November 25, 2012

Down Home

Even during a crisp November, the Alabama air was cool and humid. The skies were often grey and the ground, a wet looking brown. A sense of melancholy hung on the bare trees like something was missing.

Sitting on Aunt Siddy's porch 1980's

It took two hours to drive from Albertville to Ashland in Clay county.

Every Sunday we hitched the wagon and off we would go. (Well, at least that's what it felt like.) It was a given and the thought of it made me nauseous. A small child's love-hate of something that had to be done: curvy roads, travel away from home, but knowing that love and good food was at the end.

Highway 77 is a two-lane road, running through rural countryside and small towns. We stopped in Rainbow City religiously for a soft swirl ice cream. We passed church after church with billboards professing the second coming and often hilarious quotes like, "Gossip is like an old shoe, everything wears out except for the tongue", and "America needs a faith lift." We passed large land holdings with cattle and played cow poker. Coca-cola was my drink du jour and kept the carsickness at bay. So did listening to country music and gospel on the radio.

November 6, 2012

Where do you find Ordinary Magic?

The Chhatra Sagar luxury tent village, India: Tasting Royal Rajasthan

"Another incredible place! They took Ann Coffaro and I on a guided bird walk. I saw one hundred and twenty new birds in India. My favorite was the Bee-eater. Talk about birding in style! A porter to carry the scope and refreshing drinks on a tray at the end of the trail." 
~ Tara O'Leary, India 2012.

Each time I visit India, I find myself slipping between the veils of past and present, of luxury and the ordinary. I am reminded how thin the line is between the extraordinary and the everyday. 

Devi Garh is my favorite hotel of the program, an 18th century palace fort that royally commands the valley and looks out over the Aravalli hills. Bo-chic in style, its modern interiors are minimalist, austere five-star elegance, a bit "Indian Zen."
The surrounding natural landscape offers solace. The colorful village below, with intermittent baby blue houses, offers charm. I learned the motive for this brilliant color is two-fold: the paint keeps insects away and also praises lord Krishna. On my first visit to this divine place, I left the fairy tale world of the palace hotel, the bathtubs filled with rose petals and airy verandas, and went for a walk in the village down the hill. 

Barefoot shop owners sat before scales on old wooden counters or on the floor. Some were turbaned, some not. We nodded hello to each other as I passed. W
omen carried food or water jugs on their heads, gliding gracefully in their saris, as vibrantly colored as the fruits and vegetables spread out on blankets and carts. The village astrologer sat on the corner, dressed in red next to a sky-blue wall, waiting for a consultation. Carts of vegetables displayed local varieties with names like "Lady Fingers" and "Gentleman's Thumbs."

I followed some of the women through a doorway and found an old man making the
terra cotta pots used to store cool water. With white hair and beard, he stooped and twirled his wheel with a stick. Once it got going to the speed he was happy with, he threw some clay in the middle and started molding. Three small pots were produced within minutes:
Devi Ghar Village Potter
Devi Ghar Village Potter

These are the moments I cherish. Easing into the pace of local life and discovering the artfulness of a simple, age-old skill. Watching an old man's hands shape clay into pots, or the hands of the women easing the pots onto their heads, calling their little ones to follow down the road. So often travel to a faraway spot reminds us to appreciate the magic of everyday life. The finer elements of this particular program always bring me back to the simple pleasures that lend soulfulness. 

We invite you to join us, in Rajasthan this February

With love,