To My Friend

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My friend Shehab and me as children. This photo was captured around 25 years ago in Egypt.

A wise person once said, ‘a poem is the expression of ideas and feelings in a language no one uses, because no one talks in verse’. Explains why I chose poetry   to share my learnings and lessons of the last decade with my dear friend Shehab. As for the actual content, the worth of words solely depends on their interpretation. 

My soul-friend
Special without end
Asked that I share
from my heart
in any form or art
the lessons of my last decade.

I only hope
my moody memory
will cope
and retrieve
and not disappoint.

He suggested I capture
in my own words
my most pivotal moments
(anonymously if I prefer)
And speak of teachers
whose great impact
and profound tact
gifted me back
a wiser version
of this person
I call me.

Where should I begin?
What should I write?
I wish I had an inkling
What if I miss something?
There is so much inside
Does it even matter
I imagine he would ask,
The point is to start
Set fear aside.

Shall I mention
For example –
My first painful lesson
with lying and liars
How I was warned
they existed
but was never convinced
what was said was true
Who knew, that one day
I would be misled
and that sick fabrications
and shaky exaggerations
could reach me, then cheat me
Only to find out
after multiple breakages
in my heart
With child-like disappointment
and inward torment
There is no doubt –
Lying and liars are real
Like thieves
they steal
They rob us of
our basic right
to choose and appeal
Being lied to is a huge deal.

I learnt –
From my teacher, Liar
To forgive
To empathize
with the fragile and suicidal
the victimized son of a miser
With the pathological denier
The solitary crier
With the lonely
and mentally ill
The man with a swaying will
With vices that kill
I now realize
that each lie
was a desperate cry
to disguise
To distract my eyes
from his real life
his shame and blame
In the end
I forgave
his lying disgrace
But in the process
I purposely erased
his cowardly face.

Shall I mention
For example –
Aspects of my life I wish were omitted
The life-altering mistakes I committed
driven by excitement and allure
in the name of forbidden love,
complex but pure
Or to top it all off
the exact opposite of the above –
In the name of safe conventionality
and a so-called love that is secure
Knowing deep down
that in both scenarios I chose wrong
but taking so damn long
to stand up
wanting to test my limit
or maybe push theirs to the summit
To my dismay
I lost my way
But I must admit
I never lost my wit.

I learnt –
From my teacher, Regret
Some love stories have to end
I am just sorry I caused some pain
Something I did not intend
I learnt to accept the blame
How about my pain?
I learnt not to complain
Love is anything
but a winning or losing game
I learnt from Regret –
Impossible love (wrong or right)
seems like everything
but everything it is not
Neither is love in checklists
of those insecure (expensive suit) types
who seem like classy princes
In real life, total misfits.

Shall I mention
For example –
How learning Italian
introduced me to the best of love
To another world from above
How Italy became my vitality
How one Italian
gave me the most special gift
the one on my Enlightenment List
the one I saved myself for
Carved out of verses
of passionate poetry
with a musical flow and more
Pieces of Salento
inscribed intimately
with the sweetest words
with the most tender urge
(No wonder they say love hurts)
A relationship built on trust
immune to rust, and dust
An original, one thousand percent
Except –
trust alone was not enough
to maintain and sustain
a love from afar
I longed for a deeper sensation
A solid plan not a vacation
but it never came
Maybe I am to blame
for my indecision
Maybe he didn’t know
how to really listen
I waited for a stronger connection
but I waited in vain
Even his gentle words
seemed almost gruff
or crumbled
hardly mattered
when life got tough.

I learnt –
From my teacher, Love
How to recognize my own clarity
The importance of considering practicality
That love has to be shown actively
almost frantically
How not to settle
and become fickle
How I must, hush
that disturbing noise
How to listen and trust
that soothing voice
inside of me
To bring it out
and strangle self-doubt
I learnt –
Even if love has been tested
and proven to be trusted
If love doesn’t feel right
and doesn’t grip me tight
or keep me safe at night
It is perhaps wise
to say goodbye
before romance withers and dies
Lest our hearts go dry.
 
Shall I mention
For example –
How I befriended walking
and along the way
I stumbled upon running
even sprinting
A bit of martial arts
and serious muscle-building
How I discovered the secrets
of health and fitness
How no one saw it coming
Shall I mention –
How through running
and long-distance walking
I was brought closer to heaven
How – through the magic of them
I discovered and uncovered
The strength of my mind
The resilience of my body
How – through the power of my mind
I thrived
and felt high
How – through my energized body
I met my will
and had my fill
of success and confidence
How I made a pact
to push through
to never give up
to mindfully act
with knowledge
with courage
with discipline
and relentless endurance.

