Of the Village . . . Of the Village

“If I can’t see Montgo mountain . . . I’m far from home”. This is what our gardener said when he learned that we were moving to Australia.
MONTGO is a Mesa (table mountain)that sticks up proudly from the flat, rich agricultural coastal plain of rice paddies and citrus and almond orchards between Valencia and Alicante. On the Mediterranean side is the busy small coastal port of Denia, the main port for the RoRo ferries to Majorca and Ibiza. On the West facing slopes on the inland side that gets sun all day, is the village of Jesus Pobre and large developments of private villas.
When he married our gardener said he was lucky: he could still see his Mother every day because she also lived in Denia: but his wife was not so lucky because her Mother lived far away. We assumed he meant Barcelona or Madrid. In fact she lives in Ondara, a village about 12 kms along a straight road out of Denia – and he and his wife have cars – and you can still see Montgo from Ondara.
And my daughter dated a Spanish boy from Ondara whose Mother came from a mountain village inland – and she thought Ondara was a big town, and never went into Denia because she thought it was Sin City. She never felt comfortable on the wide open coastal plain, away from the protection of the mountains. She was “Of the village . . . of the village.”
It is strange that this local mentality has built up since the human race settled to farming and gathering in villages, because before that we were nomadic and tribal, and wandered around freely to find the best grazing for our flocks. And tribal nomads still despise village people. They find them sedentary – dirty and corrupt – lacking in pride and honour. I explored these themes in my story:
TRIBAL WEAVING
“She is small for her age. She looks only eleven or twelve. It’s difficult to tell. Nomadic tribes do not record female births – although tribal women command more freedoms and are valued more than Iranian women of the village.
Absorbed in her task she croons a work song as she sits at the crude wooden loom creating a rug from the skeins of bright wool scattered at her bare and dirty feet. Heavy uncombed black hair is tousled over her face, and her intricately embroidered bright red dress is worn over blue trousers cinched at the ankles. Only her nimble hands are clean.
Mick had boasted he was an urban dweller never comfortable away from paved roads and street lamps. It was one of his adolescent English attitudes that Francoise had punctured with her earthy French regard for peasant life. As he sits in long grass among wild roses on the bank of a small stream he wants this moment to last forever.
High in the foothills of the Zagros mountains in South Western Iran the silence of the vast landscape is barely disturbed by the cries of men herding flocks echoing from the distant slopes, the tinkling of crystal clear water – and the girl’s sweet song. The smell of unleavened bread baking on hot stones mixes with the aroma of herbs trampled in the long grass and the scent of wild roses. His mouth waters in anticipation of flat-bread with olives, pungent raw onions and sharp ewes’ milk cheese.
Mick looks out from the dappled light of the wild orchard to the tan slopes of the foothills dusted with pale green Spring growth up to the grey of the high mountains with their permanent snow cap glistening against a sky so blue it hurt:
A loaf of bread beneath the bough
A book of verse, a flask of wine and Thou
Singing beside me in the wilderness
And wilderness is Paradise, Enow.
Iranians who love poetry are contemptuous of Omar Khayyam’s primitive rubaiyat – even though he was a brilliant mathematician and astronomer. The old tentmaker’s simple quatrains appealed to Mick who normally considers poetry as bourgeois as interior decorating.
A small cloud of Western scepticism shadows his soul. Maybe his euphoria is due to the champagne of pure high-altitude mountain air and the hot sun beating on his back? If only Francoise was here, and a bottle of astringent Vin Ordinaire was chilling in the mountain stream. Life’s perfect moments never last for the restless human spirit.
“She’s a rare beauty isn’t she?”
Startled, for a moment he thinks that the young Qashqa’i clan chief is reading his mind. Then he realizes that he means the young weaver.
“She’s only a child,” Mick says.
“She can bear children . . . her mother will soon marry her off,” il Khan replies.
“So young?”
“Life is short . . . and sweet, in the mountains. She’s best weaver we have, and selling rugs makes money . . . She’s great catch for any man.”
Mick’s jaw clenched with anger at this exploitation of a child. He’d seen the girl in the early morning carrying a new born kid over her shoulders to pasture, and then collecting firewood for her mother before settling to her weaving. After eating she will not run wild with the younger children in the orchard. She will go back to her weaving before the light fails, making saddle bags, wall coverings and rugs – to be sold to dealers in the vast bazaars of southern Tehran. She was being robbed of her childhood.”
*************
You can read the rest of the story in my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” and you can preview it at:
http://www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards
And download it if you have a Kindle. If you do not, or prefer a paperback, you can order from:
http://www.thebookdepository.co.uk
They offer free shipping worldwide.

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