On my last night in Ghana, I reunited with my lover for the first time somewhere other than the east coast of the U.S. This time, to my right she stretched out until reaching the shores of Brazil. Directly in front of me, her vastness lapped against the western coast of Africa before freezing against the tundra of Antarctica. Her 70° F water swirled around my feet and sucked back into her dark abyss. The breeze and aroma was exactly where I left it on the other side and to the north. Ever since I was a boy she captivated me and drew me near to her. It was her moods and her mystery but most of all, her presence that always left me so small and humble; a feeling unlike any other: a salty elixir that cannot be surpassed. Since the dawn of creation her waves have been in motion, never ceasing, her liquid-being older than time, a reflection of the Master Artist. I felt so blessed to live beside her, to work and inhabit a coastal town so dependent and in love with her. Of all the places and cities I could have ended up, my love of journalism and photography led me to my lover, where I truly belonged. Rather than inhabiting a place and career that would have diminished my time and creativity, I was blessed with the opportunity to be with her, in a place and a career that provided me with the time, space and creativity to do things that included venturing all the way to her other side to see her from a new perspective. The same feeling of love traveled with me to the beaches of Ghana’s capital Accra, except this time I was experiencing another part of my great love, quite literally. I thought of how it took months to journey across her in the past and still to this day, hours by airplane. The Atlantic, The Gulf of Guinea, crashed against the beach underneath subsaharan West Africa where I watched the same waves that break against me back on my beach at the end of 13th street in Ocean City, New Jersey. A world away, the only thing standing before me and my very street was her infinite expanse.
I happened to glance down at the book on the shelf underneath the coffee table. The pages were weathered, its front cover a portrait of a giant desert sand dune. I opened the first page of Paul Bowles’ novel The Sheltering Sky and was riveted by the first paragraph. Suddenly I couldn’t hear the bustling outside the open office door. The rickety cars passing by on the barely paved street became silent and I didn’t notice the dust and immense heat floating into the office. It takes a true work of carefully crafted art to absorb my entire being like that and I somehow knew the second I found the treasure that it would be one of those life-changing books.
I had only a few days left in Ghana when I started the book but the Ghanaian Light for Children director Mike told me I could keep it. The story took place just after WWII in the deserts of North Africa where three American travelers found themselves in a symbolic land of pure psychological terror. As I fervently read each page, it was just me and the author, Mr. Bowles, along with the fascinating characters of his imagination. There’s something special about starting a book about Africa while you’re in Africa. In fact, it had happened to me each time I visited the continent, and always toward the end of my stay. I had no part in the matter, the books seemed to fall in my lap. I remember the first one clearly, while in Kenya in 2006 I came across A Distant Grief by Kefa Sempangi, a Ugandan who had survived under the reign of Idi Amin. The true story was incredibly moving, the words and the account leaving a mark on my life forever. The second time in 2007 was The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden, another story that took place in Uganda under Idi Amin but this one was fiction. Foden’s perspective helped shape my own. In 2012 I came across The Media and the Rwanda Genocide. It was in my journalism prime and the book opened my eyes in ways I had never known. All of these books somehow met me exactly where I was, both physically in Africa and mentally in whatever place in life I happened to be at. I should have expected a book to show up in Ghana, but each of these instances had been unexpected. Continue reading “Tourists and Travelers” »
How blessed am I that I get to see my lover every day? To feel and taste and embrace her, to gaze upon her as if it’s the first time I’ve ever seen her, to be captivated by her as if she’s still to this day the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on.
I had spent New Year’s Eve in New York City and had just gotten back to my apartment in Ocean City. I woke up early on the second day of 2014 and spent the morning with the mist shrouded ocean. Forever the water moved; not for one moment since creation had it been still. Standing there as I stood countless times, I thanked my lover for making me feel humble, inspired, tiny and salty all at once. No matter what, I always wanted to be around her or close to her. Continue reading “My Lover (Pt. I)” »