Five years

5 years At the airport in Tel Avivago today at 1:00 pm, my plane landed in Haifa, Israel. I was starting 18 months of service at the Baha’i World Center. I waited for 2 hours at the airport because the person who was picking me up got a flat tire. I had some time to kill, so I took a photo of the screen that showed my flight.

It was December but it was warm, and I slept in the car, but when we came around the side of the mountain, the city was spread out in front of me, and it felt like coming home. View from the living roomOverwhelmed, everything felt a little bit surreal. My aunt and uncle were in the same apartment building, a childhood friend turned out to be one of my roommates, and I had the best views from my apartment: the Shrine of the Bab, the city of Haifa, and the Mediterranean.

Everything seems better in hindsight, of course. I remember being incredibly lonely, but also really happy. Very few of us had internet at home, and every day things felt a little more distant everywhere else. One of the advantages of not having internet or tv for the first 10 months was the sheer amount of books that I read. I was 23 years old, in a new life.

Even 3 1/2 years after returning to the United States, I still miss it. I miss the Shrines, the year-round flowers, the history and age of Israel, exploring (wish I had done more of that!), the people, the warmth…(I may have been one of the few people that LOVE hot weather). Everything.

I miss it every day.

reminders

It happens every few weeks, or months.  A reminder of what I left behind.  It comes with a sudden warm, coastal wind, or a flower that I saw every day, or a friend’s smiling face.  It sometimes sneaks up, like feet sinking in the sand, and sometimes it is like tripping on uneven rock paths.

I am home, over 2 years and I am taken back to a place that is burned into my soul and heart.

Wishing I could dissolve in tears with my face pressed to the carpet, the silence and the smell of roses like a warm embrace…

“O thou cherished Fruit of the heart! Give ear to the melodies of this mystic Bird warbling in the loftiest heights of heaven. The Lord hath, in truth, inspired Me to proclaim: Verily, verily, I am God, He besides Whom there is none other God. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise.

O My servants! Seek ye earnestly this highest reward, as I have indeed created for the Remembrance of God gardens which remain inscrutable to anyone save Myself, and naught therein hath been made lawful unto anyone except those whose lives have been sacrificed in His Path. Hence beseech ye God, the Most Exalted, that He may grant you this meritorious reward, and He is in truth the Most High, the Most Great.”

– the Báb

The Most Great Festival, Ridvan

Arise, and proclaim unto the entire creation the tidings that He Who is the All-Merciful hath directed His steps towards the Ridvan and entered it. Guide, then, the people unto the garden of delight which God hath made the Throne of His Paradise. We have chosen thee to be our most mighty Trumpet, whose blast is to signalize the resurrection of all mankind.

– Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 31

The Festival of Ridvan lasts for 12 days, and is a wonderful time in the Baha’i community.  There are 3 holy days (1st, 9th, and 12th days), there are the elections of the Local and National Spiritual Assemblies, and every 5 years the election of the Universal House of Justice occurs at Ridvan.  It is hard to believe that 2 years ago at this time I was in Haifa, preparing for the 10th International Convention.  This year, I am preparing for the National Convention in Wilmette for the election of the National Spiritual Assembly, which will happen next week.  I wander the gardens of the House of Worship (where the tulips are blooming!), instead of the gardens of the Shrines in Israel.

Have a joyous Ridvan!

A Haifa morning

This morning was a Haifa morning.

I stepped outside and the air smelled like (home), like stone paths, the bay, flowers, and a breeze off the mountains and desert that lifts you up…

Warm and cool, the kind of cool that only requires a light sweater. Full of excitement.  The gardeners watering plants as I walked up the mountain, past the wall of flowers, the silent woosh of doors as I stepped into the cool stone corridors.

The kind of morning where I would bounce into work, 8:30 am, ready to do what I was meant to do.

It is a little different here, this new home, my new place. My car transports me to work past elegant Victorian homes, antique shops, schools, and the train.  The streets are wider, and I can’t see the water from here (but I know it is close).  After the last few years of being able to sense the water nearby, it seems odd to ever consider living away from water again.  Whether the Mediterranean or Lake Michigan, it seems right to base my orientation on the water.

