A travelogue on visiting the Osun-Osogbo Grove in March.
Neurosis Patriot: I pledge to Nigeria my country. Your trauma will ruin us and your hunger will eat us all up, most especially the innocent. Your suffering is not the school for excellence you think it is, not like you care, your insidious ways have seeped into the bones of your eldest and will be good history lining for when you implode, and then those people come out and say, I told you so, you people should have left. Will you ever solve? Will we have to continue to bear your split as our birthright? Who will survive in Nigeria? etc.
As I traveled deeper into the West of the uncountry, the car taking several trips through Army and Police checkpoints on the quiet green express, I listened to the Microphones (in 2020) sing-talk about surrendering to the smallness of space inside time, seeing his reflection in water and tasting the moon with his eyes.
Guest House Inhalations:
1. There was clean air in Osun State, bright as a gift on the way to where we would rest and workshop the workshop. James had been on the phone with someone angry. The okadaman wore a big puffer jacket, sky blue and complained about many things as we rode on the too-smooth asphalt before stopping to buy a fried milk sweet from a woman he seemed to know and respect. We came to a copse of tall close-knit trees. There was a gate, its path lined with beaten steel things. “This is where you people are coming to stay.” Then, around the copse to meet the arrival carnival gate and the yellow houses.
2. Morola leads me into a cabin of splendors and red velvet couches. The paintings / art! It defies logic how spurious they were, like wild mushrooms. The space and the human beings around seemed incidental after a while. They owned the place and we were just guests.
3. The tortoises were exhausted and fucking. A rare sight. I became David Attenborough. There was a lot of sun in the grove of trees, where a long adire table lay. Grey, Lio and Morley sat in the sun and read books. Big old books about philosophy and metaphysics and they kept debating the extent of some planetary whirl, so I went to take selfies of roots.
4. Yosola appeared and said it was sad that tortoises couldn’t leave their shells sometimes, but we agreed that it was a small price to pay for that private peace. We talked more slow talk and laughed lightly at our irresponsible tortoise jokes.
5. Walking to the buses that would take us to another grove. Ayo is wearing huge my-future-is-too-bright sunglasses. The buses are small and blue. People are arriving and sitting to wait and moving around and waiting for people to catch up with themselves. Kenny and I sit next to each other on the bus.
6. We are going to a special grove meant to be visited not dwelt in. Temple grove. Dedicated and belonging to ancient/root/source/ energies, aged and trusted. To me a visit was essential. I love groves. Sacred, creepy, wet, misty, festival point, prayer rinse.
7. The geese roared / Boys melting in daylight / O, I danced.
8. When we left for the river, the sun was still kind.
There was an artist’s village where a man made emerald batik. Another artist exhumed something like a fish from pale tree. He was barechested and focused. His work was on a form of the orisha. He looked surprised when Bob asked him if he had made any plans or drawings before beginning raw work on the cut of wood. There was a girl in white watching him sweetly. We met her there.
A very important gallery was left in ashes and it was really unpleasant to walk through the debris after, but we made do with finding surviving handwork and photographing or just looking at them and saying things like, “Wow. I want to just put this one in my bag. It belongs on my desk. etc.”.
The fire was wild and ate away from the building into the trees around. We swarmed away from the encircling burn and began to move out of the artist’s village, crunching down leaves and moving up the street to begin looking for the way forwards when
Susanne Wenger’s double-headed vision of a sacred art that has utility in environmental beautification is a clear sign of direct inspiration. As most of the best architecture in mankind’s history has been saved for the felt dwelling places of God on Earth.
The rose stone rises and bends, moves into form and masquerade as if guided and shaped by more than human hands.
(The pink/mud/otherlandscape around feels washed and renewed &
so much like living skin, a skin that would feel before it was touched.
I am alone, surrounded by bodies and schoolchildren sucking on orange ice until it makes their tongues reveal how they feel inside. I think of their valid utopias, all taste and no consequence.)
What we see is the result of teamwork, according to the guide, many new layers and forms and characters have been added since the original form made by Wenger. This laying on is done with great care by a group of people who know something only they know. Woven into one another by this knowing.
I imagine them dressed in rough wool, elbows deep in pink mud, smeared and tattered and completely present. Present to the point of vessel, dancing with the mud tight like chewing gum.
I was barefooted early.
