Friday, January 1, 2010

I Am Broken by Jules Delorme

I am broken.

What is left of me is pieces. Pieces of something that once was whole.


I close my eyes and sometimes I can almost remember the pieces back together to form one whole me.


Sometimes I can.

Mostly I just lie staring up at a ceiling caked with dust and I hope that the next moment will not come. Or the moment after that. But it always comes and I continue to lie here. Staring.

Staring at...

Shadows. Shadows on the ceiling that never change. Lines and circles in the dust that have been there for as long as my memories.There is nothing there. Nothing that I can't close my eyes and see in it's every detail. And yet I continue to stare. It's all I have left.It's all I have left.
Sounds from the world outside sounds that have lost any meaning or context make their way into the stillness of my room and linger longer than they should. I listen to them sometimes. I forget myself and I listen to the sounds and see the pictures they loosen from me cast on the bare walls of my room. I listen and the pain starts all over again.

Memories are dangerous things.

They linger at the edge of each thought waiting for me and when I'm least ready when I'm in my weakest state they... They creep up on me.
They creep up on me and when I'm not ready for it and they fill me with...

They're very dangerous things.


I lie here shattered and without hope without possibility and all I have left are memories. Without them I could become numb. I could cease to feel. Without them I could be alone completely. Completely.

I could become singular and separate from the world around me. I could cease to be.
But the memories are there and I am not alone not alone enough and so I stare at the ceiling at the dust and the never changing shadows and I wait. I wait for the end that will never come. Because...

I am broken.


My body.

My mind.

My future.

My thoughts.

Are all broken.


Nothing about me is whole. Nothing about me is connected. Nothing about me is... Is...

I remember first pretending to be a Super Hero. I don't remember which one. There was a mask and a cape but that is all that remains in my memory.
I was hiding. Behind a door at the bottom of the stairs that led to our apartment. I think it was an apartment. There was a store in the front and stairs in the back that led to where we lived.
The color green. I remember green. Perhaps on the walls or maybe the door. Painted an ugly green. And I was hiding behind the door.

Because I was afraid. I was always afraid. That's why I wanted so bad to be a Super Hero. Super Heroes are never afraid.So I wore a cape and a mask and I hid behind the door. Afraid. Of some other child. My sister. My mother. My father. It didn't matter. I was always afraid and I always hid. Behind doors. In closets. Under my bed. Under the table in the kitchen. I was hiding from something.

I was always afraid.

My mother threw a television down those stairs at my father during one of their fights. I was more concerned for the TV than for my father. It meant everything to me.
I wasn't afraid of the television.

My mother went to her room closed the door and cried. My sister and I went to our rooms and waited. It was a very long night.

And there was the child. The other child. If I ever knew his name it has disappeared along with so many things I must have known about him. My mother kept him in her room where she spent all of her time.

He was broken.

He was born broken.

I remember pushing his cradle off of my mother's dresser and watching it crash to the floor. I don't know if that happened or if it was a dream that I had.
He smelled bad and he made sounds like an animal in pain. I would stand in my mother's doorway and wonder why he was so important to her.
They fought about him all the time. My mother and my father. They would yell and cry and doors would slam and my father would disappear for days on end. Because of the broken child.
That's all that I remember about him. The child. I can't remember his face or his name if he had one or how I felt about him. I remember his presence and I remember the cradle falling to the floor if that happened but I don't remember who he was or what happened to him.

No one ever talked about the broken child when he was gone.
He disappeared. And everything about him disappeared with him.

The broken child.
An empty space in every room in every place we ever lived reminded us all of the broken child. We pretended that the empty space didn't exist just as we'd always pretended that he never existed.
But it did.

And he did.

I remember that he did.

We walked down to the construction sight where my father worked to ask him to come home. I remember that. Me and my sister. It was after one of their fights and we walked a long way or what seemed like a long walk to my small legs. My sister pulled me along so fast that I had to run just to keep up. It felt like a very long walk.
He had been gone very long this time. He seemed like a stranger in his work clothes covered in dust and dirt from his work. I stood off in the distance while my sister begged him to come back.
She begged him.

I just watched.

That's what I did. That's what I always did. I watched.