I wanted to hold onto the feeling of a Haifa morning today, just walk with my eyes closed, pretend that I was still there.  Pretend that the stones were digging through the thin soles of my shoes, that my flatmates and I were rushing out of our apartment to get to work (service), that I would walk up a flight of stairs to the lunchroom at 12 pm and the same old crew would be sitting at a big table.  That I would take a walk around the Arc with a friend, would stop by the Food Center for an afternoon snack, and walk/slide down the steep slopes at the end of a long day to pray in the Shrine of the Bab before going home.  Every late night conversation with my friends, staring out over the lights of a city on the mountain.

This is Chicago, though, I am half a world away and this is life, now.  Some things are the same, and I still drink too much caffeine during the day, and I am working in a job that I love.  This is my life, now.  I don’t write or speak using British English anymore, I’ve reverted back to American.  There are no hills or mountains here.

I am holding close the feeling of a Haifa morning, and feel grateful that I remember what it feels like.

One year

It has been 8,760 hours since I came home.

Since I left home.

It is two places now, where I am and where I was.  It is pieces of memories that float to the surface with no warning and leave me gasping for breath.

It is silence in the Mother Temple when I close my eyes and pretend that I am in the Shrines, or standing on the sea wall, or walking down broken stone paths.  I am still near the water, but instead of a warm sea I swim in the cold lake, instead of gardens I am stand in concrete city landscapes.

One year.


So much and so little has changed.  There is a little more knowledge behind my eyes, a little more heaviness in my sighs, more smiles and more quiet.  There is less need to be here and there and everywhere at once.

Work happens every day from 8 am-5 pm, Monday through Friday, just like I prayed for.  Last night I signed a short lease for a place to rest my head at night, and a closet for my clothes.  Resigned and happy.

I miss you and you and you and you and you and most especially you.

In between places and time are the photographs, the Saturday morning brunches, the days upon days at Bahji, the Friday afternoon soccer matches, Thursday nights that were never-ending, Monday’s game night and dinner, Tuesday farewells to the pilgrims, and praying my way down the mountain.

Home is a jumbled mess of prairie grass, the call to prayer, the flat roads, the mountain stairs, a million flowers, snow, sand, sky and no starlight.  Haifa and Chicago.

My eyes have seen and

my heart has known and

my faith is this: I will never be alone.

Ascension of Baha’u’llah

One year ago.

We walked in the darkness, the glow of lights far away.  The mosquitoes attacked if we sat too long, and so we walked.  The night was damp, the seats surrounding Bahji covered in dew, the rocks less dusty than usual.

We walked up the stairs and down again, we bowed our heads at the threshhold and let tears fall down our faces.

I stood in the room where the Blessed Beauty was freed from this mortal life, and felt the universe revolve around that spot.

We stood at the top of marble columns and looked out over the world, and we stared into the warm summer night, in surprise and awe at this wonderful luck. How were we here at this moment, in this place?

We told stories, whispers that carried through to hearts, and we looked up at a full sky of stars, down at our feet that carried us down the silent paths, and at the light that reflected off our eyes and souls.

Let not your hearts be perturbed, O people, when the glory of My Presence is withdrawn, and the ocean of My utterance is stilled. In My presence amongst you there is a wisdom, and in My absence there is yet another, inscrutable to all but God, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing. Verily, We behold you from Our realm of glory, and shall aid whosoever will arise for the triumph of Our Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high and a company of Our favored angels.

(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 139)

This past week

I worked.  Did chores.

Planted things in the garden.  Crossing my fingers that they won’t die or get eaten by rabbits.

Made chocolate covered strawberries and apricots.

Another article that I wrote went up on Soulpancake.

Enjoyed the tulips in the gardens at the Baha’i House of Worship.

Saw Star Trek and LOVED IT.  The nerd in me was so, so happy.

Performed my poetry onstage in Chicago for the first time in years.

