The world as I know it is no more, at least for now. It is shifting and changing. Fewer cars on the road but more people out jogging and riding their bicycles. No places to gather, but people on line sharing music, poetry, and stories.
Churches holding services on line. People waiting, hoping, wondering. It has now been a month since everything ground to a halt. A month starting with disbelief and confusion and filled with intense emotion. There is little to cling onto for reassurance that the outside world exists. No choir practice, no newspaper articles to write, no meetings to attend.
I wonder if this is what sailors in small boats feel when they are lost at sea. When their sails don’t help them because there is no wind. They can’t give up, however. Because giving up means that they don’t survive. Probably the best survival on the seas book that I’ve ever read was “The Old Man and the Sea,” by Ernest Hemingway. It is about an elderly fisherman named Santiago who fights with a marlin off of the coast of Cuba. And, in real life, there is a Salvadoran named Jose Salvador Alvarenga, who was lost at sea for fourteen months. He disappeared in a fishing vessel on November 17th, 2012, and wasn’t seen again until he was found on the Marshall Islands in January of 2014. During that time, he was lost in the Pacific Ocean and, somehow, he managed to cross it in a boat that could not have been especially seaworthy.
It is said that we are living in times of uncertainty, in very difficult times. It’s necessary to find a place of happiness, even when dealing with uncertainty and fear. Then, even in our imaginations, we can live the dream.
Speaking about living the dream, let’s go back to the journey. After I left the Sundarbans, I traveled through Bangladesh. I visited the tea plantations of Srimangal and the Lawchhara National Forest, when I see the Hamham waterfalls. Then it’s on to Gaur, a city on the India-Bangladesh border. Much of this ancient city is still in ruins, but some of the beautiful mosques have been restored. The architecture is beautiful, and, as I walk through the city, I am amazed at what I see. The buildings are constructed from stone and there are ornate and detailed designs carved into that stone. All of that work was done painstakingly by hand by master craftsmen. The secret of the designs is probably long gone.
Those mosques that have been restored are true treasures for all who visit. They are a link to a long-ago time for the people of today. Without words, they tell the story of people who had so much creativity that they could turn stone into beautiful structures that have lasted for centuries.
When you look at buildings that old, there is that sensation that you are living the dream of the artisans who lived long ago.
From more information about Gaur, here is a link to a website, with pictures and a detailed history of that ancient city: Information about the lost historical city of Gaur.
I get on a train, headed back to India, to visit another great forest preserve. This one is called Kuno National Park. It became a national park in 2018, and it is to be a sanctuary for lions.
We live in uncertain times. We don’t know what lies ahead of us. For sure, we will be changed. And that makes us feel uncomfortable because people don’t like the unknown. But the stories of the past, of the grand cities and the beautiful structures can help.
When you are feeling isolated, the stories of the great civilizations of the past can connect you to other humans, humans long gone whose stories are still told through the living, working, and playing spaces that they left behind.
Tomorrow: Kuno National Park, in Madhya Pradesh, India.