Turkish Plate with Turbans

turban plate1Souvenir plate from Turkey

This is not actually mine; it was a gift to my sister-in-law.

Mother and I traveled to Turkey on a tour. Loved the country, such a variety of ancient and modern. In addition to Turkish wonders (Pamukkale, the beaches of Bodrum, the Blue Mosque), we were taken to many Greek sites, Epheusus, Troy, Didyma but my favorite site was not famous.

We went by bus to a tiny town on an estuary and from there hiked up a hill with our guide. When we reached the top, the view was spectacular – everywhere aqua sea sprinkled with sails. The guide took out a whisk broom and dusted away a layer of dirt to reveal a mosaic floor. He then showed us the outline of the house, well hidden by bushes. The reason for the concealment? Pirates (his word) came by sea, climbed the mountain searching for antique treasures. When found, they were dug up and taken away to be sold. They had lost quite a bit of their heritage this way.

220px-Grand-Bazaar_ShopThis was bought in the famous Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. A veritable warren of shops that goes on for miles. Research tells me that the shops within employ 26,000 people and visitors number from 200-400K daily. There are no restrooms, but there are ATMs!

I got lost there returning to an ATM. I couldn’t see the shop where I’d left Mother. I must have looked distressed; a man stopped to ask if he could help. When I told him the problem, he shrugged and said, “Good luck.” Fortunately I realized the way back as THRU a shop, not on the main path.

turban suspicious men1turban two men
I loved the colors and detail. I think the pair of men on the left look suspicious. Perhaps one has taken a bite of food from the other. But what a feast.

Guest Post: Travel Charm Bracelet

charm bracelet denise Silver Travel Charm Bracelet. Inspired by posts of my own charm bracelet, Denise has shared hers with us. It’s much fuller than mine – she’s a great traveler. Plus she has personal charms on it commemorating big occasions in her life. The first two charms were for her 10th birthday and then for her first concert. (She played cello for many years.) If you look carefully you can see the Space Needle from a family trip to the Seattle World’s fair. She says in addition to the Fair, they visited tuna cannery, a cheese factory and a lumber mill; in fact most of her memories are of the trip, not the Fair itself!
DavidCharm steinArticulated cuckoo charm






The charms above are also from a family trip to Europe – a whirlwind, if-it’s-Tuesday-it-must-be-Belgium type tour. There’s Michelangelo’s David in Florence, a miniature stein from Germany and an articulated cuckoo clock. If you look at the entire bracelet carefully, you can see charms from Holland and Austria.

Denise’s family also traveled in the U.S. The tiny pinecone is from Carmel, CA and the Conestoga Wagon is from St. Louis where she went up in the Arch. She remembers feeling the arch swaying in the wind; makes my stomach clench to imagine! The one from Watkins Glen is from the car races; her father-in-law raced. Denise, not a connoisseur, describes them as long cigarettes with bars across the back; her husband says they were Grand Prix cars.

Denise, like me, doesn’t wear her bracelet often. It’s too jingly. Impossible to wear and type at the same time! But it’s treasured for the memories.

Bone Dish from Antietam – Guest Post

Simple white bone dish, designed to sit next to a plate and hold bones once the meat was eaten. No marking on the bottom.

This dish comes from Don and his daughter, Denise. Don begins the story:

My mother had a great-uncle who had been a child during the Civil War. He told stories of sitting up on a hill, watching the battle of Antietam. [ed: Fought on September 17, 1862, it was the first major battle on Union soil and the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with casualties totalling about 23,000.] Obviously this made a big impression on him because when he grew up, he made a living scouring the battle site for souvenirs and selling them in a little shop.

We went to visit him when I was young and he gave this dish to Mother. He said that it had been left behind on the battlefield. Not much use for a bone dish in battle, so the family speculates that it was used in blood-letting, still a medical practice at that time. Or held under the chin for shaving.

Now the story takes a slight detour. Evidently this uncle had a near brush with death by lightning. A ball of fire came in through an open window and rushed through a room where he was standing. Denise remembers her grandmother always insisted that the windows be closed if there was a storm, allegedly because of this uncle’s experience.