Had strange/wonderful dreams: riots, friends, Haifa, happy, sad, beautiful.

Went to a meeting with the youth and some special visitors from Haifa.

Said goodbye to some friends moving across the world (as usual).

Filled out applications.  Tried to make plans.

the unknown

for in your eyes a thousand stars stared down at me
the world spun around the clouds in a perfect sky
with a perfect sea and you all around me

time slipped through, down and never existed
time waited, stopped, and counted
the breaths we took, the tears and smiles
the silent prayers, the laughter over coffee

the ocean, the paths, the stones
watched our meandering ways
with angels over our shoulders

every lost moment before
every lost moment since
tallied up in letters and thought
in the dreams of could have been

This time last year

Today is the First Day of Ridvan, and we celebrated by having some friends over for lunch.  Now I am having a quiet afternoon, enjoying the silence, reflecting, and trying to recover from a cold.

The Most Great Festival is, indeed, the King of Festivals. Call ye to mind, O people, the bounty which God hath conferred upon you. Ye were sunk in slumber, and lo! He aroused you by the reviving breezes of His Revelation, and made known unto you His manifest and undeviating Path.

(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 59)

This time last year…I was at Bahji for the celebration of the Holy Day.  We were 5 days away from the Tenth International Baha’i Convention, and I was surprisingly put together and relaxed.  It was spring, but felt a bit more like summer.  Everything is a blur…you know that you need to remember the details, but you don’t have time to write everything down.  The anticipation of waiting for the delegates to arrive, making sure last minute tasks were taken care of, phone calls and emails…

But on the Holy Day, everything stops for a moment.  There is silence, then the sound of chanting filling the gardens at Bahji, and the sunlight strong on my face and hair, the crunching of stones underfoot as over 500 people circumambulate the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, the joy of talking with friends and laughing as the sun begins to set.

…and then back to work.

Naw Ruz

Today is the Baha’i new year, Naw Ruz.  It has been one hundred years since the remains of The Bab were laid to rest in the Shrine on Mount Carmel.  For one and a half years, I could see the Shrine from my apartment.  Such a blessing!

“…’Abdu’l-Bahá had the marble sarcophagus transported with great labor to the vault prepared for it, and in the evening, by the light of a single lamp, He laid within it, with His own hands — in the presence of believers from the East and from the West and in circumstances at once solemn and moving — the wooden casket containing the sacred remains of the Bab…”

‘The most joyful tidings is this,’ He wrote later in a Tablet announcing to His followers the news of this glorious victory, ‘that the holy, the luminous body of the Bab … after having for sixty years been transferred from place to place, by reason of the ascendancy of the enemy, and from fear of the malevolent, and having known neither rest nor tranquillity has, through the mercy of the Abha Beauty, been ceremoniously deposited, on the day of Naw-Ruz, within the sacred casket, in the exalted Shrine on Mt. Carmel… By a strange coincidence, on that same day of Naw-Ruz, a cablegram was received from Chicago, announcing that the believers in each of the American centers had elected a delegate and sent to that city … and definitely decided on the site and construction of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar.'”

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 276)

I remember how often he [Shoghi Effendi] would tell the visiting pilgrims that because a simple candle was denied the beloved Bab during His imprisonment in Mah-Ku, His resting-place was to be eternally a temple of light. This was also true inside His tomb, where there is a magnificent chandelier, with almost a hundred electric bulbs that, when lighted, turn the sombre dim light of the inner chamber into the full glory of brilliant sunshine.

(Ugo Giachery, Shoghi Effendi – Recollections)

The first day of Ayyam-i-Ha…

(my last visit to Bahji at the end of my service)

From amongst all mankind hath He chosen you, and your eyes have been opened to the light of guidance and your ears attuned to the music of the Company above; and blessed by abounding grace, your hearts and souls have been born into new life. Thank ye and praise ye God that the hand of infinite bestowals hath set upon your heads this gem-studded crown, this crown whose lustrous jewels will forever flash and sparkle down all the reaches of time.

