Days Between Mirages


Certain skies have the power to sharpen eyesight.

It is the map maker who actually creates the world, and in a landscape devoid of features, cartography turns inward.

Far below the walls of Dier Mar Moussa, the sands stretched out like a hazy veil beyond the perpetual present; beyond even remembering.

Such a landscape brought to mind the Temptations of St. Anthony. Exiled voices. Delirious days baked mad by the cruelty of the sun. Crisp nights of solitude beneath a coffee stain moon. I wanted to know that landscape shaken by storm, its vast spaces rent by lightning and wind–beset by an utterly theological sky.

I understood what the desert fathers sought in this emptiness. Not the religious aspects or their spirituality. But the space. The landscape. The silence and how it connects you to yourself.

The caves of ascetics punctured the crest of the hill above me. Their hollow mouths swallowed materialism, habit, linear progress, and the opiate fumes of ill-constructed dreams. And replaced them with…. what?

I climbed the slope and crawled inside.

Sitting there encased in stone, it was easy to find silence.

I thought about our travels through Syria. Of the laughs we shared. Of intimate moments with friends. Of how funny it seemed each time it all went south.

The space between my thoughts spread out.

My body grew heavy as the flesh lost its hold.

Silence replaced it.

And that was all.

About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


  • Brother, really nice. However, I wish there was more. Just when the articled reeled me in, it ended. Leaving with an empty feeling. Unless, its intended!

  • Adnan – glad you enjoyed it. These short ones are just postcards, meant to capture the feeling of a place in about the same number of words I can cram on the back of a photo.

  • Ryan, a beautiful piece of writing. I love your description above of the postcard. It really helps to capture the depth of your descriptions. How amazing that you can cojure up such visulizations with so few a words.
    My grandmother was a writer, I always wished I had inherited this gift.


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