Then spree

Website of Nia Davies, poet, editor, writer, performer

Tag: travel

Diary – Dyfi

There’s sweet haze over the sand behind Borth. The light over the beach looks dusty but it’s really full of moisture, marking where the Irish sea is thrown up in the sundown.

The train snakes past Ceredigion’s green dragon hump with their spiny fences and blackened marks on the undulating horizon. For a long time now, I have thought of these hills as a perfect combination – soft but exposed – mossy green tufts with odd, crooked edges.

From the estuary we follow the Dyfi inland. Pink strips of sun-cloud reflected on the river’s surface make a glistening strip that coils bright through the dark soaked grass. Green eve turning blue.

I’m thinking of rivers, thick and furious in places, swollen but calm in others. Rain here, in the words of my taxi driver in Aber, is ‘like a dishcloth – always needs to be wrung out’. It’s a place of literary cabbies and a land ripe for kayakers. In Cumbria there are ‘extreme care teams’ – canoeing rescuers paddling around checking that the stranded sheep have got plenty of bales to chew on. I imagine these flooded fields hide sheep corpses – there are no paddling saviours here. Oh well, they must make do.

The Dyfi’s watershed is an ever-damp net that is always catching the Atlantic’s squalls in its lush skirts.  And Aberdyfi’s sea-front’s glints white, ever bewitching. The unavailability shines at me across the water. I have never ventured that far, making the place practically exotic.

Meanwhile, London’s giant grey pull is hauling me back after a few frenetic days in Aberystwyth. The cities have undergone a brief role reversal.

But now I’m thinking rivers: the one I was floating down in my dreams recently. The kind of summery luxury only dreamt of in December. I was drifting downstream, past the buzz of water-skaters and the trees spilling in on both sides. Roger Deakin passed by and I greeted them lazily.

Watery imagination is elliptical. And now I come round to it – perhaps I am sailing past some sort of psychic conference – where my Elysium future on earth is cupped in the hands of certain powerful people currently in conversation in Copenhagen.

© Nia Davies, 2009

Walking Diary – Ethiopia

Turmi, Omo. September 24th 2009

While out in the dust-light, there is flesh in thorns. The prancing feet of gazelles. The dry riverbeds are walkways. Vulture feathers, hoopoe hornbills spring up through the acacia bushes.

Round dwellings of stacked wood, the skin of goat, eight cow-lives. Go-away birds with feathered horns. The skin of women and men making heat in the evening. Skin is splashed to wash off dust.

We burn river driftwood, cross flooded waterways and ant-trails like the Hamer people, red-daubed walkers, returning from the bull jumping ceremony.  Skull of Ox. Scars of devotion on the women’s backs. Lust is catered for here, unlike on the other side of the Omo river. Sandy-footed villages. Mile for mile, women walk different lives in their different clans. Digging for water in the river bed. Men wear feathers in their crowns if they have earned the honour to marry in a bull-jump.

The axe, the machete for splitting wood, a Kalashnikov for your ninth birthday. Beaded arms, necks, wrists, bell-feet. Dusty-eyed travellers are we. Dry wood makes good fires. Termite mounds rise like stelae poking through thorns.

Ants crawl over ankle, brown toe-nails. I am five days from Addis, five fathoms of land-locked lake living. Night is doused with the milky way and distant lightning flashing in a corner of the wide sky. Otherwise fire and headlights are the only light. Sweat and dust makes mud between my limbs.

© Nia Davies, 2009