A team, I mean.
Too many things go wrong on the road. People get sick or turn out to have needs or expectations that we were barely able to articulate ahead of time. Obstacles wave their tentacles until you can hardly think. Even unexpected opportunities–like waterfalls–knock the day’s plans askew–let alone the day in Maji we suddenly got the chance to jump in the car and galumpf down the road that our family used every time we needed to meet or catch a plane when I was young.
Ato Marcos, one of our hosts in Maji, told Caroline that he hardly notices the flowers around him, and he was surprised to see the artists taking pictures of them. “I thought, if they think this little flower is beautiful, what will they think of nifas bir?” he said to her. Nifas bir. Gate of the wind. A spot of childhood nightmares for me.
It’s hard to capture vast landscapes…how narrow the road is in this spot…how far it drops on both sides. Far in the distance, you can see a mountain beyond which is Kenya. You can see down, down into the lands where the Surma roam and where Odyssey I unfolded.
We were willing to set aside our plans that day–a carful of artists–and just go. I got to see what it was like in the artists’ vehicle and how their driver was part of the team, too, used to stopping and having them all leap out and snap photos.
Just like in my childhood, the car got hung up on a rock and couldn’t move, at one point, so Stephanie Schlatter and I walked ahead. I got to see nifas bir through the eyes of a painter for a few minutes.
Sometimes a team is hard because everyone’s priorities have to be taken into consideration. Sometimes, though, the team spurs you on and helps you see things through new eyes and gives you courage to carpe the diem and not miss something precious.
One of the most delightful parts of being on the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts is the chance to hang around with fellow writers for 10 days every residency. And in Maji, I got to hang around with painters. I wish everyone the joy of being on a team with artists.