The phantasmagoria of sculpting grew deeper; a league of spirits with many heads and twin tails, gods, almost-women, kings, cowrie calculations spinning doorways out into nowhere, mirrors with no glass. Shellfish archs and various depths of the female form spooled around us, cradling us and expanding as we walked deeper into the massive temple-grove.
My aptitude for no shoes is not something I try to explain when asked in that prying tone. I enjoy doing it occasionally for texture, though here I do it in respect, surrender and play.
(A bus goes by carrying a quiet woman in red.)
I end up reluctantly putting my feet in the milk river that we find at the end of the road. It soothes my scars and lets me know to let go. I leave the milk and walk up the bridge that breathes across its expanse, into a bamboo field where I sense there might exist perfect feng shui, and then back down to the water, unable to resist the river and what it did to my sole.
(A boy rises up the banks, washed and rejuvenated for some coming wealth.)
Back on the rocks by the water, Amy makes small cinema. James finds a self island out on the water and takes essential pics. I mush in the mud under River Osun hard with my toes.
The guardian said to think good thoughts but I actually find that I can’t do that for long. My mind is muddled by pain, regret, shame, desire. I express this earlier by pretending I’m a trashcan for photos. I mush in the mud. It feels good. I pray to experience more flow in my being because I get stuck often.
A log crosses the water and I say that I saw a head drifting.
then we really have to go.
Otherlands: The guide takes us under a two-headed doorway. A machine-insect whirring falls from the branches above. He says, “…that sound could swiftly become the door to your madness.” and we record it on our phones.
He leans deeper into the mystery, speaking something like myth, stories that not only described but enlivened the temple-grove.
Painting this picture of a myriad of abstract fraternities and cults in charge of a variety of spiritual offices, with representatives taking terrible journeys across, between, towards the Unknown.
I think of the mystery cults of gone civilizations. The diligent work of the two-, three-, many-headed who often crossed many spirit territories, in search of balance, answers, power. Wonder about the state of spirituality out in the world.
Just ahead, there’s a door guarded by a dragon. You can only enter it with your back and it leads into a suspended landscape of pathways and doors and temples.
Silence becomes not only a conscious demand but is inscribed in the motions of the body. Secrets laced in the very excess of what you say, more than in the toothless gaps, when you’re gone thinking.
The temple proper has been vacated of ritual. We walk in barefoot.
Two boys hold a goat, waiting. There’s a statue of Osun: simple, voluptuous and draped in white.
I have some water from the river in a bottle in my hand. It is nectar fragrant. Our guide says it’s a healing agent sought by thousands upon thousands of faithfuls.
I’m telling Cloud of Balloons and the 46th Ronin about this movie from Old Nollywood where the moon appeared and violently killed several secondary school students who got stranded on a nature walk far away from the city.
It was probably titled Full Moon and it was awful.
The oversaturated brightness eating up those naïve students past midnight in the bush was maddening to me as a child, and that gospel (x) song they all sang while they cried so wetly as the brightness devoured them one last time was too much.
May we be well.
May we be safe from harm.
May we know harmony in mind, soul and body.
May we be happy.
I am overstimulated but manage to put my foot in the river again, this time with a prayer, a quantum question directed to the orisa, river beneath our toes beside the palm oil gruel altar.
We ask of a love beyond bodies, again.
“She’s a love goddess.” I whisper to Abimbola to feel smart, as they walk past where some people decided was the limit of closeness to such things.
Worshippers say the orisa is more than gender or body can contain.
They are rushing essence becoming more.
The last time I had come to this temple, I had been found drunk at some evening vibes-festival by someone who liked me enough to want to be my friend. She told me we were coming to see Osun the next day. We would also return that tomorrow.
It happened in a storm: lightning / thunder, coldwater, ice, spirit everywhere. I was hungover and my clothes were smaller than they should have been, but these people who didn’t know me let me on their trip and fed me and made sure I was alright and even added me to their romance peripheries and such.
We saw dye pits, another one of those living galleries.
At the grove, the river was high tide and the light was shadowed from making it through the leaves by total rainclouds, so day seemed as night.
The form of the god object was bare. It ached like a magnet alive with blood.
(in the key of children faced by a sudden supernatural predator): Oh God will make a way, where there seems to be no way, he works in ways we cannot see he will make a way for me he will be my guide Holy Ghost will do its side in love and care for each new day he will make a way for me he will be my guide Holy Ghost will do its side ooooooh God
I forget my slippers at the temple door. I run back for them and return, alone.
Am I facing the right direction?