A Wide Expanse of Sky

I adore the chaos of Colombo.  Somehow this ramshackle city appeals to me in a way that’s hard to describe, much less explain, even to myself.  It’s not a beautiful city, though some lovely old buildings and magnificent trees survive into modern times;  it’s not majestically sited like Sydney, Cape Town, or Rio;  it’s not stylish like Paris or full of history like Athens or London.  It has none of the mystery and enchantment of Venice, nor the chutzpah of New York, and it’s certainly not a city renowned for the amenities provided to its inhabitants – though that is changing.  I guess it’s just my city, and I love it here – which might help explain why I seem to be dragging my feet and not getting on that plane!

I love it in the cool of the morning, and in the shimmering heat of mid-day.  I love to watch its inhabitants go about their lives, or unselfconsciously take a rest from them;  I love to hear the muezzin’s call floating out over the rooftops, or the chanting of monks in the still gloom of pre-dawn, the drums from a kovil at the end of the day.

I’m fascinated by the cries of the itinerant vendors, selling their fresh greens, or fish, vegetables, brooms or monkey tricks;  the women selling blessings in return for rhythmically chanted hymns on their way to the temple.  It’s interesting to realise you’ve recognised that peculiar thwank (sic) of a sweetly hit cricket ball, as boys and club cricketers practice in the back lanes, or at any of the hundreds of sports grounds dotted around the city.  I’m always amused, watching the school children – the junior school boys in their blue short pants, otherwise all in immaculate whites (I’ve never seen a mud-streaked uniform!) – as they congregate and claim the latest ‘in’ place after school.

I love the city especially at dusk, suffused by the golden light of gentle apricot and mauve sunsets, the dust of the day and smoke from cooking fires setting the air alight.

Sometimes though, even I crave a respite, a little peace in the city.  If it’s an urgent need, no matter where I am there’s sure to be a temple around the corner, or up the street.  The almost monotone palette of most Buddhist temples – with their fresh white dagabas and Buddha statues, residence buildings and meditation halls, the pale sand and silvery green bodhi trees – provides balm to overwrought senses.  A monk, mindfully raking the sand – the sound of each slow, deliberate stroke like a gentling hand, releasing one’s sense of agitation;  the quiet intimate movements of an old woman performing her pooja, or stretched out on a mat in the shade.  Always shade:  the deep shade of a heavily recessed mediation hall, or the dappled shade from the perpetually dancing leaves of the Bodhi tree.

Or I might head toward the city, where the Seema Malakaya floats on Beira Lake – three pods of peace and tranquility.

Seema Malakaya, The Temple in Beira Lake

It’s a place to take time out, to just be;  to sit and meditate, to pray, or watch a bird fishing in the glassy water below,

or the pelicans, or simply to dangle your fingers in the water for a while.

But what I like best is to find a patch of grass in a park somewhere – or the beach … somewhere where I can stretch out on the ground, and look up into the infinity of a wide expanse of sky.

Sitting on the grass, looking at the sky

I don’t ever remember a moment, looking up into the sky, when the magic of the world and our place in the universe didn’t offer the utmost peace – of respite from myself or the chattering  in my mind.  To just look –  let go –  disappear into the air …

This post was inspired by Ailsa’s challenge to find Peaceful photographs this week. .

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22 thoughts on “A Wide Expanse of Sky

  1. Meredith, Lovely description of this place you have called home…meditative and peaceful and filled with all the senses. The expanse of sky will ground you wherever you live. I can see you stretching out on the grass in your newly chosen place and looking up at that sky.

    • So right, Lynne. I’ve always found that – stretched out on the ground (grounded, as they say!) looking up into the sky – to be my special joy. I can remember doing it when I was a kid, into a sky that seemed to cover half the world, it was so wide. I think that’s why it’s so special to be able to do it in the city, where our relationship with the sky is so rationed by all the things blocking our view of it.

  2. M, I was just wondering if you had hopped across the pond yet — had not seen a post from you in awhile (not sure why they haven’t popped up in my reader), so glad I came over to see what you’ve been up to. I love your closing words to this post — the magic of the world and just reflecting on our small little role in it. Those peaceful, nature-filled venues are best for that.

  3. Colombo is a great city, full of life and all forms of oddness but the best part of the place is the food, I could eat for weeks without stopping in this city.

  4. I can feel your love for Colombo. “To just look – let go – disappear into the air” — That is the highest level of tranquility I can discern… Thank you for taking us there, Meredith 🙂

  5. beautiful description:

    “…I love the city especially at dusk,
    suffused by the golden light
    of gentle apricot and mauve sunsets,

    the dust of the day
    and smoke from cooking fires
    setting the air alight…”

  6. You have a way of always bringing me right along with you on your journeys. I could sit in front of that water for hours and restore myself.
    I’ve never wondered why you are dragging your feet. I would be doing the same thing.

  7. That is so poetic and descriptive, your words paint a vivid picture of your love for your city. I felt I was there with you under that magic sky. Thank you for sharing your emotions with us.

  8. Beautiful, evocative, tranquil! Loved every word and image, but that last image and your closing words most of all. Very well done Meredith 🙂

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