I have procured a hard-to-get bottle of wine & am sitting on the rooftop terrace watching another storm approach from over the Rif Mountains, the sky in a charcoal mood. This morning I sat here with my coffee, rain blowing in billows & me wrapped in a shawl & blanket, thankful for the partial overhang that keeps one slim end of the terrace dry.
Savoring, savoring Chefchaouen. Roosters crowing from the four-corners & everywhere in-between, the Ras-El-Ma waterfalls four degrees past swollen & talking, talking about it…
Evening means children playing in the streets, women talking, men talking, everybody out-of-doors, because, I suppose, why be shut in when you can be outside among your neighbors & friends?
Wine & beer are not much drunk here unless you are somewhat furtive about your whereabouts or a tourist/Westerner. There is, as far as I can tell, only one place near the medina to buy them, a restaurant/bar where you can order-in or take-out. When Mary & Dustin were here we bought a bottle to share, finding the place after some searching & once inside, being led through what seemed like a maze of passageways & doors to the bar where we had to wait for the exact right man with whom to transact the deal.
The place has, well, a speak-easy-ish feel. I wished we needed a password or secret handshake to enter…
The bar, it goes without saying, is frequented solely by men. Who fairly looked Mary & me up & down probably with more curiosity than anything while we waited for “the man.”
It is not a non-smoking establishment. I, at least, felt very bold.
Yesterday, deciding to buy a bottle of wine to celebrate my time here & console my recurring if not persistent lonesomeness, I walked by the place to see if they were open. (It’s a hit-or-miss kind of place.) This time, a young man outside made it very easy, recognizing what I was there for, & guiding me to the proper door. This time “the man” was already behind the bar & took care of me, easy-peasy.
But I did feel bolder still.
From where I sit I can see, even with the light going gray & grayer, a little stone hut. I wonder about that structure across the waterfall & up a steep pitch. I wonder about a lot of things here in Chefchaouen.
I see women in the hills with large bundles of green-leafed branches strapped to their backs. I wonder if the green leaves are used to mix with green tea, the way absinthe & thyme & other herbs are. I wonder if the wood is then burned in the public ovens or baths–hammams.
I wonder why a little girl threw stones at me, yelling what were obviously deprecations. The stones hit my legs, stinging. When I pretended to cry, her words took on a greater force & intensity. I quickened my steps, away…
The fourth call to prayer is taking place as I write this, a harmonics of belief—or at least of the forms of belief. I myself do not know what it means to believe. But I do feel satisfied, maybe even uplifted, when someone here says to me “In shā a llāh”—God willing.
I do not know what God is either. But I do know–or feel–that energies are moving among us over which we mere humans have no control. Like the wind that knocked the power out earlier this week. Like the storms that have made of trash-strewn, lackadaisical Ras-El-Ma an immensity—at least for now. And yet not like these at all…