house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Scottish Borders, 26 December 2004

We drive to a Boxing Day party at a farm in the Scottish Borders. A bit spent and shabby but hey, how often do you get to sleep under a Christmas Tree, on a bed of old blankets and festive wrapping paper? We're good, and there's another party ahead.

The host guides us in and - before we've stopped completely - leans on the open car window: 'There's been a tsunami', he gushes. Smiles stay on our faces, we still don't comprehend. 'In Indonesia. In Thailand. People died. The Maldives don't exist anymore.'

I have no clear idea where the Maldives are, or how many of them there are. But the idea of islands under water stills the soul. In our blood flows Ada-Kaleh, our own Atlantis. Sad somehow, to never have seen the Maldives.

Unaccountably, despite the desperate news, the party is in full swing. There's music and food and laughter and - in the deepest bowels of December - warmth. We dance.

We don't yet know what a tsunami looks like, how it snaps trees, how picks up ships and drops them high on mountain slopes, how it swallows all life and spits out gruesome crumbs. We dance.

We don't yet see the faces of the dead, the bloated bodies. We don't see children looking for their parents, we don't hear parents screaming, burying white bundles. You talk about what it might be like, surfing the tsunami. We dance.

We have no idea that - in a few months - we'll all be in the Maldives. We will learn the shapes of dozens of salty islands, we will step on coral and shells, we will live in the equal blue heat between monsoons. Now, here, we dance.

We will work in gray offices, sometimes walk out into the yellow haze and journey for hours on unseen ocean lanes, to see flooded villages, broken houses, dead mango trees, semi naked kids playing football in the sand. Already we dance.

We will eat pancakes and papaya on Sunday mornings, then run to the ocean; we will swim with sharks, we will go deep-deep-deeper inside the green-blue-black water, ah-ah the joy of finding breath and colour there, the graceful touch of manta wings, the blush of an octopus, the dance of silver shoals of fish, the glitter of their millionth eye. How we dance!

We don't know any of this, but do we feel a wind of change, the imperceptible planetary shift that opens a fabulous new path? Maybe. Maybe. We dance with joy and abandon. I feel wrapped tightly in a wing and flying, eager to swallow the entire, glorious sky.


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