January 31 ~ Pale Truthful Light Baghdad Sketches

"On the whole, age comes more gently to those who have some doorway into an abstract world-art, or philosophy, or learning-regions where the years are scarcely noticed and the young and old can meet in a pale truthful light." ~ Freya Stark

Freya Stark

Passionate adventurer, British travel writer Freya Madeleine Stark (18931993) was born on this day in Paris, France. She made her first journey as an infant when her mother carried her across the Dolomite Mountains in a basket.

At age nine, she read Arabian Nights and became hooked on the language, magic, and culture of the Middle East.

"To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world," she said.

An explorer, philosopher, and poet, Stark traveled alone, across the desert, through ancient cities, and in dangerous terrain. By camel, raft, jeep, or horseback, she fearlessly mapped the remote, traveled to the unknown, and worked for the British Intelligence.

She once said, "Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear."

Writing her first book in 1933, the prolific and popular writer published over 30 books about her travels in the Middle East, including The Southern Gates of Arabia (1936), which chronicled her adventure through the ancient frankincense routes of the Hadhramaut Valley.

Age did not deter her. With passion and spirit, Stark traveled through remote China at 70, on a jeep through Afghanistan at 76, and rode a pony through Nepal at 79. "There is generosity in giving," she said, "but gentleness in receiving."

Known for her courage and strength, she inspired the imagination, writing in Perseus in the Wind (1948), "The true call of the desert, of the mountains, or the sea, is their silence free of the networks of dead speech."

Find your own truthful light.