…Raise ye a clamour like unto a roaring sea; like a prodigal cloud, rain down the grace of heaven. Lift up your voices and sing out the songs of the Abha Realm. Quench ye the fires of war, lift high the banners of peace, work for the oneness of humankind and remember that religion is the channel of love unto all peoples. Be ye aware that the children of men are sheep of God and He their loving Shepherd, that He careth tenderly for all His sheep and maketh them to feed in His own green pastures of grace and giveth them to drink from the wellspring of life. Such is the way of the Lord. Such are His bestowals. Such, from among His teachings, is His precept of the oneness of mankind.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 34)

An afternoon in Haifa

One day in February, a few friends decided to take a walk after lunch.   Two young men and three young women took the stairs down the mountain, with no particular goal in mind.  February in Haifa is warm during the day and cooler at night, and this day was an average one.  They wandered down the twisting, cat-infested streets with the aimlessness of an empty afternoon ahead.

Upon finding trees in a park, one of them climbed an olive tree.  The others gathered around.  They all watched some dogs run by, it was such a normal thing on this wonderful little afternoon.  An old man sat on a park bench, as old men have always done and will hopefully always do.

Next to the park was a playground.  Grandmothers encouraged children to play, and watchful mothers gossiped together.  As the young people tested the playground equipment and took pictures, the adults watched, a bit mistrustfully.  Why would such young people with no apparent purpose be up to good?

Some of the streets were ones that they had never traveled, even after months and years in this city.  Some were familiar and had too many memories attached.  And as the sun went down they began to realize how hungry they were.  The consensus was that they should buy meat from the best butcher shop in the city, take it to the apartment with the large balcony, and feast into the evening.  They stopped at the bazaar to buy tomatoes, potatoes, and onions.

Walking up the mountain was harder than walking down…especially since their stomachs were starting to complain.  They arrived at their destination, immediately dividing tasks.  The young men started the grill and began to barbeque while the young women made fries in the wok and chatted in the kitchen.  They gathered around the table, placed the food in the middle, and like a proper, odd sort of family, ate one of the best meals they had ever had.

At the end, there was the important matter of dessert.  Spiced hot chocolate was made and the lights dimmed as they welcomed the evening into their lives.

The paths that words take.

She held her breath far longer than she meant to. There was order and a certain sense of peace, but the ground was shaky under her feet. Reaching out did no good…the branches tore at her dress and snagged her hair. In this case, a blue sky was no comfort, sunlight was harsh and glaring. The only thing to make it right was the cool evening wind, the kind to be lost in.

She learned to translate movement and expression into thought, broke through the noise of words…but lost the frantic tumble of syllables and sound that slide down ravines and tumble into your waiting hands.

Some words stay thick and others fall in rapid movements. There are ways to keep up. Words can hold our hands, walk right into our souls and set up shop.

Glances catch details, the little spoken or understood moments. Hems of long dresses touch a polished marble floor, stirring dust motes in the afternoon sun. A hand grips a telephone pole and twists around to gain balance, tightening. A plate shatters but only one piece does a graceful double-back flip. Only one snail ever crossed that path in that place, he is a snail celebrity in the snail world.

Her words are as powerful as the silence could be, if it was patient and waited for Sunday afternoons with tea and books by the fire. She has waited so long for those afternoons.

Hands grasp, give up, let go. They hold on again…

learning

I have discovered that my heart holds too much love, my mind holds too many memories, and my feet have not traveled enough roads. Too many of my secrets are no longer mine. There have been years of letting life happen, and moments of joy in between.

There are a few things I know to be true: my bare feet on marble and carpet, the scent of roses and jasmine, old stones and white-washed walls, the smiles of long-lost new friends, the pen in my hand, a child in my arms, serving tea in glass cups, sunlight, hands through hair, soft words of prayer, a purple sky with white clouds, honesty with you, and my sometimes healed, sometimes broken heart. I have invisible bruises and visible scars, and yet my words have become patience, detachment, and balance.