He came back. And he brought the TV with him.
That's who he was to me at that very young age. The man who brought things with him. Sometimes it was something big like the TV. He always brought things with him. but most of the time it was something small. A piece of candy when he came home from work or a small toy like a chess piece. I remember that.
He brought me pieces from a chess board one by one to stretch it out so he would always have something to bring so I would always be happy to see him.

I was too young to love him them. He only mattered to me as the man who brought things. Later he became more. Much more.My mother was the presence that mattered most then. She dominated my world the way the sky dominates the world of the small beasts on the African Savannah. Her moods dictated how my day would turn out. And her moods could not be predicted or controlled. Sometimes you could see a storm coming and if you knew the signs you could get out of the way somewhere safe and out of the way. But most of the time they hit without warning and you could only seek whatever cover was available when the moods were bad or glory in them when they were good. She was a natural force and we were merely...
We were merely.

That's all I remember. That's all I remember of that time. We moved from that place when I was about to turn five and with the new place came a new child. A little brother.
This one wasn't broken.

He had blond hair and blue eyes and he was as close to perfect as I was far from it. He was the first thing I ever loved. Besides the TV.

He was full of joy and wonderment right from the beginning and I had never seen anything like that. He was everything that I was afraid to be.

He changed our world.

He made it...

He made it lighter.

For a while there was happiness. A new place. A new child. A new life. The broken child still lingered in the empty places but we learned where those places were and we stayed away from them. For awhile. For a little while there was happiness.I started school and found out there were other children even more frightened than me. I became a predator. I was large for my age and my size gave me great advantage. I struck out at these children who were weaker than me and I found courage in their fear of me. I hurt them and their pain gave me strength. It gave me power. I hunted them. I could smell their fear because I knew it so well I devoured them and became fat on their suffering.

I became the beast. I preyed upon the weak on the guileless.

For awhile.

My little brother beautiful and full of trust began to walk and I made him one of my victims. When my parents, who adored him as much as I did, caught me the punishment was always severe but it never stopped me. In fact it fueled my need to cause him pain. I ceased upon every opportunity developing almost perfect timing when it came to my parents' presence. I could slip in a punch or a kick when their heads were turned even for the briefest moments and maintain an expression on my face of angelic innocence. When I was caught I took my punishment with a shrug of my shoulders and a vow to hurt him even worse the next time.

My cruelty knew very few limits.

My father found me once jumping on my brother's back inside a darkened closet. He never cried out and never complained. My brother. My little brother. I accepted this and used it to my advantage. I learned to hurt him without leaving marks.I was a very efficient predator.
I had learned to prey. Or to be preyed upon.

I preyed upon my bother and my classmates. And was preyed upon by those larger and stronger than me. My sister.
I was told that when I was very young I would hit my older sister at every opportunity and that, because of the difference in size, my mother wouldn't allow her to hit me back. Until one day I hit my sister in the head with a cast iron frying pan. From that point on my sister was allowed to hit me back. To hit me.

She took as much pleasure in victimizing me as I took in victimizing my brother. She was stronger then I was. And smarter. She hit me so hard once I lost my hearing for the rest of that day. She taught me how to steal. And to lie.

But for that little while after we left behind our fractured world or at least thought we did my sister's focus was on the new unbroken child and the new world around us and I was purely a predator.

For that little while.

For that little while...

There was happiness.

On a beautiful sunny summer day I took a cowboy outfit from a little boy who lived down the street. The outfit had shiny silver guns, a holster with studs and shiny buckles and tassels hanging off of it, and a shiny white hat with a silver sheriff's badge in the front. I hit the boy twice in the face and kicked him once as hard as I could. I left him there with blood running from his nose and went to the playground to show off my new outfit.

That was the end of my days as a predator.

The little boy had older brothers. Large older brothers. They beat me until I was bloody and then the largest one stomped on my hands with steel toed construction boots.

He'd seen that on TV.

I don't remember the pain. I do remember the fear. I didn't think they'd ever stop.
I never made a sound. I didn't cry out or ask them to stop even when they crushed my hands with those heavy boots. I don't know why.

I never made a sound.
When they were done with me they took the cowboy outfit and they walked away. Very quietly. I didn't move for a very long time. My mouth was filled with blood and I could feel spaces where they had knocked out my teeth. My hands began to swell up. They felt like balloons on the end of my arms. There was pain. There had to be. But I don't remember it.
I didn't move.

