Turning point

There are things to do. Decisions to be made. I’ve been home for nearly 2 months, and it has been a much needed break from the last few years of work (and before that, school). So…I’m working on that. Being an adult is so strange. 🙂


(at the House of Worship)

I had the opportunity to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on Friday night, but have not really watched much else since then. As a child, I remember sitting in front of the television for hours, fascinated by both the summer and winter Olympics.

There are the little everyday things, but I will share those in other ways, in pictures and poetry.

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Starting

There are so many stories.

Too many words.

There are literally dozens of emails that I have not replied to.   I want to, but am unable to write at the moment.

I am having so much fun.  Grandparents, family, realizing that my little sister is WAY smarter than me, catching up with my Chicago friend-loves, laughing so much my sides hurt, and sleeping…a lot.

I was in the Barnes & Noble in downtown Evanston on Saturday afternoon, having intended to wander around the art festival but being lazy and deciding to read inside instead.  The weather got really bad.  Tents and debris were flying by, people were banging on the emergency door to be let in…it was pretty intense.  I saw several people with pretty bad cuts.  Very surreal.

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home

Just a quick post to let everyone know I am home in Chicago.  Turkey was beautiful, and I will write more about it later.  I just walked in the door and I want to spend time with my family. 

Much love, and I miss all of you already.

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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.

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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.

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More Than

more than
my molten eyes and sudden smile
there are years behind what you see
I am
more than your assumption of me
I am
images across a screen
I am
scraped knees and willow trees
I am
dirt paths and lace dresses

whispered secrets with my mother & father & sisters
shouted secrets with my friends

I am more than
the visual

I am
the sum of thousands of years of history
and the stories of my family

I am oceans and sand and soft green grass and finding arrowheads in piles of stone
journeys under endless skies and the sky was left behind under the pink city glow
I am…

And we shout so desperately that we are! We are human and we live/think/exist! Let me prove to you that I exist with one simple formula! The universe must know…we must know…I must know…

I am waiting here for you to find.
I am
more than
what you thought you knew.

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a minor thing

Yesterday I felt sort of miserable.  And then last night it morphed into a full-blown virus of some kind.   These are a few anecdotes for you to enjoy:

1. I watched Season 6 of Scrubs.  And half of Season 7.

2. I have not left my bed all day…

3. Except for making a pot of soup and mashed potatoes.  I then took the pot of mashed taters into bed with me because I didn’t want to have to wash another bowl.

4. A friend called today and didn’t recognize me because she said, “You sounded like an old lady!”

5. Not much food left in our fridge, so today I ate: a gluten-free tuna sandwich, a pot of chicken soup, a bowl of ice cream (shh, I know you shouldn’t eat ice cream when you’re sick, but my throat hurt so much!), 4 cups of lemon/ginger/honey tea, two cups of coffee, half a bottle of orange juice, water, and mashed potatoes.   I had a craving for chips but we didn’t have any.  It seems like whenever I’m sick, my body demands the weirdest things.

6.  I have used up one tissue box. I am working on my second box.

7.  I may have talked in my sleep this afternoon, but since I was by myself, I really don’t know for sure.  I did wake myself up a few times, though.

8.  I didn’t even have to go to the pharmacy because I had everything in my medicine drawer.  🙂

I haven’t had a cold in a really long time…actually, I was shocked that I didn’t get one earlier.  I think that Someone was looking out for me, because during the very busy planning and working of the last few months, I did not even get the sniffles (except for allergies to dust storms), and that is rare for me.  So I’m taking this illness with a measure of grace and acceptance that I’m just paying my dues.  But it would be really great to heal quickly…I have so much to do!

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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)

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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.

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Just my luck

I am not a superstitious person, but recently things have been a little crazy around here…and now I am looking over my shoulder…

On Saturday my flatmates and I were washing our balcony (spring cleaning!).  We have a faucet on the balcony that does not have a handle, and so we use a little piece of metal to pry it open.  Yes, this is so smart.  Needless to say, my soapy hands slipped and I sliced open my left index finger on the faucet. 

Great timing, since I was going to the beach later and ended up getting salt water in the wound.  yeah, ouch.  It is taking longer to heal since I am left-handed and it keeps getting bumped against things.

Ok, so it is acknowledged that I can be a little klutzy sometimes, and I have at least a dozen scars to prove this.  This is a natural part of my life, and I actually carry band-aids in my purse.   🙂

But the next part of the story was just too much.  I was walking down the street with my cousin Monib a few nights ago when I felt something hit my hand.

Something warm.

I looked at my hand in the dim light.  Covering the top of my left hand was bird poo.

I looked up, and sitting on a telephone wire above was a unconcerned looking crow.