The dish came to Denise as a memento when her grandmother died. It now has a place of honor in her master bath. Its curve fits right along the sink where it makes a fine soap dish.

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…

Theatre Thank You

Inscribed Clay bell. This little clay bell was given to me as a theatre gift for performing in “Royal Hunt for the Sun”. As part of the Colorado Concert Ballet (now just the Colorado Ballet), we used to dance/act in various productions at the Bonfils Theater in Denver.

I debuted as an actress in “The Most Happy Fella”, a song about Standing on the Corner, Watching All the Girls Go By. The director chose ME for a little (miniscule) solo: I was to walk alone across the stage, smile at the singer, drop a hanky and flirt. I had never flirted in my real life, how did one do it? On the last night I was persuaded by older cast members that it was tradition to have a little extra fun and I was given a pair of lacy underwear to drop instead of the hanky. End of theatrical innocence…

Then there was “Finian’s Rainbow” for which I was cast as Susan the Silent. Dancing only, but there were scenes when I was on stage with the actors, not dancing, standing still for long minutes. I remember the feeling of my hands swelling up to twice their size as I stood there – I had no idea what to do with them.

My biggest role in the adult shows (children’s theatre being another matter) was as Dressy Tessy Tura, the stripper in “Gypsy,” acting and singing “You’ve got to have a gimmick.” My gimmick was that I danced on pointe as I stripped. No stripping of course; in fact my dancing teacher thought I was too young to wear a two piece bikini on stage, so I was decked out in a full leotard, red and white stripped with fringe under the boobs. For the last show, I brought in my own bikini, sewed the fringe onto it, and strutted my stuff. Boy was I mad when my jazz/modern teacher said, that’s what you should have worn from the beginning.

We got little thank you souvenirs on opening night at most performances, being unpaid and all. I have no idea why I kept this one but now it stands in for some great times. I learned about lesbians in a Bonfils dressing room (just conversation, not deed.) I slept out in the audience on the carpet between shows. And I got my first taste of the theatrical life and learned, oh yes, it was the life for me!

Laser Angel

Laser cut angel embedded in acrylic. This treasured angel was a gift to me from a young girl whom I met through an NGO and mentored from the eighth grade.

On our first visit we went to the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage. It was not what I would call a great start. First, I got lost on the way there. Twice. Then the building was over airconditioned and we almost froze. But because she was polite even as she shivered, I was hooked.

Things got better after that. We cooked together (a good way to work on fractions) and I taught her to sew. She mended some jeans with appliqued hearts and we even sewed a dress for her prom. There were more successful performances – dance most often, but sometimes a movie or a play. She ate at my house. We had a birthday party for her and her crazy hula-hooping friends. We threw a dinner party for her large family – she planned and cooked the entire meal, even slicing the onions (which her sister refused to believe.) Once the family came for supper and we played dress up with costumes I had. You should see those pictures.

Last week this charming girl, who started out as my mentee and who is now my friend, graduated from college. Lots of people helped her along the way, but she was the one who made herself grow, who learned to study, who got herself to Spain, and who, through all her struggles, kept her happy personality. Now she’s out in the world and on her blog, contemplates what’s in front of her:

I am ready to situate myself among the millions of recent graduates around the world that are searching for that one light bulb. I’m waiting patiently while fumbling through applications, craigslist, Idealist, newspapers all the while playing dress up day in and out. Oh the headaches that will come and the free time that will be wasted…I think the hardest part is the question, what should I do with my life? (Ripping my hair out), It’s so hard to actually think past the next idea. Every moment I have a new interest, something that I would love to explore or try my hand at. When will my thoughts gather themselves in a row so that I can pick and choose from an organized pile?

I remember that feeling.  So many things to do in the world.  Travel!  Fall in love!  Dance! I snuck into performances of ballet when money was scarce.  I wasted time, the routine of school gone, on my own. I made booklets full of poems with illustrations and gave them to my lover.  I walked around whatever city I was in.  I joined a circus (not kidding!)  All the possibilities.  So what is my friend going to do?

I’m sending her huge congratulations on graduating!  And, because once a mentor, always a mentor, adding some advice: find your passion and go for it!! I can hardly wait to see what you do…