle of corn-rolls and wrapped them, like you would wrap a newborn baby, in palm leafs. Over the fire, under her spell. They taste of palm leafs, smoke and flesh.

 

Quiche woman with baby selling Tamales from her canoe

Quiche woman with baby selling Tamales from her canoe

 

Our afternoons move slowly in the heat of the summer and even stop for an hour or go backwards. Time here is not the same.

On the second day we meet the river people. Half human half fish they live in the river from the waist down and in the forest from the waist up. They have small wooden houses built on the river banks. Their canoes glide like snakes on the surface of the waters. They have no other roads but the rivers. Their enemies are the invisible river crabs.

 

River People's House

River People’s House

 

Our evenings are purple with white dots. Purple like the mountain. The white dots are river lilies and egrets returning to sleep in the trees.

 

River Lilies

River Lilies

 

Our nights are filled with the distant songs of frogs and cicadas, and the melancholic cries of the river manatees.

 

Sunset over Rio Dulce

Sunset over Rio Dulce

 

Daily prompt 

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The Sound of The Sleeping Sea

Once, when I was a small child, I pressed my ear to my sleeping mother’s belly, I remember. I listened to her inner world. The murmur of rivers running inside her, the screeching of doors, the eruption of miniature volcanoes, the distant cry of a whale. Thus, I was drifting away in my sleep, my ear pressed to her body, my head rhythmically capsizing a bit with every exhaling of her breath. 

They are longing for freedom. As we all do. A total and simple state of weightlessness, like kites high above the world, detached from their strings, lost in the upper corners of the atmosphere, long forgotten by the kids who made them, who knew they would never find them again.

Thus, they float. In small illuminated vessels, pushed by the winds, carried by the waives, as if the sea herself has heaved them up overnight. A tiny subculture outside the rest of the world, outside the confinements of your familiar city, outside the buildings where you work, where you live, and where you die.

We were anchored out in the bay, far from all other boats. There was music coming from the radio. Familiar old songs I was hearing from the first time. More people showed up on dinghies and climbed aboard. The sun did its usual trick and gloriously left the scene provoking much admiration and delight among all. The night fell. We ate and drank and talked and laughed. Someone remembered his childhood aliens. Someone else revealed a secret about this uninhabited phantom-island, not far from here, that is still Spanish territory as a result of some ancient agreement, but nobody knows. A woman’s voice on the VHF radio announced that there were reports of  ‘a man in the water’ and the coastguard was looking for him. Over.

Kids went to bed first, then I curled up next to Maya in the aft cabin under the deck. I heard goodbyes as some people left; I heard dinghies detaching themselves from the boat and disappearing; I heard the people who stayed still talking and laughing. We were ten left on the boat, the music still playing, the VHF woman still desperately searching for her man in the water. Then all was silent. The sea was sleeping beneath us.

The sea was sleeping beneath me. I pressed my ear to her belly. I listened to her inner world. The murmur of rivers running inside her, the screeching of doors, the eruption of miniature volcanoes, the distant cry of a whale. Thus, I was drifting away in my sleep, my head rhythmically capsizing a bit with every exhaling of her breath. 

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Boat Punk Video reportage by Anne-Cécile Genre

Weekly Photo Challenge 

 

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Fata Morgana

Author’s note

The following legend was born because of a boat.

We named our boat Fata Morgana, but almost no one, appears to know what a ‘Fata Morgana’ is… It has nothing to do with neither fat women nor Arab women called Fatima, but rather with fairies, water spirits, and optical phenomena. Fata Morgana was also the name of another boat which a friend of ours built in the seventies somewhere on the shores of the Black Sea. Years later, this same friend took us sailing for the first time and with tender love and nostalgia in his voice, he would recount fantastic adventures aboard his Fata Morgana. His dream was to cruise the water-world. It became our dream. We are here now, at the edge of this new way of life, thanks to his contagious, incurable vision, his Fata Morgana. Our boat’s name and in fact our adventure are homage to him.

The legend of Fata Morgana

Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880) (altered)

Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880)
(altered: Morgana-me)

In medieval times, at the remote other side of the Earth at the antipodes, dwelled nine magical sisters. Nine blessed womb-burdens of the Isles of Apples, daughters of the king of Avallach. At dawn and at dusk they appeared floating inside the waves and lured the unwary to their death. The most beautiful and powerful of the nine was the seductive megalomaniacal sorceress, La Fata Morgana, La maîtresse des fées de la mer salée.

One April morning, between six and seven o’clock, the air calm and ambrosial, the sea peculiarly eerie, a dark schooner, like a bad omen, appeared on the north-western horizon. A crazy alcoholic pirate, Barba Roja, was the captain of the sinister vessel. He had lost one leg and one eye in horrific circumstances, but had two bellybuttons, the second of which, an inch above the first and a bit to the left, he had acquired during a mutiny when he was only sixteen and got stabbed in the stomach. Barba Roja had innumerable children in each port of each land his gloomy ship has visited and many poor women, struck by devastating love for him, have drowned themselves after his gloomy ship has left.

