Ezkina’s Moon 13 February 2009Posted by ANNA in ANNA, Education, Spirituality.
The yellow is fading from Ezkina’s world.
She sits at her table, coloring, singing a sad song to herself. A story of bees rests under her crayon; she spreads lemon over pink. “Ezkina,” I call to her from my desk. “Ta’ali, mama. Come here, please.” She looks up from her singing with the surprise of one who has felt invisible. Her head tilts to one side. “Me?”
I nod at my palest child. She lines up her crayons on the edge of the tape which marks her First Grade seat. From the box in the center of the table, she has taken three: lemon, chartreuse, maize. Why do you love yellow so? My heart wants to understand. Most of the girls in our class love blue, or purple or silvery pink. Our boys love green or red or red and green. They are too young to realize that these are the colors of Christmas. For a moment I wonder how they will feel when they realize that their favorites speak of a holiday which we do not celebrate. Who among my children will change, and who will stay the same?
Ezkina moves slowly up to my desk. She is forever given to lilting. She lilts as she puts her lunchbox away, she lilts in the row at prayer time. She is the last on any given day to be picked up from school. Hurry has never knocked on Ezkina’s door, and her gravity forbids it to start.
She folds her paper against the edge of my desk, and protects it with hands. “May I see?” I ask. She lets me slide the paper from her grasp, but unhappily; as I start to compliment her work, she puts her chin down. “Layal said that all the yellow in the world is going to be erased.” Her eyes are wet at the lashes’ edge.
This again. For God’s sake, Layal. Did you have to be so mean? “Now Ezkina,” I make my eyes as serious as they can possibly be. “You know and I know that this is not true. Insha’Allah, there will always be yellow.” I think of the sunlight in the morning, bright when I’m driving, making me sneeze. “What about the sun, ya Ezkina?” I ask. “The sun isn’t leaving.”
Wherever my student’s attention might be, it is not fully here with me. “Right,” she nods, and scratches her hand. Scales of dry skin cover her knuckles; dots of blood are left from picking. From my collection of tiny Eucerin bottles, I squeeze a nickel’s worth of cream. Ezkina lilts sadly back to her desk, rubbing it into her hands.
When 3:15 at last comes around, I am all too happy to leave. The days have lengthened just enough that I can pray maghrib at the masjid, if my afternoon passengers hurry. A rhythmic whirring greets my ears as I start the engine. Pah-thit-thit-thit-thit-thit-thit-thit; for a moment, I am afraid. Is something seriously wrong with the car? Should I take it into the shop, and how will I find the money? The consciousness of my worldly debts momentarily overwhelms me. Rent and repairs and college loans. Medical bills and grad classes. In the context of these, I cannot bear to think of my salary. I replay a fragment of a lecture on hardship, and the shaykh’s words about money. Allah only tests those whom He loves, and He tests them with money and family.
Four pairs of dark eyes wait in the backseat for me. I force my expression to lighten. Allah will not test you with more than you can bear. I check my charges over my shoulder. “Everyone, seat belts, please.” We make conversation about Science Fair projects, until they have fallen asleep. Then, the car warm from their breathing, I am alone again. I listen to the whir of the engine. What has come loose? With every mile that we press on, is something inside unscrewing?
The futility of my worry grows boring. I look for answers to Ezkina’s fear among the science of wavelengths and frequency. Should I have told her that light is a spectrum, in which yellow exists immutably? Light whose wavelength ranges from 570 to 580 nanometers will always be yellow, habibti.
Newton and Planck are the wrong place to start. In First Grade we know not of photons, nor wave-particle dualities. Where are the yellows that Ezkina might trust? Saturn and wasps come first to mind. Laboradors, poplars, algae. I discard each in turn. Planets are too far away to be seen, at least in bright Boston, usually. Wasps, dogs and plants die. She has no reason to trust the persistence of these. What is more immediate, Sister Anna, than your yellow memories? I check the February landscape for shades of sunlight around me.
The land leading off from the highway is almost black and white. Winter has desaturated everything. If yellow were gone, would not green go, too? I imagine swathes of the visible spectrum permanently disappearing. First yellows, then oranges, greens. The low hills arching off to our right grow starkly purple; bare oak trees darken, and the brush loses light. The clouds are thick over the entrance to the Pike. I think of a prism hung in a window. All of the colors of the spectrum together compose what we see as white light. With yellow gone, my heart suggests, even white would change.
No one in the backseat stirs as we begin our last leg home. I roll down the window at the toll booth to hand over our fare; the whirring I noticed at school is much louder now. “Maybe your muffler’s loose,” the attendant says. “Maybe,” I smile, or try. “You should take it to the mechanic,” she advises. I rub my thumb against fingertips. Sounds expensive, ya’ni. My neck aches and I remember that yellow is also the color of fear.
For the final miles home, I try to remember my fears. Money and its absence do not run deep enough to qualify as purely frightening; I have been poor before and may be poor again, but I have never gone to bed hungry. The fear of poverty is not so sharp as the fear of being lonely.
I am not concerned about being lonely while traveling. There is no pleasure like the freedom from company which the open road brings. Nay, but I am afraid of being alone in the spiritual sense: being alone in worship, being alone in faith. Being alone in belief is what really scares me.
I remember the ahadith about Islam’s departure from the world.
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Islam initiated as something strange, and it will revert to its old position of being strange. So give good tidings for the stranger.
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Verily the faith would recede to Medina just as the serpent crawls back into its hole.
Ya Allah, I pray at the stoplight dividing Allston from Cambridge, please bless me with company in the deen. Save me from living in the days when faith is receding. Ya Allah, let me worship you without fear of being lonely. Ya Allah, give Ezkina comfort. Show her the beauty of all your colors, and take her worries away.
I drop off the children and nurse a hot chocolate on my way to the masjid. I am early; there are no other women in the musalla. I choose a place in the middle back, and wait for the prayer to come in. An unknown mu’adhdhin, Somali in dress, makes his way to the front of the room. Qad qamat is-salah, qad qamat is-salah. At his voice, all spare movement on the brothers’ side ceases. The men line up, heel to heel, with their eyes on the carpet to pray.
I do not recognize the verses which the imam recites. I try to purely give praise to God, to offer repentance and listen. We sit on the carpet between rounds of prostration; we pray for a share of God’s mercy. My eyes climb the walls as I talk to Allah. There is light above me.
And then, there it is; between two trees, an enormous moon is waiting. I am struck. Here is Ezkina’s yellow, fairly taking over the sky. I smile in the third rakah of prayer. The imam is halfway through Surat al Fatiha when I feel someone at my side.
A girl, her hands dark as buckeyes, moves firmly against me. From her shoulder down to her heel, she makes certain that we are touching. We bend, we stand, we bow forward on carpet, we touch our heads to the ground as we pray. In our communion, a reflection exists of all prayer since the Prophet’s time.
We sit in the moonlight afterward, and make dhikr on the joints in our hands. Subhan Allah, Subhan Allah, Subhan Allah. At this moment, I am certain that Allah is perfect. Another answer comes to me for Ezkina. Dear child, we are together. As long as you and I have hearts with which we act and pray, nothing meaningful will fade.