An old woman found me. Her breath smelled like rye bread. Soon there were police and ambulances and voices all around me. My mother was screaming at my father. His eyes met mine and I could see that he was very worried. I realized at that moment that he loved me even though he didn't ever show it in obvious ways and I felt sorry for him.

For loving me.

I wanted to tell him that I was okay.

I opened my mouth to speak and blood came pouring out.

The attendants put me in the ambulance. One of them spoke to me and I looked at him without understanding what he was saying to me. He looked very worried.

So many people worried.

About me.

I remember most that I was sorry they took the hat. I was going to miss that hat. White with that silver badge on the front. I was sorry they took that hat.
I spent a very long time in the hospital. The nurses were nice to me. They liked that I was so quiet and that I never asked for anything.
They told my mother that I was the best patient they ever had.
I didn't want to leave. The hospital was a good place. It was very safe.
I had to learn to use my hands all over again. They were broken.
Fractured. Useless. Nothing was simple anymore. I couldn't get them to do any of the things that I had taken for granted before. They were numb and heavy like poor imitations of the things they looked so much like.
They weren't my hands anymore. They were...

They did not belong to me.
The doctors said my hands would always be that way. They would never again work the way they had. I walked around with these dead things bundled up in bandages hanging uselessly at the end of my arms for weeks. Weeks that never ended. And when the bandages were removed the hands that were revealed were misshapen and gray.

Dead things.

I had to learn to move through life without the use of my hands.
Unable to grasp the world around me I pushed it away with all of my remaining strength. I could see the pity in the eyes of those around me as they watched me struggle with even the most minor of tasks and I hated them for it.

I withdrew into a safe self made world where I had complete control where I was the only judge of what was right and what was normal.

There was no happiness then.

There was only numbness and silence.

And fear.

Without hands that I could make into fists I could longer be a bully. I became a victim. The fear that was always in me could no longer be tamed by preying on those weaker than me because I was the weakest being in my world. Without hands that I could make into fists I was a victim. I was prey.

I was prey.

Only when I was alone was I safe. Away from the world in my room or in the woods in dark places where no one else went I could almost forget that I was broken and I could dream myself whole. For those small moments when I was completely alone.When I was completely alone.
My life existed I existed only in isolation.

There is a spot on the ceiling above me.
If I stare at it long enough it changes shapes. Sometimes it's an old rusty claw hammer. Sometimes it's the head of a dog, ears back and ready to attack. And sometimes it's a tree after a summer storm.

Sometimes, when I've been staring at it for a very long time it becomes all three things at once and I can actually hear it shifting shapes.
I can close my eyes and still see the spot see it's ever changing shape and when I open my eyes it's still there exactly the way I see it in my head.

The spot and I are going nowhere. We have reached our final destination.
We have reached our final destination.

I stare at the spot I stare at it with all of the energy I have left in me and it changes. It changes from what I thought it was to something else.

And I continue to stare at it.

It is a small spot. A very small spot. But when I stare at it for a very long time grows until it is large much larger than me and it is going to swallow me. It is going to swallow me and it will swallow all of my colour all of the colour in me and around me and smother it compress it down until all of the colour has been crushed and there is nothing left of me of the world I am in but black and gray. I will become the spot become it's colors and I will have it's thoughts it's lack of thoughts and I will have it's hunger.

The spot is hungry.

For color. For life. For death. For me.

Especially me.

And I am hungry. I have always been.


My hunger defines me. It defined me. It made up what I was who I am. It defines me. It controls me. It...

My hunger is who I am.

I have always been hungry. As a child I can remember how hungry I always was. I can remember that as a child I looked at the world with the eyes of the hungry.

I was always hungry. For food. For safety. For heat. For love. For touch.

For the future.

And the spot like me is always hungry.

I stare at it and I stare at it and I can taste the thing's hunger.

I can feel it on my skin like the breath of something wild and unconfined.

I can feel its hunger.

I can feel its hunger.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The world is but a canvas to the imagination

I love paintings.. I'm not much of a painter myself, but I love looking at them..trying to interpret them, figure out the story.
My latest fascination is with paintings of Leonid Afremov.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

... bitting your tounge ...

As children we're taught to play nice; share our toys eat our vegetables. And when you don't have anything nice to say don't say it at all.

