About Tracy MacDonald

A joyful Mama, Wife, Mixed-Media artist, writer, photographer, and seeker of beauty on this amazing journey.

Freeing the Falcon

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Isn’t it strange how sometimes an image or idea appears suddenly with frequency? The falcon-like Gods of Ra and Horus are prominent in hieroglyphics and Egyptian art, but during our two years here, only rarely have we spotted live falcons.

I was on the phone in the kitchen when movement behind the dusty windows across the street caught my eye. Through the dirty glass, the fluttering wings looked like an apparition of an angel. I summoned Brad to look, too. It was a Falcon trapped in a stairwell.

“Can you save him?”

Sensing this was important to me, he went next door and climbed several stifling hot flights of steps of this dirty, old building. Inside, the only sounds were scratching and flapping. The falcon was distressed, hot and exhausted, its mouth open and panting as it bashed into walls.

Carefully navigating around this wildly moving bird, wary of its talons, Brad dislodged a window and clapped to guide the desperate falcon toward the exit. It powerfully swooped down through the open window across from me. The bird circled the roof twice as if to orient itself, then soared into the sky, its strong wings spread wide, escaping to freedom.

This seemed like a perfect ending for our time in Egypt, to send this gorgeous creature with such powerful symbolism back out into Cairo to continue its adventure.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver, poet

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Spring Celebration

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It’s the time of “Sham El Nassim” Spring Celebration in Egypt. We head to the Red Sea. Travel outside of Cairo for a change of scenery and respite from routine feels like renewal. Peeling off the dust and doldrums leaves more space for the joyful me to expand. Smiles come more easily, as does laughing. Our senses of humor reemerge, dancing around our conversation like playful children.

Away from home, guilt falls away. Time here isn’t being wasted, but savored; lounging in clean sheets, unhurried breakfast, a second cup of coffee sipped slowly. Five star treatment as a beach attendant cleans my sunglasses and brings a fresh cooler of ice while I read under the shade of an umbrella.

There is an air of celebration, corks popping, giggles bubbling to the surface, relaxed expressions. Seafood dinners with candles and moonlight. The children delight in seeing fish, the thrill of a boat ride, splashing water, leaping off the dock’s end, chasing hermit crabs, and crafting sand castles. You can see their bright, swirling imaginations in motion.

As I float on my back in the sea, time deliciously lingers. Clouds glide by and birds sail on air currents. Gratitude for the warmth of the sun. The scent of sunscreen and tequila.The sexiness of bare shoulders and legs, more skin exposed. Loose clothing and languid posture. A mixture of salt and red wine on our lips. The contentment on our faces, connected to a universal flow and feeling centered. The mind grind has been replaced by deep peace, the soul replenished. I long to stay here like this, happy and carefree.

Is it time to pack already? Time flies. Time flees. We toast at dinner, glasses clinking, “ to a wonderful vacation.” I swallow this joy and peace deep into my belly and carry it home with us, nestled inside for tapping into for when we need it most.

The Spice of Life

One of my favorite outings in Cairo is to immerse myself in the vibrancy of the Khan El Khalili Bazaar. In the early fourteenth century, sultans and merchants established an economic trade area for their spices, silks, and camels. The market still exists today and you can buy most anything there, from a fresh chicken to a patchwork quilt, a piece of handcrafted wooden furniture, an oud instrument, or a scarab amulet. And of course, spices!

As we approach “the Khan,” Gothic Islamic mosque spires pierce the horizon. An array of structures forms a craggy roofline like something a child would draw. Inside its walls, the open-air marketplace is a labyrinth of cobblestone alleys; some quiet, narrow, and full of dusty antiques and vintage treasures. Other passages are a wonderful circus of riotous color and sound.

Vendor stalls are stacked like doll-house rooms laden with shiny gold statues, jewel-toned galabeya dresses and brightly patterned textiles. Pedestrians instinctively make way for delivery mopeds, carts selling roasted sweet potatoes, and donkeys pulling wagons with fruits and vegetables piled high. Cyclists expertly weave between obstacles with large trays of soft, round pillows of baladi bread balanced on their head.

Once you walk a while, camouflaged architectural details emerge: faded signs with subtle, flowing Arabic script, scrolling wrought-iron gates, and decorative mashrabiya latticework on second story balconies. Carefully placed stones line artful archways that frame beautifully carved doors.

Shoppers without an objective can become overwhelmed. There are blank books embossed by hand with gold-leaf initials and delicately carved tables painstakingly inlaid with mother of pearl marquetry. Silver jewelry with inspired designs entices you to buy more earrings and bracelets than any one person could wear. Canvas bags overflow with aromatic spices of anise and cinnamon. Shelves of hand-blown glass bottles in pastel hues stand patiently, waiting to hold scented oils you can mix like an alchemist: sandalwood, patchouli, opium, amber, or frankincense that “induce relaxation, affection, sleep, or healing.”

As daylight fades, market browsers flag down taxis and the ambience shifts. A mysticism appears in the shadows. Streets glow with glittering lanterns and illuminated coffee houses. Shops gleam with brass and copper wares. Locals in cafes shuffle in their wooden chairs, huddling around tiny tables, engaging in lively conversation over shisha and mint tea. 

“As the sky prepares to settle its tired, aching feet into the night’s velvet slippers,
I settle into my armchair, soaking the teabag of my thoughts into warm liquidy stars.”

         -Indian poet, Sanober Khan

May you embrace the spice of life,

Tracy