I came to Armenia a little over 4 years ago; it was the first time. I had never met anyone who said they were Armenian, never heard anyone speak the name of its proud capital, Yerevan or glimpsed any or its rich ancient history through words of authors and poets. And then I lived there, and it became like salt on the tail of the bird of my soul.
I lit candles in cool Saint Gayane, choir singing, and at Geghard between streaming swords of light through misty sweet incense. And with the wind howling at Sevankvank, where once the parishioners were turned by the priest into pigeons to escape invaders through the spire windows. And outside Sevan frozen, covered with snow and ice fractures. Praying in ancient Odzun Church with the priest and dining and drinking earthy red wine with him and sweet friends later. And standing on polished stones graves at Sanahin or with wedding parties and the spirit of brave Hripsime. And those were just a few of the candles I lit
I toasted with aromatic vodka from the village and had it explode in my head, warm sunlight, apricots, rich earth, fresh streams, green trees and rocky mountains. And more toasts and I see the silver birches glimmering at the beginning of summer and the golden poplar leaf storms in autumn in just one thought.
I felt minus 30 chill on foggy old Abovian St, with ghostly tree silhouettes, elderly ladies shuffling, hunched in long dark coats and me thinking of Kilikia in the warmth of La Boheme
Or turning into Romanos Melikyan, Bam! Brave and faithful, Ararat reflecting warm sun to my chest off fresh snow, the clarity frightening.
Walks on hot evenings, old musicians, accordion and duduk and they pull tears out of my heart and confessions and I light-headed, somehow grateful.
I sat at tables with so much food, for so long that I got hungry again and heard stories and with Axel Bakunts ghost I told my own and so many toasts and me sober; at least until I stood up and at night under heavy winter covers those old rooms spun.
And I stood in the sky in March among the stones at ancient karahunj and from heights of the Selim caravanserai on that great silk road mountain pass from Yeghegnadzor to Matuni and thanked God that I was here for that minute. And breathed deep the smell of stabled cows in villages and could taste it still in the delicious sharpness of white cheese, sweet red tomatoes, mountain grown herbs with khorovats, good red wine and running water.
And there has been a lot more for which I am grateful to this land and to to my many friends with whom one way or another I shared a rich and full journey. Hail Armenia, to you and yours, I fell deeply in love.
The packers and movers have come and gone and I sit again in a bare house waiting for the last arrangements before Liezel and I fly out to Manila.