But every time we bite our tongues, we know each other a little less. To spare someone's feelings we hide our own. And when you hide what you feel, you end up with regrets.

Being honest might not make you the most popular girl in the school yard, but it will earn you respect.

And when nice girls learn to respect themselves, they'll always finish first.

This story truly made me realize how much I miss Europe

In many ways, the country has what the rest of Europe has lost
The article is written By Richard Bangs

“One of those places where you come as a guest, leave as an acquaintance, and return as a friend” — Nenad Velickovic

The Bosnia we know from images of the war — the bombed and bullet-ridden buildings, the scars from the 1,200-day siege of Sarajevo — has kept from view a Bosnia we don’t know, a place where Nature has been big-hearted with its gifts. The country described sometimes as the heart between the mouths of two lions, hosts one of the two greatest tracks of primeval forests in Europe, unmatched biodiversity, daunting mountain faces yet to be climbed, deep gorges yet to be traversed, wild rivers with water so pure you can cup your hand to drink, some of the highest concentrations of wildlife, and perhaps the last highland tribes of semi-nomadic peoples on the continent. In many ways, Bosnia today has what the rest of Europe has lost.

With Laura Hubber of the BBC, who in the 90s served as a teacher in Sarajevo, I head to Bosnia with a skeptic’s shrug to do some hiking, rafting and climbing throughout the country. We began with a bear quest in Sutjeska National Park, about two twisting hours by car from Sarajevo. The park is 17,500 hectares, larger than some small countries, with no trail maps or guides. When we step into this cathedral of old-growth beech and black pine, there is recognition that we are probably the only ones here.

Tourism is still a secret here. We make our way to an overview at the base of Bosnia’s highest peak, the 7,828-foot-high Maglic Mountain on the Montenegrin border, the last great sigh of the Alps extending south from Switzerland. From here we set out to hike to an Alpine aerie to look for bears, wolves, and wild goats, chamois. Before the war, Bosnia had the second highest concentration of brown bears in the world, after Canada, and perhaps the greatest number of wolves in Europe, and chamois were so ubiquitous they would sometimes leap over hikers’ heads. Now, nobody knows how many remain, but some in the area guess perhaps as many as 1,000 bears, which would still rank highest in the region.
But we find no bears on our quest. Nor wild goats, nor wolves. Just waving fields of wildflowers, and the perfumed Alpine wind. But that is fine, as the beauty is exquisite, almost intoxicating, and I sit for an hour or so in some sort of state of bliss.

As the sun burns out the remnants of the day, we make our way to one of the first eco-lodges in the country, Motel Sunce, up a long dirt road atop the windswept Podvelezje Plateau, roosting beneath a stunning mountain ridge called Velez. The lodge is modest and fashioned from concrete — not the western vision of an eco-lodge, but the food is organically grown, and certainly the staff is local. No monies being drained away to multinationals here. After we sup on organically grown peppers stuffed with beef and rice, traditional salad and soup with hyper-crisp fresh vegetables, farmers’ cheese, and share a glass of homemade Herzegovinian rakija, there is a feeling of having found a little peace of mind on a wilderness table in the back of Bosnia.

The Neretva River is the Nile of Bosnia. For centuries it was the passageway from the sea to the riches of the interior, the river road up which sailed explorers, settlers, traders, and conquerors, from the Illyrians to the Romans to the Ottomans to the Austro-Hungarians to the Serbs and Croats in attempts to plunder or possess this land. And just as the Nile has the pyramids, the Thames its London Bridge, the Seine its Eiffel Tower, San Francisco its Golden Gate, all emblems that transcend the tyranny of geography and politics, Bosnia for 500 years had Stari Most, the gracious single-span link across the Neretva. Commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1559, completed seven years later, the elegant bow withstood earthquakes, floods, battles, and two world wars. But on November 9, 1993, Croat forces pummeled the little footbridge with tank shells, and after long resistance, it fell like a proud warrior into the crying, hissing currents. For a moment, denominations on all sides were united in grief over a cherished monument destroyed. The hearts of thousands sank with the stone.
But on July 22, 2004, nine years after the war ended, the bridge reopened, and the sky was lit not with the lights of conflict, but with fireworks, the pyrotechnics of peace. The symbolism happily cried with cliché, the bridge over the ethnic gap, connecting East and West, church to mosque, the past to the future. And it brought back a proud tradition that dated back to the Ottomans: the Mostari Bridge Divers.