Luckily there was a pizzeria across the street, and so Monib and I walked over to clean up.  The guy behind the counter pointed out the restroom and I washed off my hand (and jacket).  By this point I was laughing out loud, because really, how often does this happen?!  I didn’t freak out, although I admit that I was a little disgusted.

Monib said it is supposed to be good luck to get pooped on by a bird, but I’m of the opinion that someone created that particular saying to console whoever got bird poo on them.  Don’t “they” (oh, the ever popular “they”!) say that things happen in threes?  Well…now I’m waiting.  I’m sure I’ll find something to be the third occurence, and then I can go back to breathing easily.  😉

(now that I think about it, I don’t have the greatest luck with birds…)

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A day between

…dawn prayers, with the sun warming me as I looked out over the city, this drowsy and noisy place that is home.  4 hours sleep, but my soul was so alive that it was worth it.

I’ve learned a lot about silence in the last week or two…learning to appreciate it.

Wednesday was my first vacation day since October, and consisted of prayer, movies, talking to friends on the phone, spending time with Mojan and her beautiful baby, sleeping, and finally a talk about departing the World Center.  Afterward I went with a friend for McFlurries (it has become a craving recently).

Made the mistake of drinking Persian tea with dinner tonight…was so exhausted.  And then…watched “Houseboat” with a few girlfriends, which was perfect for tonight.

Goodnight.

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A day with the ladies

A Saturday unplanned became a Saturday of relaxation and time with friends.

I went next door for brunch, and six lovely ladies and I cooked and ate a large meal…eggs, bacon, pancakes, potatoes, coffee, tea…yum. Then I hopped on a sherut and went to Bahji for the rest of the day.

This is what it looked like:

It is khamsin (dust storm) season, so the sky was not clear, but it was still warm and beautiful…I wandered the gardens for a while by myself.

A large group of us ate dinner back in Haifa at 14 Sheks (I doubt anyone actually knows the real name of that place), then Roya and I went to my place to watch Chocolat and drink…hot chocolate. 🙂 Perfect ending to the day.

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Dusty old books

There were boxes of old books in the parking garage today, marked “FREE!”, with that musty smell and slick dust feeling. We dug through them, hugging the discoveries to our chests. The tip of my nose starting twitching, the usual reaction to things that have been sitting forgotten on a shelf for too long.

One of my most treasured memories is standing in Uncle C.E.’s office about 2 months before he passed away in 2005. He had a fantastic library of books, especially first editions of Baha’i books that I’d never seen before. He showed me pictures of his family from 50 years ago, told me about his childhood, and watched me as I carefully pulled one book off a shelf, then another.

I just remember looking around at him, sitting in his leather chair, smiling at me. His health at that point was not good, but we did not know that he would die of cancer so soon after. No one did. As Carmen and I drove away from the house, we started crying…something told me I would not see him in this world again.

We were family, even though there was no blood relation. He took a few pictures of Carmen and I in the garden: “Stand there…smile!” I got those pictures later from Aunt G., and cried when I saw them. He loved us so much…asking questions: “What are you doing next? Are you looking for jobs? Ten years from now?”; and telling us that he was proud of us. Telling us kids to take care of each other…sometimes I feel like I’ve failed at that one. The 5 of us are scattered across the globe.

Every time I stopped by his office while I was in school, he would ask me how my schooling was going, if I was studying enough (probably not!), and he would just look at me and I would want to try harder, do better.

I miss him. If this was a piece of paper, the ink would be running off the page right now.

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Path of dust

My heart is in a wistful mood,
my tiny little sorrows shake the dust from my soul.
My laughter has strong intention behind it.
Music with piano and soft whispered tones reaches inside me,
perhaps in 43,200 minutes words will be spoken again
and then too late.

Since my words stumble, fall, put on band-aids, and promptly fall again, songs must step in to assist.

Brett Dennen- Desert Sunrise
Cinematic Orchestra- To Build a Home
Joshua Radin- Winter

———————————————-
Everything, and nothing really new. Ran into some friends who were on pilgrimage, had some fun coincidences, finally settled into my flat (after 2 months!), watched the miniscule amount of fireworks, went to a much-needed devotional at Lucia’s, hang around with the usual crowd, discussed possible day trips around Israel, interesting discussion with a friend, lunches full of laughter…This last week has been full of preparation for a large meeting on Friday, every night after work…I’m excited, I know it will go well, and if things mess up it is ok. Really, my entire term of service here has been about patience and detachment. 🙂

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Recollection

I miss watching Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes with my dad.

My mother used to encourage us to set traps and build fortresses in the basement on cold Chicago days…or any other day.

1/3 of the times I climbed trees I would get stuck and ladder would have to be brought. I still climb trees at the age of 24. It’s just that there are few trees in Israel.