The legend has it, that all but one of the nine magical sisters, daughters of the king of Avallach, had also fallen in love with the pirate, and slowly, one by one, consumed by passion and unbearable sadness, faded away like puffs of mist or like shadows above the surface of the sea. Dissipating from the head down, only their transparent feet slightly visible, they walked slowly to the edge of the land where grey humid rocks meet the fury of the sea, never to be seen again. Only gentle footsteps upon the sands have been noticed afterwards by fishermen every now and then. Of course, Fata Morgana was the one who did not fall for the guy and therefore did not disappear. Plus, the villainess got so furious with Barba Roja because of this situation with her sisters, that only proper revenge could probably calm the small tornado that had gathered around her body disturbing everything in a ten mile radius.

No one, even I who have invented this legend, remembers exactly what happened to Barba Roja when he finally met Fata Morgana, but it is known that for the first time in his lonely life he felt the desire to recite poetry facing the setting sun, small yellow flowers blossoming on his wooden leg. On the following morning, his sinister schooner and all its crew, captain included, vanished, replaced by an unusual vision of an otherworldly object, resembling an inverted phantom-ship ever-changing in its appearance, hovering in the sky. This optical phenomenon: a ghostly mirage or a glorious illusion of a great upside-down schooner with black sails would often appear after that day (and still does sometimes) in calm weather before the eyes of melancholic sailors who would have staked their lives upon its reality. “Fata Morgana”, they would whisper, their hearts full of tender sorrow, nostalgia, and inexplicable love.

Some interesting-looking links to writings on Fata Morgana (most of them I still have not had the time to read, by I will)

1. wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fata_Morgana_(mirage)

2. Vanishing Tricks of a Goddess by Imorgen Rhia Herrad

http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http://www.geocities.com/magnorth_writing/ournonfictionimogen.html&date=2009-10-26+02:06:09

3. Le Folklore breton et les romans arthuriens

http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/abpo_0003-391x_1949_num_56_2_1888

4. Vita Merlin, Gaufridi de Monemuta/ The Life of Merlin by Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1973

http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/merlini.html

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Axis Mundi. Our Mandala House

After weeks of creating the intricate pattern of a sand mandala, as a meditation on impermanence, the sand is brushed together and placed in a body of running water to spread the blessings of the mandala.

Today I have disturbed all the spiders in our house. Some got their long legs twisted beyond repair while I was reaching for the farthest corners. (Stumbling cripples, so fragile they are.)

The world’s point of beginning: a connection between Heaven and Earth where the four compass directions converge, a place that is sacred above all: our house, has been disturbed.

We are leaving our house forever. The house where a bird once entered trough the open window two years ago, frantically flapping her wings, terrified, creating commotion for a brief minute before finding the open window again. The house where, four years ago, we placed the two rocks we found at the two ends of the continent: one white and perfectly oval like a dinosaur egg from a beach somewhere near Halifax, the other black-red, scorched by the belly of the under-earth, we found somewhere in California. The house where Maya, purple, was born, nine years ago. The house where my father came after so many years and stayed for a night. Is no longer our house.

One by one, every object disappeared. Every object we have so carefully placed in its place. Other people are having dinner at our table tonight. Maybe mashed potatoes or soup made out of snails. Kids I have never met are sitting on our couch watching a film on our TV tonight. A man and a woman who were born in Alger will make love in our bed tonight and the night after.

Tonight, I am sad, so sad. I never thought it would be so painful all this leaving thing. Leaving everything almost, except a few clothes, a few books, a few board games, and a photo camera.

From now on, we will live on a boat, and the boat will be our new mandala.

The boat we named: Fata Morgana.

rock

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Johnny and the Birds

On wet mornings when people are still sleeping in their beds in their bedrooms breathing rhythmically slowly approaching the end of their nightmares, only birds scavenge the city. Birds don’t waste their lives lost in dreams as much as humans do. They even sleep with only one eye open.

An absent-minded bird is standing at the edge of an empty street looking undecided, his three pink fingers clutching the cold concrete.

One.

And then more birds start to arrive marching in military formation to inaudible commands: Left, Left, Left Right Left!, carrying the blades of their beaks like pink bayonets, oblivious to the vacuum of the empty city.

They take their post up on a strategic wall, their silk uniforms emanating nuclear white light. Balancing on one leg, one eye locked towards the imaginary slaughterfield, they wait.

Three.

As more birds join the ranks of the bird army each minute appearing out of nowhere like puffs of breath on a cold mirror, the anxiety swells.

One Hundred and Nine.

Suddenly, an old man on a bicycle gracefully skimming between the impenetrable green and the wide-open unprotected grey glides in like a ghost. From all directions, alarmed, the birds lift their weightless bloodless bodies pirouetting through the air like puffy clouds chased by winds and gather around the man on the bicycle.

Oh my God!, they have been expecting him, I just realised! They knew where and when, and they knew why (or so they thought) the man was arriving. All this marching and waiting and gathering has been meticulously planned many days in advance. The arrival has been inevitable.

Again suddenly, the man stops in the midst of white feathers and pink beaks. His name is Johnny, but the birds don’t know that. All they know is that Johnny has been arriving on his bicycle every early morning for the past four years gently throwing dog food in the air.

When Johnny goes away the birds become disoriented. The air is void again. The city awakens, the birds disappear. Only scattered droppings remain.

Are you a good guy, Johnny? White feathery hair.

One soldier is going to be missing tomorrow, only his feet to be found.

He has been the bravest but also a bit foolish.

His flesh tastes just like chicken, so he won’t  be remembered.

One Hundred and Eight.

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