The Mostaris were the original bridge keepers, who maintained the 100-foot span and took tolls from those who passed. In the 17th century, however, a Turkish travel writer described how young men would jump from the 80-foot-high bridge as a rite of passage. The Mostari today jump for tourists, and their touro-euros.

On the bridge’s western abutment at the entrance to the Mostari Divers Club, we meet Ermin Saric, one of the eight official bridge divers, meaning he dives professionally, it’s his job. He’s been diving since age 14, and is 24 now, and says he will dive as long as he can. He thinks the body can handle the punishment until around 50, at which point the shock of the cold water might trigger a heart attack. Ermin says about one or two people die each year diving, and there are many injuries, but all these casualties are from nonprofessionals—swaggering tourists, locals on a dare, Saturday night drunks. As long as Ermin can remember there have been no fatalities among club members, as they know how to dive it right.
Ermin offers to demonstrate. He skips the part where he passes a floppy hat to tourists lining the parapets — ever since the bridge was listed as a World Heritage Site, the number of visitors has steadily increased, as have the fortunes of the divers. As he stands at the apex, he drenches his head and limbs in cold, cold water from a big bottle to acclimatize his body for the freezing Neretva. He climbs over the matrix of metal bars that protect innocents from the precipice, and then he “enters into the world of diving.” There are butterflies in his stomach; they have yet to go away after all these years and countless jumps. Then he spreads his arms as though flying in the wind and leaps into the void.
About two-thirds of the way down, he draws his arms tight against his sides, and firms his legs straight and fast against one another. He tucks his chin against his chest, and points his toes to the fast-approaching water. Then he hits the river “like a bullet,” and with a sound like glass shattering he disappears. There is an awful silence as all who watch hold a collective breath ... and then, whoosh, Ermin’s head pops to the surface, and he swims to shore. If the demand is there, Ermin will jump six or seven times today.

There’s no health care or insurance with this job, certainly no job security. But Ermin is thankful to be a Mostari, and he admits there are perks: no local women are divers, but they admire the men who are, and Ermin is never without girlfriends, he grins.
Although Mostar is far and away the most famed feature of the Neretva, there is more delight downstream. A short drive takes us to the delta, where the Neretva begins its fan into the Adriatic, right on the Croatian-Bosnian border. Not only have waves of armies flowed up this waterway, but also thousands of birds, who biannually migrate from Africa, across the Mediterranean, up this corridor into Europe for the summer, then back again. The biggest bird resort in Europe sits along these banks.
A bit farther up the river is Pocitelj, an art colony among the fig trees, shaded by the labyrinthine walls of Sahat-kula, the Ottoman fort strategically situated above the Neretva so that watchmen could see approaching invaders for miles. The mosque in the fort has been superbly rebuilt after being razed during the war, and the grand watchtower allows unobstructed views of the limestone-encased river with water clear as local brandy.

Up the Buna River, a Neretva tributary near Mostar, there is a karst cave that seems to deliver cherished secrets as clearly as if uttered with a voice. At its side shines the 17th-century Velagic House, a dervish monastery. The water, filtered by the porous rock, spills like the translucent eyes of an eagle. Swallows sing and flit. This is a back eddy of Bosnia, spared the wounds of war. Glades of trees stand tall, the stream runs pure, the monastery lusters as it has for 400 years. This the way Bosnia used to be, and what it aspires to be again in the future.
Down the road is Medugorje, famous for its apparitions of the Virgin Mary, which first appeared to six boys in 1981, and in wake has prompted countless pilgrims to visit, spawning a considerable religious tourism industry. Less known are the wineries of the region, including some of the oldest in Europe, such as the Vinarija Stankela Stanko winery. Climbing down into a 400 year-old wine cellar where the walls are lined with bottles stacked in terracotta earthenware tubes, the owner, Vasilj Stanko, produces the largest tasting glasses in the world, and fills them to the brim with a 90-year-old vintage.
He offers up cheese, bread, and a dry cured dried ham on a cutting stand, and we slowly try to sip the hospitality. But before we make much of a dent, he serves up another specialty, Extra Loza, the local grape brandy, and we capitulate and offer to buy a trunk-load of his wines, and head to the sunlight.

