I've been in Kabul for almost a week and I have talked so much I think that a little part of me (the little part that had grown quite accustomed to my hermit's life in Ghor) is in shock. But other parts of me feel vibrantly alive in a way I haven't for weeks.
That seems to me to be part of the beautiful paradox and the delicate balance of life. A life of solitude brings parts of us to life. In me, solitude generates a particular creativity and thoughfulness which is essential to rich inner life. On the other hand the company of fascinating, loving, funny people also feeds my inner as well as my outer life.
This week I have shared a beer with a 59 year old geologist from New Zealand and his wife, a gorgeous woman whose warm enthusiasm for life (even life in Kabul) made me feel as though she was an old and treasured friend within an hour of meeting her.
This week I have eaten dinner with my dearest Afghan friend, a fearless feminist and human rights activist who was the reason I came to Afghanistan in the first place. Despite my absence from their home of more than four months, her 18 month old daughter seemed to recognise me and as well as playing tickle with me for most of the night she repeated my name over and over again in a delighted giggle of recognition.
This week I have sat in the sun with a soul friend who has seen me through some of the darkest day of my dark winter, and with whom I practiced yoga in a tiny room in Herat as the sun came out both literally and figuratively last summer. We turned over the material of our lives right now, the parallels and the convergances, we acknowledged how much we miss each other and we allowed each other to talk through each current question to its limits.
This week I laughed through a dinner with an Australian hardcase who grew up on a coffee plantation in Papua New Guinea and although as tough as nuts on the outside was the first person to offer me a fluffy soft towel and an extra blanket in the spare room when I arrived in Kabul dirty and looking for a room.
This week I caught up, over a glass of wine, with a woman born to American parents in Afghanistan 30 years ago. The daughter of an eye-doctor who grew up through the horrors of the civil war here and whose house was my home my first summer in Kabul. As happens every time I meet her, she revealed to me again another layer of her rich character, this time her genuine compassion for an injured cat.
This week I met a fascinating carpet dealer, a carpet guru, a man who appreciates beauty and history and who is helping people like me to understand more of the beauty of Afghanistan's cultural history - and then helping us claim a little bit to take home with us. A gentle, sophisticated, intelligent man who was infinitely patient with my desire to look at and stroke his most expensive carpets (way out of my price range).
This week I have had very little time to write in my journal, or to even sit back quietly and reflect on all these amazing people and the interesting and stimulating conversations I've had with them. But I see that these moments are to be lived to the full, the energy is to be soaked up and stored up.
There will be quiet times of solitude in the future during which the fruits of these encounters will bubble their way back up to teh surface, feeding my creative imagination in the quiets evenings in Ghor.