I always thought that the most peaceful moment would be to dance barefoot on deep green grass in a long summer dress. I could look up to the sky in any moment of doubt, and the universe would anchor me. There are too many stars out there, and too much beauty here, for God not to exist.

the dreams that hold onto me

I dreamed we were all standing on the shore
staring across the bay
and our feet felt the rocks beneath our shoes.
There were clouds above and below
in between our silent stares.
We all gathered in an empty stone house
elbows touching, feet shuffling
and our spirits were lifted by a Hand.

I dreamed that your eyes stabbed into mine
made me realize that in some ways
it is better that I am gone.

I dreamed that my suitcases
were being packed one last time
(for the fourth time)
and I know I haven’t left yet.

I dreamed that you were so happy
dressed in white.
and so confused.

I dreamed that we were in a forest,
and you came to me smiling
there were never words said
and I am left wondering.

My last post from Haifa

I am here, at 1:30 am, with so much in my heart and so few words. After 18 months in the Holy Land, I leave to go back to the United States in a few hours. Desperately finishing packing (a word of advice: definitely don’t leave this kind of thing to the last minute).

Serving in Haifa was a blessing, and I am overwhelmed by the love and friendship that I have experienced. You all know who you are. You have affected me in so many ways, and I treasure every moment we have had together, and look forward to seeing you again. I have no doubt that we will.

I will be home on Wednesday, after a brief stop in Turkey, which I will write more about after my travels. For now, I want to share an excerpt from something by Hand of the Cause William Sears, which I found while writing my farewell email to the staff at the Baha’i World Centre. It touched my heart in exactly the right way, and explained so well how I am feeling.

I can no longer wait,
The time grows short, the world moves on,
The sun goes down and the hour is late.

Far off I hear His onward marching legions
Drawing nearer
With me, unmoved,
Still standing here.
The trumpet sounds, the sweet beat
Of the distant drums
Rings clear.

I see them now.
With banners flying
And in my heart I fear
They’ll pass me by.
My torch unlit
This winter, spring
This fall, this year.

O God Forbid!

This crisis finds me
Still waiting here.

Some chances, we are told
Come once in life.
Some, every hundred years
And, some like this, of ours
Comes only once
Then never reappears.

tears

and so now the rain that refused to fall from the sky
is falling down in memories of the never will be
and I am slowly waking toward healing.

in silence I stumble
in these reflections, humbled
in moments I finally see

I am the eternal traveler
staying close to home
I will make tea for you
bare feet will touch wooden floors
whenever the rain comes down
from the vicious gray skies

we are sheltered.

Streams of light

“In this wondrous age, however, praised be God, the commandments of God are not delimited, not restricted to any one group of people, rather have all the friends been commanded to show forth fellowship and love, consideration and generosity and loving-kindness to every community on earth. Now must the lovers of God arise to carry out these instructions of His: let them be kindly fathers to the children of the human race, and compassionate brothers to the youth, and self-denying offspring to those bent with years. The meaning of this is that ye must show forth tenderness and love to every human being, even to your enemies, and welcome them all with unalloyed friendship, good cheer, and loving-kindness. When ye meet with cruelty and persecution at another’s hands, keep faith with him; when malevolence is directed your way, respond with a friendly heart. To the spears and arrows rained upon you, expose your breasts for a target mirror-bright; and in return for curses, taunts and wounding words, show forth abounding love. Thus will all peoples witness the power of the Most Great Name, and every nation acknowledge the might of the Ancient Beauty, and see how He hath toppled down the walls of discord, and how surely He hath guided all the peoples of the earth to oneness; how He hath lit man’s world, and made this earth of dust to send forth streams of light.”

 (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 20)

To carry out these instructions in practice is our struggle, our daily test.  And it is so easy to fall into the traps of our lower nature, which urge us to fight, to treat others with disrespect, cruelty, and even hatred.  It is an active process, something we must pay attention to and guard our behavior.

I have been so blessed in my life to be surrounded by individuals who manifest the positive qualities listed above.  It saddens me to leave the ones that I have served with at the Baha’i World Centre, but I am so, so happy that I have had the opportunity to meet them, if only for a fleeting moment in eternity.

