By Nawaziest Ul Bushra

A journey etched by Saffron – the exotic in Essex. This walk spoke of a beat that caught our steps in a stillness. Like the stillness of the setting sun on the spinning earth. The earth that carried the roots of saffron. A testament of its power. How it embraced the exotic. How it instilled it in her beat.

The radical pilgrimage headed by Lora Aziz, writer, wild crafter, was in the presence of the legend that a saffron corm was smuggled to England from the Middle East in a pilgrim’s ‘hollow staff.’

I joined Lora on her first day of the 7-day walk on the trail. A journey meant to unveil the manner in which land shifts to a breath. The power of a soul to move the earth. The glory of the earth to be moved by a soul. Amidst this narrative we journeyed upon the trail that carried the warmth of an embrace.

There is a rhythm to which the heart beats and a rhythm to the earth’s endeavour. It holds it dear. Dearer than we… & upon this journey, I found the earth speaking, ever so softly, “does your heart, meant for beating, not beat?” and such was the lament of the earth. The earth talked of the souls fracturing it to pieces. Claiming, un-claiming it. Mining, drilling, taming, un-taming it. The land with the immense power to hold so purely and delicately, questioned the beings with hearts in their chests. The turmoil it endures, the mercy it births. The resilience it shows to the beat of its rhythm.

& Evermore of how it embraces the exotic in its beat.

This was the first day of the seven-day journey that Lora had decided to embark upon. Once we covered the first stage, we sat on the footpath of Warren Road under the gleaming sun. “…and then there were three” said Lora as we were the last to stay. We sat under the embrace of the trees on the concrete layered earth, sipping on water.

I held onto the rose, petalled in a fragrance that ran its course to the blood of my soul. I saw the gold of the saffron coloured day. In fractures of its beaming desires, I felt the earth in my bones. The breath of your core and my core called to the breeze that glowed in the crimson sun’s lore.

This was the beginning for Lora to embark upon the 7-day trail of earth and soul. I watched her move with an ecstatic beat in her feet and a heavy beat in her heart. I wondered, what could one say to the earth’s lament, fractured by its own.

Nawaziest Ul Bushra’s writing reflects on the experience of joining Lora Aziz for the start of our Radical Pilgrimage, a 7-day 70-mile journey along The Saffron Trail. This was part of our series of In My Steps: Radical Walks during Essex Book Festival June 2023.