I learnt –  
From my teachers, Mind and Body
From my Hiking expeditions
From my (two! Yes two) Marathon achievements
One fact:
My mind is my God
and my body is its messenger.

Shall I mention
For example –
How traveling solo
inspired me, to let go
and outgrow
certain sensitivities
How it pushed me to forgo
pains that drain
From traveling I gained
a new perspective
I became reflective
More humanely attentive
I made life-long friends
even pen-pals (yes! Pen-pals)
from here, from there
and everywhere
I reconnected with nature
Questioned the danger
of the word ‘danger’
I became braver
Shall I also mention –
How I fell in love with new cultures
With rugged mountains, wild flowers
and free horses
that perfectly decorated Spain and Iceland
How I roamed the streets of Palestine
and for the first time
saw the child residing in my father
How I retraced his footsteps
and how now, I walk mine
How I discovered South America
How I was reborn in Patagonia
How I traveled all over Scandinavia
But found my Self in Roma’s Italia
How within months in New York
I did all the things I loved
I crossed over to 2013
Hand-in-hand
With a life-long friend of my teens
We talked endlessly
of prolonged silences and amends
It was more powerful than a thousand dreams
I danced my favourite dance Salsa
Pursued my childhood love for drama
I walked and I walked
through autumn and winter
I walked and I sought
till I finally found
my happy ground.

I learnt –
From my teacher, Travel
Not to wait
or procrastinate
How to read hidden signs
How to ignore the pounding of time
How to appreciate
the taste of red wine
and the sweetness and intrigue
of my own company
How to be free
Not to judge ‘me’
nor she or he
How to see
with newer eyes
How to be
without a disguise
How to be a gentler self-critic
but also, less and less egoistic
How to truly listen
to the rhythmic rustling
of every important tree
I learnt –
How through defining encounters
with unforgettable strangers
I was revealed to myself
and made an effort to know
the beautiful woman within me
The friend minus foe
with real potential to grow
I even learnt to respect
my dislikes and weaknesses
I learnt self-forgiveness
I emptied myself
of inherently damaging stuff.

Shall I mention
For example –
How quitting a high-flying job
among shrewd men and snobs
was something I couldn’t stop
or top!
For the first time
I saved some money
and rationally aligned
my heart with my mind
I trusted my vision
and made the finest decision
It couldn’t have been
more perfectly timed
It would have been a sin
to entertain procrastination
to float aimlessly in evasion
I left corporate familiarity
to unravel my creativity
I rolled up my sleeves
and darted towards
my dreams
I pursued
the very things
that fueled
my soul
I grasped my passions
(held on to them tightly)
of traveling
of writing
of dreaming
Yes, dreaming!

I learnt –
From my teacher, Passion
How to dream again
and keep dreaming
How to travel
and be a free spirit
how not to over-think it
How to prioritize self-awareness
and make room for wellness
How to be writer and a poet
A woman who can be inspired
How to make my passion
a craft
How to crown it
and own it
How to keep going
despite not knowing
what lies ahead
I learnt –
Self-trust
is a must.

Shall I mention
For example –
The seventeen deaths
I learned about
and yes, I counted
Seventeen within two years
the most heartbreaking I’ve ever seen
Seventeen before my father’s
of family friends
of my dear cousin
of my memorable aunt
of my childhood friend’s father
who couldn’t have been kinder
as yet another agonizing example
Not to mention –
a year and a half of hospital odours
of the distinctive smell of the bed-ridden Dying
What suffering!
And the sight of families breaking down
and eventually collapsing
Of helpless mothers and fathers crying
Shall I mention –  
Without discussing further
my own death?
Excuse me, I mean the painful passing
of my father.

I learnt –
From my teachers, Death and Dying
What true loss means
I lost many things in life
small, and many a time big
But nothing ever prepared me
for that one loss of all my years
at the forefront of all my fears
the unbearable sadness of all my griefs
I learnt –
What it really means
to feel the weight of grief
to ignore the stench it reeks
to lie in its darkness trying hard to breathe
To know that it can suddenly appear and disappear
To accept what I lose from it, and leave
To appreciate what I gain from it, and receive
I learnt –
To acknowledge what it actually did to me
when I stood close to the sick and dying
hearing them mumbling
lying in bed and sighing
To see their dwindling hope
in a hurry to elope
To be a witness of death
and see my biggest part
My One
take his last breath
To learn the art of prayer
and pray that my father
would miraculously recover
I learnt –
To reminisce
To truly miss
What it means to be paranoid, afraid, and anxious
What it feels like to be under extreme stress
To be in unfathomable sadness and distress
How to handle (the Death and Dying) memory flashes
To step away from fallen ashes
How to be strong and patient
To fight the demons of depression
To sit alone and smile at anguish
in a cunning attempt to conquer it
To be comfortable with silence
To recognize my real friends
The ‘through thick and thin’ ones
To ask when I need more affection
To find some kind of outlet
to ignite my drive to live
and somehow arrive at peace
You see –
Life is the way it is
We just have to let it be
We have to respect our destiny
and accept that we cannot flee
We lack the power to delay
or to even say:
Death and Dying, stay away.
 
