Community, Practise & Space On Mars
The space was the desert in the south of Tunisia. Camp Mars to be precise. The practise was an early morning walk, the air still cool as the sun rose up up up above the mountains of sand. The community were the people I loved who were faraway yet very present in my heart during that early hour, who I knew would love this place and would hopefully see it one day.
At the top of a sand dune I stopped and felt invited to whisper Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, a mantra of connecting to the wisdom within and the wisdom of all those teachers gone before us. I imagined I was whispering to all the women gone before me in my family and I wondered if they could hear me better here without buildings and wifi and traffic.
Somehow the miles and miles of sandy spaciousness surrounding me brought to mind this precious kinship, which I am only just beginning to become aware of. I remember and I honour with this mantra because these women are my teachers and my guides making up a long line of light that I am part of.
Beginning the day this way was golden. I walked with this light to breakfast into a huge tent; the heart of the campsite. My husband and our friends were already there with bsissa and coffee, warm bread and honey. Breakfast was good. I noted people enjoying the act of holding steaming hot mugs with both hands because with no wifi there’s no phones to be busy with at breakfast. I appreciated their absence at the table and instead seeing people just being with their coffee and their thoughts.
The day before we had travelled to Camp Mars from Douz with an excellent guide named Sanhouri from Sahara Experience; he knows his desert. We drove in a four-wheel drive, which was needed as soon as roads gave way to just sand as far as you could see. As we drove deeper into the desert, the leaving behind of humans and therefore wifi and rubbish and adverts and stuff was tangible. When we arrived to the campsite I did indeed feel like I was on another planet and it felt wonderful.
That evening we watched the sunset and felt instantly the heat of the day leave with the sun. I put all my layers on ( essentially what I had been wearing everyday in Paris ) and sat by a fire. I was set. This was bliss. We watched as bread was baked in the embers of the fire and once baked we sampled. Probably the freshest bread I have ever tried and it was sublime.
Dinner in the main tent by candlelight was simple and delicious. Though the camel; I tried ( it’s the desert after all) and then gave the rest to my husband. Where there is harissa, olive oil and fresh bread I am happy. And dates. Delicious dates from the region. On this trip I discovered dates grow on palm trees...how did I not know this before!?
Star gazing after dinner filled me with awe and quietened my busy mind full of it’s dramas, plans and to-do’s. As Alan Watts so wisely states ‘Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well or badly arranged constellations.’
We just observe. And without the city lights that hide these perfectly placed stars from us, we are reminded of the greatest space we are part of. It is a space that needs no saving, or fixing or re-arranging. To gaze at this perfection is calming to me during a period where my new home is still full of the unfinished and much needs fixing.
Tea lights in paper bags guided us each to our tents, where we had real beds, saw dust toilets and a kettle that was a tap on a sink waiting for us. It is novel, well done and freezing. I wear all my layers to bed and I sleep incredibly well in the pure darkness and wifi empty air. I wake up naturally and find it was not a dream. I am still feel like I'm on Mars. Where there is more space than stuff that reminds me of the vast space within me that is even more dear when my environment right now is far from spacious and clear.