Turkish Whirling Dervish

A whirling dervish, or samazen. The whirling is part of a Sufi ritual begun by Rumi, famous poet and mystic. Evidently he heard some apprentices beating gold and speaking a dhikr – “there is no God but Allah” – and it made him so happy, he spread his arms and started twirling for joy. My understanding is that the hands are bent to receive God’s kindness and channel it to earth.

This doll is part of a small collection. When I’m travelling, I usually buy one as a memento; (the carved doll on the home page was my first). This one, which is about 5″ and made of plastic, I got in Turkey (see my other Turkish souvenir). It’s a fascinating country — lots of ancient ruins from Greek and Roman times, temples, statues, mosaic floors. At the remnants of Troy, which we visited on a rainy day, I remember a big, hulking stone ramp up to what was the main citadel. It certainly exuded the power and darkness of the old legends.

I had an experience in Istanbul that I will never forget. We were out in the evening, going to the main square – Taksim. Crowds everywhere. Many women in full length black dresses, heads covered, but faces revealed. Occasionally I would glimpse colorful socks above black shoes as they walked which made me smile – a flick of fashion mostly concealed. We came to a tiny girl at a street corner selling packets of tissue. She was crying and trying to leave but her older sister pushed her back out into the crowd. Something was said that made me understand she wouldn’t be allowed to go home until all the packets were sold. I immediately bought one from her. BUT, and here’s my ongoing regret, why didn’t I buy the remaining 2 packets? They were ridiculously cheap. It was late, the child was in tears; with all of her packets sold she could have gone home. My stomach turns even now as I write this. Why I didn’t do the kind thing? A real failure of compassion.

On a more cheerful note – Taksim was fascinating. A huge market. I saw piles of a nut honey concoction advertised as “Viagra”, fish lined up perfectly on ice with their fins all facing the same direction, and a man pushing a wheelbarrow full of dead goats destined for the ubiquitous shawarma stands, and women in windows of little restaurants demonstrating the making of pita bread, working with long wooden rolling pins. I want to write about my experience with the cotton pickers, but that will save for another post…

Tiny Treasures

Tiny flowers and grass under my feet, plus the treasure of a yellow bird. The flower will become a blackberry if there’s enough water. The grass is unknown but ubiquitous, and I think the bird a gold finch.

When I walk in the woods, I have begun looking at my feet. It started because West Virginia is very rocky and you never know when you’ll be tipped over by a hidden bump in the grass. And although I still love looking out over the trees and mountains, I am finding the there are terrific things to see if I focus in.

You have to understand that as a ballet dancer I was trained never to look at my feet. You show your face to the audience, not the part in your hair. This habit had funny consequences on my first trip to Europe. Many of the streets were cobblestones. I didn’t want to look at them when there was so much to see – church towers, castles, history rising up from the ground. With pleasure I looked up, as I had been trained.

My sister, who often walked with me, still tells about how she would be talking to me and suddenly I would disappear. “One minute you were beside me, the next gone. I’d look back and there you were, sprawled on the street.” She refused to walk European style, arms linked, for fear I’d take her down with me.

So much for the grace of a dancer.

Salt and Pepper Shakers

My grandmother-in-law’s salt and pepper shakers.

The stamp on the bottom seems to indicate they are from the Moriyama Mori-machi factory in Japan, mid 20th century. Hand painted. Well loved.

My grandmother-in-law was a feisty woman. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I was given the engagement ring from her first husband. For a while, we lived close enough so that we could drive out to visit her on holiday weekends. Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July. She lived with her second husband on the border to Nevada and our visits always included a family outing to a casino.

Now I’m not a big gambler. And we were not exactly rolling in dollars. My husband and I would set our limit to 10 bucks each and I’d head for the nickel slots. I could make those nickels last for hours – it was more fun to watch the people than to see my money sliding away.

This grandmother used to cook for us – some of my husband’s favorite foods, like 3-bean salad – and so I chose these as momentos when she died. They sit in my kitchen and remind me of the times we spent together. Strange the things that we want to keep, that come to represent good times. My husband chose the cat canister.

If you have time, I’d love to hear what little object invokes a loved person or place in your past. Just write your comment below. Or if you want to submit a picture and your story, click on “Submission for Family Objects“.

Hope you are enjoying the summer. Stay cool.