Reflection of a Tunisian Oasis
By TLB Contributing Author: Ken LaRive
March 16, 2003
It was a hot and dry afternoon, 111/16. The Tunisian sun was unrelenting without a centimeter of shade. The stickers on my hard hat were melting, and my Ray Bans cracked in three places when I tried to take them off. From my vantage point on the Rig floor, I could see in every direction, north to south, east to west, and in that vast wasteland only three objects stood out with the possibly to explore.
We sat in the middle of a giant salt flat that sparkled like diamonds in the morning and evening sun. The only road for sixty miles stretched over the horizon like an India ink scribe-line, scored straight and true… Beyond that, there was a hard sandy, and very eroded mound with high cliff faces that I suppose was once an island in this now dehydrated inland sea…
My Russian Rig seen through a gap in the island.
Close to the horizon, I saw a string of sand dunes with plant life, and about twenty degrees to the left of that, and a mile closer, was a little splash of green and aqua blue, an oasis. It was indeed striking, a vivid display that looked like a precious jewel… From there a sliver pipe came directly to us, bringing fresh water that was cool and clear. I was told it had appeared on a day they were doing a seismic survey. The concussion fractured a shallow water table that escaped to surface, creating a deep and seemingly bottomless pool. Though it might be considered valuable now, becoming a new camp for several tribes of Bedouin, the Nationalist Tunisian Land Men had raised holy hell about it. I made up my mind right off that I would go swimming there… yes, even in this desolation, something of worth can be found… but I found so much more.
Early the next morning, even before the sun popped over the horizon, I watched a perfectly clear sky full of stars slowly turn into a deep Parish Blue, with a small dome of gold on the horizon. The temperature quickly rose from the low forties to over a hundred, just a taste of more to come by mid afternoon.
With a bit of time to myself, as we waited for our drill pipe, I drove my Toyota truck several miles to the oasis. I was told that about twenty miles away there was quick sand, but the crunching of salt crystals under my tires left a solid trail. Several times I stopped and turned off my motor. The silence was deafening, with only a slight hum from the rig motors. The next time I stopped, the hum and grind of our rig’s motors were finally silent. I parked my car when I got to what looked to be a camel track, and walked the last two hundred yards to a large stand of reeds that hid the lagoon. A song of some hidden bird welcomed me, and there, close of a large water pump, was a man dressed in a long camel hair robe, standing next to a tent. He pressed a button, and the pump kicked on with a puff of diesel smoke, shattering the silence.
My time here has come to an end, and what wonders I have seen are swimming in my mind. It is a perfect spring day of 99 degrees Fahrenheit, and calm. I know I am safe, as I can see to the shimmering horizon in any direction, and yet, in my heart there is something akin to dread. I have seen the way of it here, and now I realize myself and the world a bit differently.
What have I found among the Arabs, and my Russian workers? What can one learn from a sun-dried date given by sun-dried hands? What can one learn from a drop of water that spills from the corner of your mouth, when the humidity is 6? What of the slow and methodical cart and donkey that blocks your car on a narrow street, filled to capacity with a family that could wave and smile at a stranger in blue jeans?
I have tasted their sweet dates and bitter green olives in the same meal. I have sat on colorful carpets and conversed into the night with men who would silence me for prayer. I have mirrored their open smiles while children laughed and played in the dusty streets, and have sat in the shade and watched them all for hours, with only the purple smoke of apple tobacco as company. I have huddled with them in dust storms, waiting for the dawn, and the sun that turns onyx into gold. I’ve crawled with them into crystal mines… I have tried to understand them with honest curiosity, and have been rewarded by candid thought, and insight hard won, from faces that will not betray a thought.
The Mirage, taken from the Rig Floor.
But what of my Western sensibilities? What good are they as the sun bakes this sand to silver and white? One would think that so much blood would surely make the desert bloom? I suppose my greatest revelations have come in late night conversations, while tasting heavy sweet teas and spiced cookies. They have let me look a bit into their hearts as they explained their convictions with open hands and honest eyes; men who have covered their faces to the sun, the wind, the sand, and my ignorance too… yes, covering their smiles so as not to offend me. It was a respect, a mutual respect hard to deny…
There have been questions that could only be answered with another question. Questions that were found to have no logical answer by my puritanical standards. They were men of convicted honor, pulled by the memory of the past by ropes woven of pain, death, loss, struggle, and the joy of hope too. Yes, hope, our saving grace for a viable future.