We are in the mountain valley of Diva Grabovica, just off the Neretva River, in the stony heart of the Dinaric Alps. Behind us is Velki Kuk, the largest rock face in the Balkan Peninsula, over 3,400 feet sheer, taller than Yosemite’s El Capitan. Framing it are ragged beech and pine-covered peaks, which some locals have tagged the “Herzegovinian Himalaya.” This is a the mnemonically inhospitable Prenj-Cvrsnica-Cabulja National Park, after the three mountain chains that connect here, along with the interface of the Mediterranean and Alpine ecosystems. This was once the hunting grounds for Tito and his Communist elites—packed with European mouflon, chamois, boar, and bear.
We continue our trek up the Neretva River, filtered to a glassy sheen from its limestone frame; it almost seems lit from beneath as we glance down from the precipitous road. At the little way-station of Konjic, where some of the finest wood furniture in Europe is crafted, we stop at a riverside restaurant and meet Samir Krivic, owner of Rafting Europe.
Over a glass of Rafterica ( a plum brandy brewed by a former Olympic whitewater coach now a raft guide on the Una River in north), Samir offers to take us on a 14-mile bolt down the Neretva, the river he calls the best rafting run in the world. He’s prejudiced; he admits. He’s been running the Neretva for 30 years, since he was 8. Now he is a physical education teacher at the nearby elementary school in the winters, and runs his rafting operation in the summers, mixing the two as often as he can, teaching students environmental education during school, then taking them down the river on clean-up expeditions during vacation.

At the put-in, Samir brags the run is ranked class III-IV, with one Class V “jump,” which would place the course in same league as the Rogue, Selway, Tuolumne, and many of the great white-water rivers of the American West, but the wimpy Slovenian life jackets, and the 1,000-cubic-feet-per-second river volume seem to belie the boast.

Minutes later, we’re riding through a glacially carved canyon, where once a river of frozen water spilled, then thawed, cracking the gorge like an egg. The sail is dreamlike, down a delirium of blue-gray limestone, with trout-filled vitreous pools and sudden springs spewing from the walls. At one spout Samir pulls us over and tugs a bouquet of wild mint from the ground, grinds it in his palms, and then mixes it with the cold, clear water, creating instant iced tea, or a mojito without the rum. There remains virtually no rafting river in the U.S. where drinking its water doesn’t risk catching Giardia lamblia or some other nasty flagellated protozoan parasite, but here the luminous water is eminently potable, and we all drink with wild abandon.
At last we ride the vectors into the rapids, and thankfully they are not the uncorked tempests Samir seemed to describe. Instead they are delightful drops of interference waves, little sacraments of crests and troughs. But what the Neretva lacks in muscle it more than makes up in the spectacle it has scrawled from the rock, towering walls, temples, buttes and monuments: feathery waterfalls, and gardens of wildflowers and stately trees inhaling the warm coastal breezes.

In the slanted light of evening, a mist begins to gyre, and as we drift closer we see it doodling lazy curlicues up the abutments of a bridge. If, as some have postured, water is the next oil, the precious global resource in limited supply, then Bosnia might be a one-country OPEC with its luxury of freshwater fonts.
As we make the last paddle strokes, we glide over the rusted magazine to an AK-47 among the colored pebbles, and I ask Samir if he fought in the war. Everyone we’ve met in Bosnia over 30 harbors memories of the horror and typically wants to tell the stories, to relive the searing moments. But Samir says he doesn’t want to talk about the war. “We’re all in the same raft now. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water. Let’s just enjoy our river. It is the best river in the world.”
We grind up a dirt road high above the Neretva River canyon and stop at various overlooks, where we gaze down at screaming rafters on the limpid ribbon, and then upward across a green countenance of 100-year-old pines and beeches. We wind higher and higher, rising fluently into an immense horizon, until at last we spill across a rocky plateau above the tree line, into the village of Umoljani. The tiny Muslim community near where several events were staged in the 1984 Winter Olympics was burned down during the war.

