Yesterday at my Gouna villa was unbelievably quiet, and for those who choose to believe, it’s now three days after the feast of the Epiphany, as celebrated by Egypt’s Copts.
Practically speaking, this meant that most of the celebrants who had come to Gouna for the weekend were gone by evening.
I’ve decided to go vegan for the rest of my stay in Gouna. Maybe next time I walk to town, I might buy colcasia (which in Egypt is known as qolkas) and chard and rice to make a leafy vegetable broth. Copts traditionally feast on qolkas on the day of the Epiphany.
Perhaps I should also try to swim in the frigid waters of my pool, as was once done this time of year, when Copts would swim in the Nile in January, but that might be taking this sort of thing a bit too far.
After all, I’m not a Copt, but I too wish for a sense of cleansing and renewal. As I shed the unwanted pounds that I accumulated in recent years, I am starting to feel healthier, and stronger — newer.
Yesterday, I didn’t go for a walk.
Instead, I stayed at the villa and performed various chores. I swept the inside of the house clean, and did the same for the front and back porches.
Then I made all the beds, and cleaned every bathroom in the house. Then I cleaned the kitchen and took out the garbage.
Later, I called Orange (the telco in Gouna) customer service and was able to fix the HD problem with the TV.
I turned on CNN but kept it on mute. So much conflict everywhere, but in the scheme of things, the mountains of the desert are impervious and remain silent but for the wind.
Later still, I had a sabaak (plumber) come over to repair the minor WC issues with the upstairs toilets.
With the house back in tip-top shape, I sat outside by the pool. Suddenly it struck me how stunningly quiet it was.
Not quiet enough where I could hear the blood coursing through my veins, but almost.
I read some, and watched the cat laze on a chair in the sun, and then two doves came to drink water from the pool.
Where they messengers?
I could easily turn into a mystic hermit wandering the deserts in search of meaning and absolution.
I enjoy the stillness of the desert, even though the desert in truth is far from still. It is deeply satisfying to sit for hours and watch the changing colors of the mountains or be in tune with rise and fall of the wind, and then water a young palm that I may never see grow. I wonder if fava beans would prosper, if watered with Chianti?
Birds fly overhead. A dog barks. Then everything becomes quiet again.
In a place like this, you can begin to think without distraction about what it is you want out of life, or if it is that you want nothing but the luxury of being left alone.
Many have argued about how the world began, but I am trying to grasp the concept of Is-ness, despite my suspicions of the pronouncements of professional visionaries.
I am simply trying to understand what it means if there was no beginning to Time. That Time simply is, that it bends on itself, that it has no end or starting point, and that it’s passing is but another illusion.
In such a mode, I do not occupy myself with superfluous irrelevancies such as government shutdowns, or more serious matters, such as the tragic eclipse of The Letkiss, or, even more seriously, the looming possibility of violent conflict, if Egypt is to ensure the Nile waters continue to flow as always.
What’s important never shuts down.
The sun, for instance, although perhaps one day it shall. The Nile? That thought is too disturbing to contemplate.
For now, there’s the passing of days in a state of immense tranquility, far away from the rudderless tramping of vainglorious beasts.
But one must be practical about some things.
Later in the day, I briefly went to town and bought a few simple victuals, as well as paper towels, Clorox, TP, and a large container of purified water.
Water, always water.
So much water so close to home, wrote Carver.
After re-reading the story — which I first did in the 80s, when I went through a major Carver phase — I wondered briefly if there was a dead girl floating in one of the lagoons. Perhaps a little girl named Clarice played too close to the water and fell in and drowned as her parents were busy doing other things. No, I would have seen buzzards circling.
Perhaps there is a dead girl in the mountains.
I want to walk to the mountains before I leave to find her, if she is there. Perhaps she is alive and hiding in a cave where people have been sleeping for centuries.
There’s an enormous wadi nearby, a cut in the ridge of low mountains that I could use to enter the desert interior.
There is no water there, and you have to be prepared to deal with the wild dogs, snakes, and scorpions.
The stillness of the desert is overwhelming, which is probably why so many Egyptians make so much noise.
As I type this, a car pulls up across the street. The driver sits in the car, his car radio blaring.
But the car radio noise does not last long, and soon, he is gone and the silence of the land returns.