This year, at Easter we visited Marrakech, Morocco on holiday. It is not my first time to an Arabic culture but this time I had a focus with me that created a moment of serendipity.
I was focused upon the senses particularly the sense of smell and how to capture this through photography.
A common feature of an Arabic home is the inner court-yard. On the outside Arabic homes appear austere and unassuming, just rectangular blocks of stone. Yet once you enter the doorway, the interior frequently leads you through ornately tiled corridors into open spaces with fountains and light, plants and flowers. When I visit Arabic influenced cultures I am constantly glancing through open doorways, which I am sure if noticed, must cause the owners to think I am pretty nosey.
This inner courtyard in an Arabic home is considered a private, almost secret place and usually caters to all the senses. Firstly the eyes are assaulted by design and colour: opulent carpets and carved friezes; reflections from glass and tiles, water and sunlight pour through foliage. Then there is sound: the trickle of water in fountains and pools; birdsong winding its way along the long walls that stretch upwards towards the sky, opening up into light and wind. And then there is scent: petals of roses in water, blossoms cascading over the rims of cauldrons, their fragrance delicate in the night air: rose, patchouli, orange, bergamot. It is truly luxurious. Taste is not exempt nor is touch as you sit in the soft sunshine or in shade, being caressed by light breezes, sipping mint tea and nibbling on sweetly dissolving cookies and dates.
I had been thinking about perfume and had re-read the novel Perfume by Patrick Susskind. I was thinking how difficult it is to describe scent without referring to the other senses. Susskind’s description of scents, the place Grasse, and the lives of the perfume merchants were very vivid to me, and I was intrigued by the techniques he used. I was also thinking about my own favourite scents and how perfume affects me, especially on the level of imagery. In other words what happens to me physically (as in memories and images) , emotionally and psychologically when I smell a particular scent. As a result these gardens struck me as something synononous with creating a secret, sacred, sensual space within my spiritual life/ home. We put perfume on our skin in those secret places on our bodies inviting intimacy and pleasure. So too the Arabs adorn their most secret spaces in their homes as a homage to the senses. I asked myself:
Do I have such a place for myself, inside my heart?
How am I creating a lusciously sensuous place just for me within my very soul?
Here are some of the things I do and recommend:
Carve out sacred time for your self each day- imagine you are in your secret garden of the senses. You might begin simply by observing the breath, or your thoughts, or what is around you sensually. Judge nothing in your experience.
Llight candles, create an altar or what is known as a sacred space in your home. Have flowers and scent and all the sweet things you enjoy-maybe you might start on an imaginary level, but later on you can create this physically in your home.
What about a secret journal?
What about a sacred work room in your home or a spot in your garden- make it a project?
Have you got an imaginary sacred space in your imagination? A place you go to to meet yourself, your past and your future wishes and dreams.
I am constantly creating secret, sacred and luscious spaces just for me, where pleasure blooms just for me.