The backseat of the minivan was my territory on family road trips. I could lay there for hours daydreaming while the colors of whatever state we were driving through ran past the windows.

I used to fall asleep in the grass underneath the maple trees.

It is hard to remember how many toads and lizards we captured with our bare hands. We must have buried at least 3 or 4. My mother provided boxes from jewelry as coffins.

Daddy and Granddaddy put up a swingset in our backyard…the concept of concrete was fascinating.

Every time Mamanjoon would visit she would bring a container of baklava just for me, and sneak it to me and say “This is for you, no one else.”

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Risk

I feel like…there is a soundtrack to my walk these days, a sort of thump-boom-crash; walking with 3 inch heels and narrowed eyes. Dance in every movement.

At yet, at the same time, I fade into wallflower silence, my secret smile is sneaking up on my lips, there are the chaos-filled moments.

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One Year

As of December 8th (tomorrow), I will have been in Haifa, Israel for one year. I keep writing little pieces of some kind of summary, but my words have been failing for a while now.

I know I’ve changed, and am still exactly myself.

There is something to be said for solitude. I haven’t quite figured out the words yet…when I am alone I think in pictures and concepts and it reminds me of the pieces of the notes we wrote, the words we wrote and never kept. I wish I’d saved more than one or two, I don’t remember how I used to think anymore…and the tradgedy is that I forgot about my silence.

Enough of the self-analysis!

Life is wonderful, how could it not be? The Shrines…oh, how can words even be enough? I love the work that I am doing, my friends are solid and make me laugh.

Chicago was left behind in a whirlwhind of snow and goodbyes, Chicago comes to me through pilgrims, pictures, and stories. Haifa has always been home and will always be home, and the rain now makes me smile as I sleep in my balcony, the sharp taps on glass and streetlights flash.

Staring across the foggy sea from the balcony, the glowing clouds hover just inches above, the Terraces up to the left, the Shrine of the Bab just hovering through trees, an entire city sparkling and living…these will probably be my enduring memories. Who knows? There are so many things that change and stay the same.

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Lost my voice somewhere over the Atlantic

I am frustrated.

There used to be Baha’i songs, prayers, I was learning a new song every week in Chicago and there were people with rhythm around me. With no effort a voice would be raised in praise.

Today someone asked me to chant, and I could not think of a single prayer to chant, and fell back on one that I love but am so tired of singing.

I need new songs. There is no music in me, no instruments to pick up and raise to the sky to say “Look! I created something.” I create words that don’t rhyme (most of the time). But the one piece I own is my voice, and it is suffering, it is stifled.

I can’t create a harmony. I can lead people in song, I can sing solo decently, I am a high soprano with a wide range…but none of this matters because I can’t remember any songs or prayers any more.

The only way I memorize prayers is through song. And I can’t remember.

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Quiet

Sunset last night was the start of Yom Kippur, which means that for 24 hours everything is shut down. I do mean everything. No one drives, so my flatmate and I went for a long walk….in the middle of the street. It was rather surreal.

I haven’t heard Haifa this quiet…ever. I cleaned, baked, and read last night after soccer, it was extremely relaxing. Today I am having a day in the flat with a couple of girlfriends (food, movies, the usual), then going to see a play that a bunch of my friends are performing in/directing/helping with. Rather excited about that.

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The heat of August

The heat has not been crippling this summer, and I work inside an office during the day, so I do not get the brunt of it. Maybe 15 years of Chicago winters went so far into my bones that I need 15 years of sun to get tired of it. 🙂

Bahji (where the Shrine of Baha’u’llah is located, about 45 minutes drive from Haifa) is only open in the evenings right now because they are doing major construction and landscaping, so I have spent a few evenings there in the last few weeks. It is really quite amazing to be there in the quiet dark, with only small pools of light from the opaque globes scattered around the gardens.

Meet my new friend, from Bahji:

One thing blends into another, each night is like the other, and each moment there is more strength in my words. I made promises to myself in each place, these are now binding and I am not playing games anymore.

(there are games and then there are games, and I haven’t played either in a very long time)

I hope I am not getting sick, the tiredness is in my head and my throat and I am not sure why midnight is a magic time, suddenly I must sleep. I know there is much more for me to say, about beach days and bridal showers for friends, dinners and birthdays and moments with every single person I meet. The stuffy Jasmine-filled heat of sanctuary, home is here and home left the moment I opened my eyes today.

I made promises. I say this out loud to hold myself to them, the prayers will not drift away in the wind and everything is tied down with the most beautiful pieces of string.