2 weeks

A brunch, as I usually do, with several dozen pancakes, bacon, eggs, potatoes, and the like.

A quick run up the mountain to take a picture.

An afternoon of discussion, ordering dinner to be eaten with chopsticks.

An evening with candles and the laughter between friends.

The sun ever-present and healing, and my memories are formed of these never-ending days. This is what I will remember.

The perfect recipe

Much like the accidental discoveries of Post-It notes or Superglue, I found that I have the recipe for a perfect evening. Forgive me if the measurements are not exact.

4 lovely women

1 baby

gluten-free pasta salad/Persian rice/vegetable soup

homemade hot chocolate

laughter

I do not, however, recommend putting any of the above ingredients in the oven. 🙂 hmm…I wonder what is the taste of laughter baked on 375 F…I have a feeling it is slightly chewy.

month 18

The eyes of strangers touch, leap across crowded spaces, and safe smiles reach the lips, are traded, and fade.  The touching of eyes crosses space, marble floors, dirt paths, and place settings with coffee stains and the remnants of sugar packets.

Eyelashes are beautiful things, wet with the tears that never fall from my eyes, or shining to frame your (their) face(s) as we (they) talk earnestly, in a thousand places and combinations.

I will hear my alarm in four hours.  In the darkness we fumble for our keys, and I will circle the stone paths in whispers for the first and last time.   Dawn prayers.

It all becomes more real, and in one month my world shifts again.

I was holding a brown child in my arms last night (in my dreams).  He had soft, curly hair and he was not necessarily my child, but I was caring for him.  I carried him through ballrooms, as technical crews set up the rooms and we wandered the back hallways.

We looked at each other, looked in each other’s eyes, and laughed, inches away from each others faces.  He grew up, in an instant, and asked why I carried him…he was old enough now.  So we walked past the zoo, and he talked to the animals, and we walked down the shore of Lake Michigan.

To write it all down would take years…

This is where I have been for the last week or so: http://news.bahai.org/2008convention

Baha’i World News Service is doing a great job of covering the International Baha’i Convention, and I highly recommend checking out their stories and pictures…it will give you a glimpse into this amazing process.

As it turns out, evenings at the Convention Center tend to be pretty quiet, so I sat down for a moment to take off my heels and write a post.

I’ve seen friends from around the world, I have interacted with and assisted delegates from more places than I can count, I’ve had a smile on my face for nearly a week now and I can’t help but keep smiling! They are all so beautiful, and the atmosphere here is indescribable.

One of my favorite moments was when over 1500 people from around the world circled around the Shrine of Baha’u’llah on the 9th Day of Ridvan. (pictures here) It gave me a better understanding of how global our Faith truly is…the sky was blue and perfect:

Bahji

the flowers were in bloom:

flowers in bloom at Bahji

and everything was right with the world, in those moments.

Happy Ridvan.

A little bit of silence

For the next week, I’ll be a little busy.  Please forgive me if I don’t answer emails/messages/notes/phone calls/carrier pigeons/smoke signals.   🙂

“The light that is shed from the heaven of bounty, and the benediction that shineth from the dawning-place of the will of God, the Lord of the Kingdom of Names, rest upon Him Who is the Supreme Mediator, the Most Exalted Pen, Him Whom God hath made the Dawning-Place of His most excellent names and the Dayspring of His most exalted attributes. Through Him the light of unity hath shone forth above the horizon of the world, and the law of oneness hath been revealed amidst the nations, who, with radiant faces, have turned towards the Supreme Horizon, and acknowledged that which the Tongue of Utterance hath spoken in the kingdom of His knowledge: “Earth and heaven, glory and dominion, are God’s, the Omnipotent, the Almighty, the Lord of grace abounding!””

  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 1)

“He has ordained and established the House of Justice which is endowed with a political as well as a religious function, the consummate union and blending of church and state. This institution is under the protecting power of Bahá’u’lláh Himself.”

    (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 247)

Forever days

The stinging, spicy aftermath of the largest salad she had ever eaten lingered on her lips and tongue. Blank pages stare at her hungrily.

look around.

