Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sri Lanka Favorite Photos

Back now at the frosty kitchen table again, muddled by the 12 hour jet lag numbing my brain, trying to recapture the rain soaked warmth, humidity, history, comradeship, and wonder experienced on the tropical island of Sri Lanka - an island steeped in religion, indigenous history, conquest, and the simplicity of existence in an agrarian society. The country struggles with a balance between preservation and advancement, and for the time being we seemed to pass effortlessly between worlds of lowland forest wild game land, cultivated rice fields, tea plantations, cloud forest, overgrown canals where sand is still harvested by hand in wooden scows to ancient temples, memorials, and mosques for the Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim faiths. The big cities bustle with the street side efforts of small entrepreneurs operating out of garage sized stalls crammed up tight against the curb as well as gleaming new buildings sprouting up on top of crumbling old ones. We spent quite a bit of timee touring (and staying in) the hotels, villas, gardens and workshops of the famed Bowa brothers - well regarded architect and landscape architect for this monsoon soaked Asian region. Everywhere we went there is significant road improvement work going on - most of it by hand with very small machinery - as well as a notably major super highway being carved through the jungle, paddies, and villages running north south across the island. The people were so warm and inviting and the group we traveled with had lots of energy for exploration, uncertainty, and adventure. This trip is highly recommended.

Slide show embedded below. Float over the image and click on the play button.

More writings, poetry, and a group journal can be found at the Sri Lanka Group Blog

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Cinnamon Peeler - by Michael Ondaaje (who writes about Sri Lanka)


If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through the markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you.  The blind
would stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at the smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back.  This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
- your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said

       this is how you touch other women
and the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

              and knew

                  what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife.  Smell me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Diane and sculpture at Bowa Hotel

Hotel guard

Tea Country Explorations

Staying at a converted tea factory in central Sri Lanka. Elevation around 6,500 feet with conditions not unlike San Francisco - cool, wet and windy. The surrounding countryside is a sea of tea plants, small villages and patches of native cloud forest.

Today, we took an early morning hike before a sumptuous breakfast,,,

Morning Hike:

Floating in a rolling sea of tea plants, with distant train whistle sounding like a foghorn, we search in the swells for nature's clues. Bear Monkey jumps in the canopy above to get a view of the bipeds below before leaping away for another breakfast course in the treetops. Tracks of Sampa Deer, Mouse Deer and leavings of porcupine are clear in the muddy trail we follow. A tiny spider decends from far above on a single gosimer thread, holding tight to his parachute leaf, looking to cast a net for some smaller prey. Wild boars have routed in the soft earth, rearranging the forest floor in search of grubs and mushrooms.

Grey Tea factory walls merge with the grey sky while clouds weep, and ground seeps. Tamil women picking tea by hand - a work of endless toil, Tamil men weeding rows with well worn ageless hoes. Barefoot children laugh and chase us pushing, pulling, rolling a rubber hoop with a hooked stick - a game known round the world. One boy runs past, with small hand clasping a crumbled bill - on his way to the village market to pick up something from the store. We leave the village below and ascend the stone steps through the tea plants to return to our windy castle on the knoll, enshrouded in fog to be pampered with padded seats, and silver covered serving dishes, served delicacies and endless hot tea.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Morning drizzle and bird song

The crickets serenade with the percussion and subtle castanets of morning drizzle on the forest canopy.

Myriad of bird song greets the dawn and I can barely imagine the vast diversity of the animal community which surrounds us on our hillside perch overlooking Sigiriya's rock across the lake.

Monkey's whoop joins in and we must remember to latch our deck door to prevent the prying fingers of inquisitive primates from sharing in our luxury.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sri Lanka kick-off

Exhausted! What a great kick-off to our trip. I have become accustomed to the heat and humidity which at first felt like a steamy towel when we first arrived. We are staying at a luxurious hotel in the Sri Lanka highlands for a few days, surrounded by ancient ruins, rice paddies, and an illustrious population of local farmers. The birdlife is astounding and the short list of sightings include, in order of appearance bee eater, painted stork, white necked stork, king fisher, black headed ibis, hornbill, crane billed king fisher, barn owl, flames back woodpecker and many more.

Today we mountain biked through the ruins of an ancient capital city stopping often to explore the carved stone Buddahs and other special religious sites. The are groups of wild lemurs about providing entertainment. Our progress is halting as we stop many times along the way to admire the birds.

Along the way we've seen wild elephants, monitor lizards, a gray mongoose, and a 4" Giant wood spider. Really glad I did not walk into that web unexpectantly.

The group has bonded well and we are all enjoying each others company. Our minibus has large windows and the driver stops often along the shoulder of the narrow roadways when we spy interesting distractions.

Hard to tap out more prosaic text on my iPhone but I am looking to more prodigious posts later.