It’s so typical, predictable and farcical, I’m embarrassed to admit it: the camera battery died.
There we were in Muscat, with a whole evening we could have spent traipsing and snapping, and as we rounded the last corner, crested the final hill into Mattrah, a lovely bit of town nestled between coastline and mountains–and by ‘nestled,’ I mean tucked tightly among the little mountains, as though mountains sprouted from between rows of white houses, as opposed to their having been built while the mountains stood all along–and I pressed the button. Dead. No pictures.
The spare battery? The charger? Nope, sorry. But I’m not in charge of the camera. I don’t like taking pictures, don’t like being in them, and would just as soon travel without a heavy, expensive piece of equipment I can never seem to use properly, anyway.
So, here are a couple snaps. As much as I like mountains, I don’t enjoy riding through them with my husband at the wheel. The first pic was taken by him, standing on the retaining wall alongside a mountain road above the city. Ask me if he even set the parking brake. (No.)
Then there was the Climbing of the Rock. Next time, maybe we’ll dress appropriately for this kind of thing. But a long robe and flip-flops aren’t my go-to answer for scrambling around on rocks.
Really, we were only in Muscat long enough to know we should like to visit Muscat sometime. Sometime in a cooler season when we are not fasting. But the drive was quite picturesque, the people we encountered were friendly and accommodating, and I sincerely wish to go back. Spend some nice time in Mattrah, take a long (slow! slow down!) drive through the mountains (I could perhaps take the wheel), walk along the Corniche, and climb as many rocks as I like.
And now we are, of course, back in Dubai. And I don’t know if it’s real or my mind playing tricks on me, but last night, the water in the pool didn’t feel bathwater-hot. And I could even lounge a while after stepping out of the pool without feeling choked by the heat. Oh, it’s still somewhere around 40 out there, hot as hell and humid too, but something seems to be changing incrementally. Very small increments.
I listened yesterday to a radio announcer from home doing the morning weather, like always, and I was struck: In the place of the usual late-August-onset melancholy, I was hit by an awareness that this year. I don’t feel it. Usually, at this time, as the garden is going to weeds and winding down and I’m failing to keep up with tomatoes and pickles, and I feed aging produce right over the fence to the sheep, I feel a wave of guilt that I haven’t done much to make summer fun or memorable for the kids. And then the realization that they still need shoes for school. And a million other should-haves or still-musts smack me in the forehead–as I hang laundry, tidy up the yard, prepare dinner, work on assignments. A maple leaf drifts to the ground before me, as though to emphasize the point.
This time, there is no wall of snow facing me down in another couple of months. No switching of the wardrobe, hauling out sweaters and gloves and long johns. No shopping for window plastic and new boots. No culling livestock to save on winter feed. No feeling of scurrying ahead of a cold wind, ourselves just misplaced field mice.
So I’ll enjoy the absence of these pangs a while, before I realize perhaps I miss them, or another distraction takes up that space in our lives. For now, we are back to embracing the spirit of traveler, explorer, discoverer. And soon we will be back outside our hovel, discovering the things that have hidden in plain view these past months, disguised by a mirage of shimmering heat and the prickle of sweat in our eyes. And we’ll fight the urge to live as the legions of ants, racing in files and queues along streets and highways, chasing the dollar bills that drift on the wind here. No maple leaves.
‘Slow. Slow down,’ I tell my husband as he races around hairpin mountain roads, squeals tires in roundabouts, misses exits on seven-lane highways. ‘If you’ll only slow down enough to be able to read the signs, then we might not keep getting lost.’