Strength of purpose is what these men have found to survive repeated occupation, domination, subjugation, and enslavement, and it is written like a map on every face. Their eyes glitter, hawk noses flair and tilt, and I savor what North Africa lays before me as bitter sweet.
It is quiet now, and the sun is a bright yellow orb that calibrates across a perfect blue sky. The pool of water, so precious to this land, is deep and clear, reflecting the sky in an aqua blue, reminiscent of a Caribbean tidal pool. But the Caribbean is many miles from here, and I am displaced from my land and loved ones over the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico. Soon a jet will whisk me away… to America in all its grand splendor. I will be able to freely drink a beer, read anything I want, change channels to whichever perversity my diverse heart desires, as there are few stops for us there. Few stops, and but little precious truth. And yet, as I watch the caravan of camels and men travel in single file on tracks laid out for thousands of years, I feel at a loss. What can link us?
Could it be that we are all just people, you know, underneath it all? That we have the same needs, the same desires, and hopes too? …but that we go about finding them in different ways? Could the concept be as simple as that? ..and yet, can the gravity of each reality be truth, us as we move among each other? What if this small point was understood by men who found themselves sitting together on this small orb we call earth? What if? What if we actually realized ourselves to be nothing more than variations on the same theme. Oh God, the loss we could have stopped, the pain and suffering we could have prevented, if only we could see that we are all brothers, and one in spirit.
Well, it has all been said before… pitiful, isn’t it? I remember the death of Sadat, right after my Vietnam, and his attempt to bring peace. Several machine guns and a grenade silenced him, but his words have echoed on, past these dunes, to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, and Israel. Unforgiving, malice, and mistrust remains, yes, hate remains, and it blinds us from seeing our similarities. I pray it isn’t too late, that a word will reach and light up our souls to the wonders of what could be… what could be in all of us. Is it possible to even consider what loss there is when ignorance and hate takes hold, and find solace in Love? Is it possible to walk to this light together, with hope, our salvation?
I guess there are some who may find these thoughts empty, utopian, and childlike, in the broader spectrum, as I sit here by this little pool of water, in so great a space as the Sahara. It is a wonder that this tiny bit of cool water could make any difference at all… but from where I sit I can see many well-worn paths that converge here from far beyond, and the desert is alive because of it. Yes, even in this desolation, something of value can be found.
Stanley, the Bedouin who manned the pump at the Oasis. I fed him every day.
Our rig, lined up with true North.
This is Geo, the smartest of all camels, and with a great sense of humor.
At the Crystal mine, about ten miles from the rig. My Coalition friends and I having lunch with Mipore, owner of the crystal mine. His blind wife served us…
Sunset on the Salt flat.
Riding to the Oasis on a borrowed Camel.
A song I heard on my six hour train ride from Tunis.
From the Author, Ken LaRive – We in the Liberty movement have been fighting to take back this country for less than a decade, peacefully and with the love of God and country in our hearts. Our banner has been trampled on and displaced by a multitude of distractions, further eroding our nation and the cause for Liberty. And so, as we are pulled by forces we cannot fathom, powerful entities with unlimited resources stolen from our future, unaccountable trillions printed out of thin air and put on our backs as debt, we must formulate the most pitiful of all questions any patriot might ask in the final hour: Are we going to fight for our master’s tyranny, or are we going to demand the return of our civil liberties and Constitution? Are we going to choose The Banner of Liberty, or the shackles of voluntary servitude? Will it be a war for corporate profit, or a war to regain our ability to self govern, as the blood and toil of our forefathers presented to us, their children, as a gift? I fear that decision is emanate. I fear that any decision will be a hard one, but my greatest fear of all is that the decision has already been made for us.
Ken LaRive – Facets: It’s a simple but beautiful metaphor. Our soul is likened to an uncut diamond, pure, perfect, and unrealized. Each learned experience cleaves a facet on its face, and leaves it changed forever. Through this facet, this clear window, new light, new questions and ideas take shape and form. This process is our reason for being …
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