As I near the end
of my last decade’s lessons
It is time I speak
of my unique
eternal friend.

Shall I mention –
How he is my friend
and has always been my friend
How I am sure he will always be
to the very end
How he was my childhood
and everything good
My first secret and fun times
My first memorable crush and listening ears
My first tingles and butterflies
My first fights and tears
My second decade’s temporary goodbye
which was stupid of us, and juvenile
Shall I mention –
How my beautiful friend
is a friend to all friends
The greatest of all friends
A soul-friend
in the truest sense
The purest of all men
Whose quietness
is unspoken wisdom
Whose calmness
is a Yoga kingdom
Whose qualities
are Zen
Whose strength
I commend
Whose curiosity
simply put – is so him
Whose kindness
is a Godsend
Whose high intelligence
never offends
Whose humility
never says ‘I’
Whose sincerity
is one of a kind
Whose happiness
is divine
Whose open smile
makes me want to fly
Whose decency
I swear by
On his loving friendship,
I depend.

I learnt –
From my teacher, Friend
How spirituality is inspirational
How paying attention is essential
How reading is sensational
How talking (without inhibitions) is transformational
How happiness is attainable
How celebrations are fundamental
How learning is beautiful
How a curious mind is unbeatable
How dreams are indispensable
How love is gentle
How when life is temperamental
the Self can be a friend
How death is not the end
How grief
no matter how deep
in time will surely mend
How authentic friendships will last
How trust is made out of glass
How true loyalty is steadfast.

This is to you, my friend
With heavenly love and the sun’s light
With everything that is bright and right.

This is to you, my friend
In celebration of a new start
In appreciation of poetry and art.

This is to you, my friend
In remembrance of our past.
In honour of our beating hearts.

Guanacos of Patagonia

‘He who does not know the Chilean forests, does not know the planet.’ – Pablo Neruda. 

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Guanacos freely roaming the land of Patagonia.

I captured the above poetic image while exploring the wilderness of Torres Del Paine – Chilean Patagonia. These beautiful animals are Guanacos. A Guanaco is a camelid native to South America. It roams its land freely. Guanacos are related to Ilamas but are considered wild species whereas Ilamas can be domesticated. It is very common to see Guanacos in scores and in togetherness.

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Guanacos grazing and resting.

These images are a few among many. The surreality of this memory makes me look forward to my next South American adventure!

My First

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Freedom in Sri Lanka!

My travel itch is about to get scratched! But for now, I am satisfied with beautiful travel reminiscences so here is to my very first solo trip back in 2011. Destination: Sri Lanka. Cities: Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Sabaragamuwa, Sigiriya and other little towns with complicated names I cannot recall. Researched then booked my flight and hotels, found a kind-looking driver / tour guide and took off to the land of Green.

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The Buddhist Monk who blessed me!

From Buddhism and one monk’s blessing (he is the gowned man standing next to me who apparently saw ‘goodness’ in my eyes); to climbing Sigiriya with a 70 year old local man – thin and slouching, yet more resilient than most men (see that mountainous rock behind me – that’s the first rock I ever conquered); to my cockroach and lizard phobia – found under my bed in an eco-lodge where anything moving or remotely breathing cannot be killed (phobia had to be managed); to crocodile river-safari and scores of curious crocodiles surrounding my little boat; to elephant safari and riding; to fun elephant-bathing and an orphanage visit; to horse-riding (with fear) in some jungle in Candy accompanied by two local men and an energetic and dancing horse; to checking out coral reeves in Galle but hardly seeing anything beneath the murky water (due to the aftermath of the tragic 2004 Tsunami); to Sri Lankan traditional music and happy dancing; to my interaction with cheeky and daring monkeys; to jungle trekking with one local guide who (after I summoned up the courage to ask about snakes while trekking) told me in broken and heavily accented English “Snakes? Oh yes…there are many many MANY snakes! There are hundreds of venomous snakes but don’t worry, they usually come out at night”. What animals come out during the day I asked? Bores he said. And what if they attack us I asked? He said: “We run”!  I will never forget him – that funny-looking enthusiastic little man with crooked teeth and a heavy accent. Nor will I ever forget this sensational trip that introduced me to the wondrous gifts of solo traveling!