It is dusty and kiln-dried, mid-way along the crooked spine of the Atlas Mountain Range. Humps of browned and barren hills spread stuporous in relentless heat. Not a breeze is stirring. It’s 1979, and I have been trekking through Northern Africa for several weeks now.
In the middle of the road I’ve wandered down, seven young Berber boys stand in my way, their beseeching hands reaching out to me, their eyes imploring me for something, anything.
Above them, lifted on the thermal currents, large black carrion birds lazily circle over the baking yurts these children’s families call home.
They are nomads like myself, roaming through this arid land, with their shaggy goats and worn blankets, and now their hopeful eyes impale me.
I can almost see behind those eyes, and what I see caves in my heart.
What is seen is the one who sees, and the one who sees is the one I am. This is why I start to weep, and why it feels as if I’ll never stop.
They watch me, they weep with me, the hills are weeping, and yet – it is so quiet, so very still.
Not a noise is heard, except for the sound my tears make as they splash the hard clay at my feet – the earth that I am – and are swallowed up in the mystery I’ve emerged from, the very place my path is leading me, even now.
There are some mangy little mutt dogs by the roadside, their tongues drooping from listless jaws, panting, panting, and the flies . . .
The omnipresent flies are thick amidst wafting aromas of cracked wheat from the threshing circle in the near distance where a woman and her donkey crush grain, just as they have always done. They circle round and round, as if on an eternal wheel, the wheel of life . . .
There is something . . . familiar in all of this.
Somehow, within that circle, I sense that all I will ever need to understand is just about to reveal itself.
After some time, I realize that it hasn’t, that it never will, and so I move on.
There is nothing to understand.