Since the end of the diabetes project, it’s been a quiet week in the olive grove. With September ending, the weather is finally beginning to feel like it isn’t August anymore. And I mean that. It changed overnight from sweltering hot to, “Oh my God, where did summer go?” I woke up cold in the middle of the week and had to add a blanket for the first time since June. I’m convinced that the floods in Spain near the Andalusian region that killed nearly 18 people this week passed through here first, because I found myself sweeping water off my roof multiple times. There are places where it just cakes up and starts to leak onto the stairwell and into the bathroom. I’d taken to covering the sunroof back in the spring, but I’ve stopped covering it these days. So, when it rained last week, it rained inside for nearly three hours, which gave me the opportunity to “mop” my house while “showering” under my sunroof at the same time.
In the middle of the night one night, some herder stopped outside my house with all of his goats, maybe thirty to fifty of them. I woke up to goat and sheep calls echoing off the concrete walls of my house, which are equivalent to zombies noises, by the way. The first time I heard this, months ago, I literally thought the zombie apocalypse had begun. Nowadays, I’m just annoyed that goats are waking me up again. It’s a preview of the endless goat calls that will surround me as Eid Al-Adha quickly approaches. I just can’t wait. Just before the country-wide sacrifice of a few million goats and sheep, every household all over the city has at least one goat calling my name, “Fouad… Fouuuadddd… save me, Fouad. Help me, please. You can set me freeee.”
It… haunts me.
When the goats finally moved on, there was this one rooster who thought 2:00 in the morning would be a wonderful time to pretend like it was 6:00 instead. Stupid rooster. I bet he’d be delicious in a tajine.
I’ve been trying this week to use up the grant funds for the diabetes project, making 83 extra copies of the fifty-page information booklets in Arabic. That meant walking to-and-from the olive grove rather than biking there and back. It’s kind of a long walk, a solid twenty-minutes just to get into town, and usually another fifteen or twenty to cross town once you’re there. My life, you could say, consists of walking in and out of my village repeatedly, and this process is something I both love and love to hate. I’ve never really described this before, so I’ll try to give you a good picture of it:
If I bike into town, there’s just one long street that runs through the grove – we’ll call it the “high street,” because it literally runs “up” into the grove [I realize this is the incorrect usage of the term “high street,” as there is virtually no business at all on this street, but I like my version better], and Moroccans always refer to it as “up there” or fuq in Arabic. The elevation really isn’t noticeably higher unless you’re biking it, but it is five minutes closer to the Middle Atlas Mountains, so it makes sense to me that there’s an elevation change. The High Street intersects Main Street and Centerville nearby the Post Office and the Baladya (i.e. County Hall), complete with multiple cafes and teleboutiques.
Now, if you’re walking, there’s a different path I like to take that eventually veers off the High Street. Technically, the High Street begins at my house. If you keep going “higher” walking away from town, it’s just a gravel path that eventually turns into a foot path that mazes through the orchard. Alternatively, walking into town, you have a poorly paved road that winds over a few makeshift canals used to water the gardens surrounding the olives. It’s not unusual here to spot a chicken crossing the road and have this surreal moment where you realize that isn’t just some classic joke but an actual, everyday occurrence.
The High Street itself is lined by mud-brick walls until you reach the beginning of the orchard, where two sets of olive trees line both sides of the street like something out of a classic film. The trunks and branches of every single tree lining the road lean away from the road making the path look perfectly parallel as you walk it. From here, you can either remain on the Street walking ten more minutes into town (the same way you’d bike it), or you can take a shortcut at the water tower cutting across a section of the olives that are more copse than grove. This section of town lines one of the two rivers that cut through my village (one of which is the second longest river in the country), and the riverbed is usually near-dry even in the winter, making it look a good bit like the Martian surface between its rocks and sands. If NASA wanted to fake a landing on Mars, this would be the place to do it.
The views are usually beautiful on this walk but not nearly as beautiful as they are returning to the orchard. If you’re always walking away from the mountain, you never see it. Yesterday afternoon, I was walking back to the orchard on this path as the sun was setting. The clouds were low enough that you felt like you could reach up and pull them down to make a fog, but strangely, they weren’t covering up the view of the mountain the way they usually do when they hang that low. The sun was reflecting off the clouds and painting the mountainside some deep crimson hue, while the clouds that buried themselves into the mountain valleys were a mixture of blues and magentas you’d expect to see off some sea-side coast and not tucked into a crimson-painted valley. It actually made me stop in my tracks and say out loud, “Wow, that’s beautiful.” I passed by two Moroccan women sitting down and facing the other way as they chit-chatted, and I just couldn’t fathom why they weren’t facing the mountain. But I guess if you get these views all the time, it can be easy to ignore it. Maybe they saw some beauty in the other direction that I couldn’t see.
When I got back to my house, ready to settle in for the day, a little trumpeter finch flew in through the sunroof and perched on top of my door watching me. This same bird has been hanging around my house for months, and I know it’s the same bird, because I’ve heard the other trumpeter finches, and their calls are slightly different. I thought for the longest time this little bird was a sparrow, mostly because I thought it would be more poetic, somehow, if that turned out to be true. But this little finch has really grown on me, and someday soon, she’ll fly into the house and discover I’m not here anymore. The days are now counting down more quickly than I’d like, but I’m happy to report that I really am soaking it all in, at least as much as I possibly can.
“Let your bird go lost.
I will bring her back to you in Spring.
She won’t change at all
Let your sparrow fall to what might be”
– Basia Bulat