One in the corner, with a calendar on her lap, the eraser end of her pencil lodged between her teeth and short dark hair swept to the side, dark eyes intent as she shuffles things around.

Slouched sideways, only the top of his hair peeks out over the book he reads, through the noise of the coffee grinder and ambient café music. Occasionally his beard appears from hiding, his hand reaches out and he drinks his frozen mocha, still immersed.

Next in line, her face is lit by the glow of her laptop. “Pictures!” she exclaims, and stares into the depths of the screen, smiling in response to something…or nothing. Her green eyes glow from within.

Across the table, he writes almost as fast as she does, their pens nearly colliding. Dim lights make blond hair only glow, not shine, and when he looks up, he meets the eyes of the girl with the calendar.

They are an awkward and comfortable rectangle with five corners.

Empty water glasses litter the table. They discuss the internet, language, anger, music, communication, and death. The natural rhythm of conversation dips down, climbs up, and plateaus, and all heads bend back down over their projects.

Darker it grows inside and out, the volume of noise rises in the café as the evening shift starts. They are silent. These are the forever days, in which no pictures are taken, but the familiar faces with familiar expressions have knowledge beyond words.

This is life.

Golden

My mother makes a fresh pot of Persian tea every morning.  Glass cups only, steam rising and at least 3 sugar cubes for me.

The house is always surrounded by the sun, and around our kitchen table there are shafts of light that warm our feet.  Well, not in winter, but Chicago is not known for its mildness…both in weather and personality.

—-

Every morning I walk up a mountain, every night I walk down.  I know the dips and turns of the path, the gardeners are working and the rocks slip away under the heels of my shoes.  There are spiderweb cracks in the stairwell of my apartment building, and six different kinds of flowers blooming in my doorway.  (I counted one day.)

—-

I love black and white family photos from the 1940s: flaws are hidden, and lips, eyes, and hair are defined and perfect.  I wish that I could discover their stories just by flipping through the photo album.  The stories need to be gathered, collected, treasured.  We have lost so many stories…

—-

I want to read, have conversations, and see things that make my mind go in strange tangents and causes spontaneous laughter.  There are a million ways to reach that point, but sometimes it takes concious effort.

—-

I have had two desserts today.  They were healthy because I put fruit in them.  🙂

—-

The advent of the prophets and the revelation of the Holy Books is intended to create love between souls and friendship between the inhabitants of the earth. Real love is impossible unless one turn his face towards God and be attracted to His Beauty.

 (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 363)

Jumping around (literal, figurative)

2 months.  62 days.  1,488 hours.  89,280 minutes.  <– My time remaining in the Holy Land.  That is all there is to say about that, for the moment anyway.  I’m busy working, over 60 hours a week now as things ramp up around here.  I love it. 

For starters, it has been a bit of a crazy week.  I heard about 11 engagements in the course of 1 week…11 couples getting married.  It has been pointed out to me that this is probably because I know a lot of people.  This is true.  However, it is also because it is spring, people are planning summer weddings, and I am 24 years old…all logically leading to a certain percentage of my friends getting married.  I am very excited, although I’m only going to a couple of these weddings.

On to the next thing.  There are a few blogs/sites that I want to bring to your attention.  All of these are on my links page, of course. 

Elemental Change – a collaborative blog by some Baha’i friends of mine on a wide variety of topics: entrepreneurship & finance, design & music, technology & social enterprise, politicking & think tanking.   I am really enjoying it so far, and can’t wait to see more.

2inspire.us – “What the news ought to be.”  I really love the idea behind this.  Why is the majority of our news so negative?  Well, we know why…people are attracted to tragedy.  But our spirits need upliftment too.  Check it out.

Baha’i Perspectives – many of you have heard about this site.  Articles on subjects that affect all of us, written by Baha’i friends around the world.

Artificial Sound & Light – my friend Vahid changed it up a little bit with his new blog.  Totally different from many of the blogs I read.

