The weather has been a little cooler this week, the waters at the Sea’s edge tantalizingly cold, the wind acting as messenger bringing much needed relief to the land and the creatures which inhabit it- a small break in a months-long string of hot, humid, sunny days. My mind turns back to the summers of my Wisconsin childhood, when the milder heat was never an enemy, but rather a friend, bringing with it the summer rituals of swimming lessons, backyard barbecues, chasing fireflies and sharing hopes and dreams while lying under a soft moon on a bed of sweet smelling grasses. After weeks of feeling just a little bit oppressed by the restraining hand of the intense heat and sunlight, this opening of the tight fist of high summer opened something up inside of me, as well, and I longed to get out, and do something to expand the universe of my little house.
Yesterday morning my husband popped his head into the room as I was straightening things up and preparing for the day, thinking of all that I had to do that morning- teach the children, translate, review- and said, “Ready for our date?” Thinking that the heat really must have fried my brains if I couldn’t remember something as exciting as time out with Khalil, I looked at him in confusion. “We’ll go to Mukulla”, he said, “And you can buy the kids’ gifts for Eid and we’ll stop at the supermarket.”
To say that I didn’t have to be told twice was an understatement. Khalil and I have always made sure to spend a certain amount of time together each day, nurturing our relationship and connecting, sharing ideas and dreams and laughter- time just for the two of us. But actually going out- this was something different, and my heart lightened at the thought of it.
The trip to Mukulla is always a bit of an adventure, careening down the Sea-side road in an old taxi stuffed so full of people that arms hang out the side windows and everyone is cautious about exhaling in case the doors should fly open. The drivers tend to go as fast as they possibly can, slowing only when they encounter speed bumps, rocky road, or checkpoints. Notice I did not mention pedestrians. People and goats crossing the road merely get a loud repeated honk and perhaps a wave and an incoherent yell as the car flies past them at breakneck speed.
There are many more checkpoints since the protests began- five altogether on the way to town. They are manned by young, tough looking soldiers in fatigues, AK-47 assault rifles slung over their shoulders. They saunter out to the vehicle, scan for weapons or anything out of the ordinary, and wave the car on through. We passed lines literally blocks long of empty vehicles left near every gas station, their drivers hoping to purchase some of this scarce liquid at exorbitant prices. They usually wait days for this. I told my husband, “This makes me think of peak oil- someday not so faraway this will probably be a common scene all over the world.” In my mind the deserted cars made me think of the beginning of Stephan King’s “The Stand” which I read back in junior high- all the cars sitting, rusting, useless. We drive past the airport, and the airplane graveyard in the field across from it- ruined hulks of fighter and transport planes. I realize that my gloomy thoughts are not fitting for the beauty and specialness of the day, and raise my eyes to the beautiful, stark hills and lush oases that, along with busy villages and fortress-like houses, form the backdrop of the drive to Mukulla.
It was a wonderful day, alhamdulillah. Khalil took me to a surprise shop- a plant store, with little aloe veras, and beautiful flower and vegetable seeds for sale. He dropped me off at a book and stationary store while he attended to business matters, and I wandered the aisles, choosing gifts for the children for the Eid. We went to the supermarket- I always feel like a child again when I go there, amazed at all the noises, colors, and smells. We bought some pickles for a treat, and Khalil surprised me again, when he bought a little pizza- with real mozzarella cheese!! We walked out to the ocean and sat on a rock and ate, the ocean crashing against the rocks in front of us, waves sometimes ten feet high, sometimes fourteen, a water fight against nature we couldn’t win. Laughter as we moved back to drier land, a surge of triumph when her next attempt resulted in a mere shower instead of a splash.
Walking back to catch the taxi home, my heart rejoiced in this special day, this reaffirmation and reminder of so many of the blessing which Allaah has bestowed upon us- this celebration of life, and love, and the breath of cool air that blew us on our way on this beautiful summer morning.