Mali Photography: and a tale of the woman in blue

I am in a village in the middle of the Malian bush.  But this isn't just any village.  Oh no.  It is one of 33 villages where, in Oprah-style fashion, each family has been given several acres of farm land and handed the keys to a brand new {if modest} house.  A shiny school, a covered market, and a multi-functional center have also been built in each village. The American Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has organized it all in a participatory manner, with the villagers having their say.  It's an example of extreme aid in extreme poverty.  

The USAID project I am working on in Mali is working with MCC.  And so it is that I am in the village talking to the village chief, the imam, the school committee, and others.  I am asking questions, I am taking notes, I am doing my job.

It is then that I see her.  The woman in blue.  

Her blue is so beautiful.  So rich. So deep.  And she is beautiful in it, her dark skin providing the perfect foil. But while the village leaders are speaking animatedly about the changes in their lives -- their faces lit up, their hands gesturing -- the woman in blue, well, she is quiet.  Motionless, her eyes vacant, she seems a sad blue statue.  

Women 7
You see, Malian women wear all blue for four months after their husbands have died.  

I know for her that those acres of land?  Oh, they don't matter so much.  The brand new house, the shiny new school?  Well, they have just brushed her skin with the faintest of flutters.  

I want to excuse myself then.  I want to tell the village chief that I have something important to do, someone important to talk to.  But instead, I just shyly reach out my hand to her son.  His small smile is some kind of glimmer.  

And so it is that the woman in blue teaches me an important lesson:  to never take for granted those I love most.  Because, without warning, I could be the woman in blue.  

And you?  Well, sadly, perhaps, one day, you could be the woman in blue, too.  

 {Hold him tightly, hold him ever so tightly.}