I would love maybe more than anything to be able to write like Michael Ondaatje, to bring music to the slightest phrase. What he describes has always become magical already in his telling, though the images of this place, Polonnaruwa, show it to be magical all on its own. I doubt I’ll ever be there, except in the photos and words, but I feel the runes vividly on my skin.
He spread his fingers over every discovered rune. He traced each letter on the Stone Book at Polonnaruwa, a boulder carved into a rectangle four feet high, thirty feet long, the first book of the country, laid his bare arms and the side of his face against this plinth that collected the heat of the day. For most of the year it was dark and warm and only during the monsoons would the letters be filled with water, creating small, perfectly cut harbours, as at Carthage. A giant book in the scrub grass of the Sacred Quadrangle of Polonnaruwa, chiselled with letters, bordered by a frieze of ducks. Ducks for eternity, he whispered to himself, smiling in the noon heat, having pieced together what he had picked up in an ancient text. A secret. His greatest joys were such discoveries, as when he found the one dancing Ganesh, possibly the island’s first carved Ganesh, in the midst of humans in a frieze at Mihantale.—Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost (The Grove of Ascetics)
image: Reclining Buddha of Polonnaruwa, Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors