Al-Hasa Oasis

When Basra was bombed back to whatever age the Rumsfeldian doctrine wanted them in, the competition between who had the best dates, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia was over.

There was a time when Iraq’s 30 million date palms produced 1 million dates annually, and they were seen as the best dates around — perhaps, as the Saudi dates from the region of Al Hasa always vied for the mantel.


The Al-Hasa date plantation is a green oasis in the middle of the desert, and thought to be part of the famed garden of Eden, among researchers who believe it should really exist.

I lived in the region for 10 years. In many ways it is paradise — for expatriate women as well, though local women live a different and sometimes very uncomfortable life.

My dentist was a woman from the Philippines, not Muslim, and my doctor was a woman from India, a Muslim. Not everything is as you think it is in Saudi Arabia.

I miss the taste of dates with tea, the long evenings around campfires in the desert sand and the polite, hospitable people of the region — and the glorious heat. I will never forget some of the kindest people I met.

in only one date
the taste of paradise
never eaten alone


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Checking Out

The two fat slags were ahead of me in the supermarket queue, and their wares hovered on the small conveyor belt that through the ages of history has been magically controlled, through bizarre witchery by the ubiquitous check-out woman.


I hoped against hope they had bought healthy food, for they were really rotund, both of them, in a way that ensured they were never buying clothes in any normal clothes shop. I’d seen them around a few times, getting off a bus, getting on a bus, arriving at the supermarket and departing from the supermarket, in geat long skirts that looked like curtains, or ultra tight spandex leggings and t shirts.


In-between the two large packets of chips I saw two small plastic boxes of limp salad pieces; dry, browning with age, with a small chunk of tomato and soggy slice of cucumber, an overpriced bit of junk that passed for salad, bought by the gullible.


They were trying, but losing, and the conveyor belt rolled forward, knocking the soda bottles they had added over, a multitude of colours, a multitude of toxic garbage. And when one of the fat slags caught my eye I smiled, for I felt for them, these two women who never bothered anyone, did not know anyone else to bother anyway, and were so clearly victims of the modern corporate consumarist culture.


My smile echoed on them briefly. My heart went out to them. I felt the loneliness of each other on them, and so desperately wanted to invite them for a walk through my forest I visit every morning, and I knew that in nature lay the answer, that a morning walk among trees would help them feel part of something so natural, so soothing that they so needed.


But I said nothing, and watched them trudge, or waddle out of the shop, the charming, endearing pair, carrying plastic bags emblazened with the logo of some chemical concoction or another, in bright yellows and reds.


tired eyes

the samuai observes

all battles lost





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The Kudzu of Living

In school we are taught there are five senses. Of course that is not true, and having witnessed a friend lose his sense of balance then wife (who maintained he was chronically drunk) due to an ear infection, I can vouch for its importance.


Vertigo is part of that sense of balance and equilibrium, or lack of it. But there is something else. If we call the sense of equilibrium the sixth sense, then the seventh sense would be the epigenetical sense. Recent studies show that we do not just share our genes with our descendants, or take our parents’ genes. There exists also a ‘ghost DNA,’ made up of genomes that are heritable but are not part of the DNA sequence: if your grandparents starved, or smoked a lot, or were traumatised as refugees, effects of any of these could accordingly be noticeable in your mental or physical character make-up, according to the theory of epigenetics.

Somewhere in the Russian teenager’s ancestors may be the clue to his disregard for danger, and total disafection from any vertigo.


Kudzu, or arrowroot, is one of Japan’s seven sacred autumn flowers, useful in natural treatments as a remedy for ailments including vertigo. but where were those ailments first triggered? Were there traumatic events in the lives of the ancestors of those afflicted with the conditions? Studies show that grandchildren of concentration camp survivors show unusual nervousness, as do children born after 9/11, to parents resident in New York.


The young Russian guy may have had a very brave but foolhardy grandfather or grandmother, who performed heroic acts somewhere in Russia’s turbulent and tragic history.

sacred flowers
a balance of senses
each petal a message

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Aquila (Eagle) – a Haibun

An eagle flies in a different world than mine, where he is king, or she is emperess. The arrogance with which he or she surveys his, or her domain is unmatched, unparalleled, and the eagle cares little, or in fact not at all, for borders, seasons, hunters or words.


What odd ants we must appear to be to these solitary masters, who fly into storms without any qualms, spotting prey fifty miles away and leaving the clucking and pecking to the nervous hens and pigeons.


This eagle, who cares for its young like no other except the wolf, who regenerates itself at about thirty years of age, going into a clifftop cave for about five months to pull out feathers no longer aerodynamic, and knock off beak, not before pulling off aged, degenerated talons, well, this eagle reappers after this retreat renewed, fresh, feathers fully-grown, ready to live life again – the eagle is the true phoenix, reinventing youthful grace and power, and can thus show us as much as any zen master or mountain shaman.


We must connect with nature. We too must find a hilltop in order to meditate, rejuvenare, and seek to soar once more; always.


only from the mountaintop
do the trees not block the view
bow, shaman, to your future







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