Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
Well, I had to go to Greece (yes, Greece) this past fall to discover
how true this still is, and how it related to finishing my book.
My goal has always been To Bring Beauty to Humanity and Humanity to Beauty.
The ancient ritual sites of Mycenae, the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus, the Acropolis and its monuments, the Minoan palace at Knossos, and the Temple of Apollo at Delphi were breath-taking reminders of what it takes to build or create something of wonder. Awestruck by the beauty of these places that was still resonating with mystery and energy down through the centuries, I tried to imagine the creators of these monumental sacred sites and the greater purpose driving the massive endeavor to complete them. It’s astounding when you consider the physical human energy of building them! It took them years, decades. Talk about commitment and mastery! Are we that committed?
Traveling to those ancient lands gave me a new perspective on everything, with time being a big one. My new perspective on my stories is seeing that they are from a mere forty years ago, a blink in ancient time. These sacred sites are thousands of years old. And I thought that four decades was “old.” This deeper understanding relieved the pressure to rush.
At Delphi I consulted the oracle and reverently approached the Temple where “Know Thyself” is inscribed at the entrance and asked: “What is my greater purpose in writing about my journey to Afghanistan in 1977, and sharing the photographs I took before the decades of conflict?” I was transported back to ancient times with the gods and goddesses, and my truth was revealed to me:
Your stories and photographs are more relevant today than ever.
Now IS the time to bring them to the world.
They serve to humanize our perceptions of all peoples throughout the world.
I was humbled by the answer,
which has given me great courage to continue.
A few years ago I began writing about my Afghan adventures. As a visual artist, it has been a challenging, new world for me. Translating my visual experiences into words has been a long and winding road. My goal is to share the amazing stories that are imbedded in my photographs of a wonderful country and a people thriving during a time of peace in 1977. Afghanistan is a land of mystery with an ancient history unknown to most (which I dip into in my book). Travel expands our understanding of others. Now I see how vital it is to share my photographs and stories to shed a new light on the world view of “only a country at war.” There’s a deeper story, one of humanity—we never know what we may be called forth to do to serve a greater purpose.
Upon arriving home last November, I sequestered myself for months and wrote and rewrote my stories many times over, pouring my all into them and dreaming them into being. Isolation… concentration… now there is “flesh and blood” and more depth in my stories. A memoir must be real and intriguing. I hope it is so. The photographs are definitely enlivened with the company of their stories.
And a title—I had several possibilities and an earlier prototype. For each I thought, “this one is good.” Well, they weren’t. The title might be the most complex part of any book. A few words, and possibly an image, need to express the essence of the entire book. No easy feat. After intense writing and re-writing, the title finally emerged in some kind of miraculous dream/channeling/searching process: MODERN NOMAD: Into the Heart of the Silk Road, Afghanistan 1977. It resonated—for many reasons.
My “nomadic” blood came through my family. We moved forty-some times before I was out of high school, so I became a modern nomad, always longing for adventure. And early on I was inspired by several women who embraced an uncharted, exotic life-style: Isabelle Eberhardt, for one, whose life I read about decades ago in Wilder Shores of Love by Lesley Blanch. In 1897, Isabelle moved to North Africa, dressed as a man, joined the secret Sufi brotherhood, and rode across the desert on a camel. She died tragically in a flash flood at age 27. And Freya Stark, born in 1893, who wrote more than two-dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan, sometimes traveling as a spy in WWII. She, too, dressed as a man for her disguise and lived to a ripe age of 100. Freya became known as the Passionate Nomad. I felt a great kinship with these pioneering women. And though I was a passionate “Modern Nomad,” full of a spirit of adventure, I knew I wasn’t going to those extremes, but Afghanistan was pretty remote and rugged for a woman in 1977, and it was definitely an adventure. There I was, right in the Heart of The Silk Road. The journey began there…