The Candy Coating – Dangerboy and Orion, two guys with a blog.  Thoughtful, often funny essays on various topics.  They are both Baha’is, but it is really a place for people to share their thoughts and talk to each other. 

Finally, I had a wonderful evening last night.  Taco dinner, Persepolis, and an impromptu Sufjan Stevens dance party in my friend’s living room (yes, it is possible to dance to this kind of music).   I love that my friends and I can still dance around like when we were little kids…with no judgement or shame.  🙂

Tonight, at Bahji…

I walked around the gardens, and picked up a fallen flower to hold close to my heart.

I ran down a path in darkness and silently shouted to the palm trees and sky, a promise and a blessing.

 

 

Tonight, at Bahji, I continued the process of letting go. Of people, of places, of expectations, of the labels and insecurities and confusing thoughts. And I reconstructed, strengthening ties and bonds and the pieces of spirit between all of us that hold us together. Letting go and holding on are not all that different, after all.

Be a true friend. Be loving and mindful of the tests that we are all going through. Be compassionate, firm, and joyful. Seek out justice. Continue to learn patience. Continue to learn everything.

This is a reminder to me, but also to you.

The Sea of Galilee

I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.

For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.

But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.

And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.  And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.

 (King James Bible, John)

This weekend I took an impromptu trip to the Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret.  It is fascinating to visit these places as a Baha’i…not only is there the wealth of Christian history in this area, but also Baha’i history.  I’ve posted some pictures of my visit to the area here.  I haven’t traveled a lot within Israel, especially since many of the historic places are not generally advisable to visit.  It is such a gift to be able to see these places with my own eyes.

Growing up in a Christian country as a member of the Baha’i Faith, I absorbed a lot of things, but seeing these physical locations made me really want to read the Bible all the way through.  I started in college, and even attended a Bible study (but was quickly written off as “unlikely to convert” haha), but now I want to gain a better understanding.  Especially considering the fact that Baha’is believe in the Divinity of Jesus and consider Him to be a Manifestation of God, just as Abraham, Zoroaster, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha’u’llah.

It also brought home the point that the above passage from the Bible illustrates: that whenever a new Manifestation of God appears on the earth, we reject Him, we turn away and we subject Them to the worst kinds of degredation.  And yet God continues to send His Messengers to us.  The ultimate form of love.

In any case, it was wonderful to be able to spend the day with my relatives and get out of the city.  We were able to visit the resting place of Mirza Muhammad-Quli, a brother of Baha’u’llah.  “This great man was known even from his childhood for nobility of soul….he was detached from every selfish thought, averse to every mention except to whatever concerned the Holy Cause.” -Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 69

This weekend was also interesting because several religious holy days all happened within a few days of each other…and of course, living in Israel, I saw this happening in front of my eyes.   Naw-Ruz, of course, is the Baha’i New Year, and there was a celebration here that I attended…it was beautiful.  Purim, a Jewish holiday; Good Friday & Easter…suffice to say Haifa was a noisy city for the last few days.

It was so warm on Friday that I spent the morning out on my balcony in the sun. 

To help me…

I remember I listened to this song when he died,
about a car flipping on the turn,
and about God and death and birth.

and I remember I listened to live music through a CD,
cleaning my house to the cheering crowds
of music everyone loves.

and I remember the song with slow sadness
in the heat of summer
with sun-baked skin and sun-bright smiles.

I remember the powerful taste of the violins
as voices cut through phone lines
and history was remade.

and I remember how the music drifted in
at the beginning of spring
as we looked and never spoke.

and I remember the color of eyes
as the softness of “the past and pending”
floated through the hall.

Last night I dreamed

the wind nearly knocked us off of our feet
as the world ended…
my dress swirled in disturbed waves
and arms wrapped around me.

3 months left

I stood on a tower with darkness and lights below
and in our eyes I saw the doorways to the world

To dwell on memories is the fastest way to go
but our hearts will linger here, and in time I’ll let you know

The light will shine down on us in soundless moments
forever to remember the timeless silence.

The rain that refused to fall from the sky
came from my eyes instead
to wash away the dust that our tired feet raised.