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Cleaning machine

There are certain things that are meant to be done during daylight, or at least at a time when you aren’t asleep on your feet. Cleaning bathrooms, for example. First, I am not a person that likes to clean bathrooms (although there are people out there who enjoy this activity. Seriously! I met one!). Second, when I get tired, I forget things. Third, I always try to multi-task.

I was feeling very efficient after my dinner party tonight…washed all the dishes, bagged up the trash, put away the food, put away clothes in my room. I put toilet cleaner fluid in the toilet and let it sit, and did the same with the bathtub scrub.

This was at around 10 pm. Then I got distracted watching youtube clips at my next door neighbor’s flat, stopping by my aunt’s flat, etc. The usual fun times at the Blum. 😛

At midnight I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and realize that I haven’t scrubbed out the cleaning stuff. So it is happily eating away at the tub and toilet. I promptly scrub them both out, taking away several layers of minerals (yay for calcium deposits in the water supply!). Trust me, I would have completely forgotten to clean it out if the smell hadn’t overpowered me.

Now it is 12:30 am. I think I drank too much tea. I am wide awake.

I just realized that I wrote an entire blog post about cleaning my bathroom. And it had no point except to illustrate that I am occasionally absent-minded and a little bit obsessive. Wow. I’m so sorry to have wasted your time! 😀 But hey, the everyday things give you a little glimpse into my life, right?

Do any of y’all have a story about forgetting things, bathrooms (I know I’m asking for trouble with this one!), or even a random anecdote that you always wanted to share, but never had the opportunity? Now is your chance!

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7 Random Facts about Me

Mojan tagged me, and while I usually don’t do memes on my blog, I thought it would be nice to give some of you a little glimpse of some of my quirks.

1.  One of my biggest pet peeves is the confusion between “they’re” and “their”, “you’re” and “your”, etc. 

2.  I have had three different accents in my life: Persian, Southern United States, and generic Midwestern/Chicago (current).  I also start talking like people around me if they have a different accent.  Can’t help it.

3.  I really don’t mind getting up in front of a group of people to speak, but I like to be somewhat prepared.

4.  One of the joints on my right ring finger is bigger than the one on my left, simply from basketball injuries.   I am left handed…sometimes I missed when trying to get the ball.

5.  If people are fighting, my first instinct is to jump between them and break up the fight.  However, I also realize that my diminutive size prevents me from being very effective.

6.  Animals I like a lot: snails, toads, snakes, lizards, rodents, dogs, and sometimes rabbits.

7.  I have awful handwriting.  Really, it is just horrible.  I have tried for a long time to improve it to no avail.

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The Roses

There is a richness in the colors and textures of roses that are unlike anything else. I see a bed of roses and my tired eyes are soothed. I want to play tag amidst the rich petals and thorns hiding under leaves…my clothes would snag and I would float on discarded petals. If I was the size of a bird, I would spend days with the roses above my head and the sun-warmed dirt under my bare feet.

Spring is here, it is getting warm and people think I’m a little crazy when I get excited about the heat. Recent themes have been holy days, the Shrines, excitement about the play tonight (which some of my friends are in!), good food, flowers, meeting a lot of great people (having lots of trouble trying to keep track of everyone and be a good friend by staying in touch, both to people here and back home), busy days in the office (whew!), and laughter.

Oh, and did I mention that my family is awesome?

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Home sick

I’d like to say, for the record, that while I love being lazy and staying home once in a while, a couple of weeks worth of being trapped in your flat can do weird things to your brain. I’ve started talking to my new food processor (seriously, ask my flatmates). A week ago, while on some random medication, I hallucinated a bit. The doctor figured out what is wrong with me: pneumonia! Fun times!

I’ve watched more movies than I can count, and need to get ahold of some books, just for variety. I may start baking out of sheer boredom. One problem is that I am really too sick to do anything more strenous than hit buttons on the microwave and put DVDs in the player…so dishes pile up and my room looks like a tornado hit it. And don’t get me started on the laundry issue.

Ah well, so it goes. I stopped into the office to get groceries and check my email (I don’t have internet access at home).

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Flu?

I am a little disconnected from myself right now. This is because I am taking cold medicine. I hate medication but in this case it is necessary. I’ve been coughing so hard the last few days that my stomach muscles are protesting…I knew I should have started doing situps again! In any case, I have that odd floaty feeling in my head and I am not sure I like it.

My flatmates have been taking care of me, but mostly I have been lying on the couch wrapped in a blanket, sipping oregano tea (ugh), and praying that I live to see tomorrow. I am in the office briefly to take care of some urgent matters. I had 60 blog entries to catch up on, over 100 emails, and 2 weeks worth of laundry. oh my!

There really is not much new…3 days in the house doesn’t make for stories or adventures. I really do not even have the energy to respond to emails or make phone calls, so if you’re on the list of people I have sorely neglected, please forgive me.

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