But it has rebuilt itself and discovered new economies for a traditional way of life. Spread across the tableland are gardens of organically grown potatoes, carrots, onions, lettuce, cabbage, and wheat, fertilized with manure, grown without pesticides or herbicides or chemicals of any kind. It is the method of growing they’ve practiced for centuries, yet today they are exporting these crops to groceries and restaurants in Sarajevo and beyond for a market increasingly willing to pay premiums for organically grown food.
Looking about the village we see several buildings in various stages of construction. Of late adventure travelers on treks have come to this scenic outpost in increasing numbers, and now village entrepreneurs are building eco-lodges in childlike bright colors to accommodate the visitors. The people of Umoljani see ecotourism and organic farming as their future; the alternative sustainable economies to felling forests, damming rivers, or abusing this singular land for short-term profits. This is the living hope and opportunity for Bosnia.
One of the nice little sleights of logic in the wake of the Bosnian war is that land mines may have saved the country’s greatest asset, its large swaths of old-growth forest. As we wend our way up the edge of the Rakitnica Canyon, a tributary gorge to the Neretva that may be the most unexplored in southern Europe, we pass a seductively alluring leafy copse marked with a red sign sporting skull and crossbones: “Pazi”: “Mine,” where loggers fear to tread.
We’re in the boundaries of the proposed Bjelašnica National Park. In the middle of what seems the end of the world, we pull to a wide spot, jump out, and start walking into something that seems from a fairy tale: the highest and most remote community in Bosnia, perhaps the Balkans, the little feudal village of Lukomir.
The village itself seems hung with rusty nails to the rim of the Rakitnica, with collapsed roofs, pieces of tin patched over broken tiles, rotting timbers, abandoned wood carts, even an ancient red Yugo that looks like it took a wrong turn in the quondam Yugoslavia and ran out of gas.

One of the matriarchs of Lukomir, Rahima Comor, offers to show us around her community, which looks more relic than real. She points out roofs crafted of cherry wood shingles, a technique dating back hundreds of years; the men cutting grass as the women gather it into mounds, preparing for the harsh six-month winter when the snowbound village is cut off from the outside; the stecci, medieval tombstones, that have washed down from the hill, and are now adjacent to a newer cemetery where I can’t help but notice that most of the occupants lived to ripe old ages. “There is very little stress here; and the food is as healthy as you can get. No added hormones, the air is pure, the water clean. Everything is authentic and simple,” she tells us.
As if to prove this ecumenicalism, we’re invited into her home, which is a portal to Europe 1,000 years ago. It has just three low-ceilinged rooms and an attic. The first is an all purpose mudroom for footwear and clothes, and where raw food is prepared.
The second has a wood-burning stove, a worn Persian rug, and a low round table where the family dines cross-legged. On the wall hangs a sheepskin prayer rug, as this room is also for worship. The third is the bedroom, where Rahima raised her six children. We peek into the dark, smoky attic and see hanging cheese and shanks of meat. There are no chimneys in the Lukomir homes; the wood smoke circulates in the attic as a sealant, and to cure food. There is a clock ticking through the quiet somewhere in the house, but it has no need — time has stopped here.

Rahima turns a coffee grinder as a potato pie cooks in the stove. She wears clothes suitable for a Renaissance Faire, though this is her daily ensemble: a head scarf, wool pantaloons, cotton nightgown shirt, wool vest, and socks, all handmade. Rahima and other villagers have found a modest market in selling hand-knitted socks, sharing their homes for overnights, and serving traditional shepherds’ meals; economics that help them live and stay in a place they love.
Back outside we sit on a log, sip thick coffee and share a view across a chasm that seems to transcend time.
In the heart of this uncommon culture, in this unequaled environment, it does seem that while the rest of the world has made irrevocable mistakes, Bosnia is at a magical inflection point, a crossroads, where it has the opportunity to be a model for the planet ... and visiting now is not only personally rewarding in ways distinctive to this place and time, but it can only help to bolster and point the way for the good path.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Today's THE day...

Today I'm starting a Do-Over

I am awake energized and alive

I am the perfection of life

I'll take time to laugh and play every day!

I am magnificence in human form

I am grateful to be alive
All good things are coming to me from now on
I am embracing my inner sexy self
I am free to be myself

I live with passion and purpose

I am at peace and one with everything

I feel all the love and the joy this world has to offer

I see beauty all around me

Today is the beginning of my new life

My heart is light, my mind is clear

Isn't it? :)