The hardened earth crackled in the early afternoon heat, that faint crackle signalling the splitting of the soil into a web of hardened discs. Karm sat in the shade of a solitary carob tree at the edge of his field. He was seated on a rickety makeshift bench, a plank of wood balanced on a few concrete blocks, positioned in such a way, that when he leaned back he could rest against the carob tree in a variety of different positions. His weather beaten and leathered skin revealed the deep furrows of age, and endless days spent toiling under the Mediterranean sun.
Karm packed some tobacco into his wooden pipe, pressing it in with his index finger, teasing the rim of the wooden bowl, then he stooped down and picked a few grains of dry earth and sprinkled them over the surface before lighting it. He took a deep puff and coughed, as he always did on the first take. He balanced the pipe between his yellowed teeth and leant back to contemplate the scorched land before him, as he did religiously every day for close to half a century.
His field rolled down a hundred metres to a rubble wall that separated the land from a broken dirt road, beyond which where a few more fields dotted with the occasional carob, olive trees and in their midst little stone rooms, the typical Razzet. Beyond the fields came a blinding gleam reflecting off of the sea; it filled the air with a dry white heat and little pockets of shade with a contrasting darkened coolness.
He recalled his father taking him out on the boat as a young boy; a small colourful wooden boat, a design gifted by the Phoenicians centuries before. They would trail the coastline, ragged cliffs towering out of the deep waters, concealing shallow coves of shade where they’d retreat before returning to collect their lines, heavy with all sorts of sea creatures. His father enjoyed sitting motionless in the boat, watching the surface currents change, the many hues of light dancing on its surface. He turned to Karm on one of these occasions and said, ‘Look around you, the sea and the land are our guardians and our biographers. They hold the stories of our lives, and they inscribe it on one another. They are both changing and unpredictable, and they hold us to their will – we depend on them, and when one fails the other provides.’ Months later his father joined the waters he loved so much and knew so well, recoiled to its shadowy bed for his eternal sleep. From that day Karm swore allegiance to the land.
He took another deep puff and rolled the thick white smoke in his mouth, it dragged any remaining moisture from the edge of his lips, and left him dry as the land around him. To the far left by the coast, was a mass of concrete spewing out gallons of white waters over the cliffs, the reverse osmosis plant. The groundwater reserves had long been extinguished, and the land now depended on the purified sea waters to quench its thirst. His allegiance had been broken long ago, and his father’s words echoed in his mind, and in the land around him. He would be etched into the landscape one day, a memory parched by the fierceness of the sun and the haze of time.