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The Museum of Lago Atitlan 9 March 2009

Posted by ANNA in ANNA, Culture, History, Spirituality, Travel.

A male cardinal in March; a flash of red against snow. He jumps up the branches of the oak tree wearing a black mask over his eyes. He is crimson from his crest to the tip of his tail; one is almost glad, seeing him, for the bareness of the season. Were there leaves on the trees or sun in the sky, he might not seem as bright. I throw burnt popcorn from the second floor porch. He fights sparrows for the seeds.

I trace the shape of the minor chords up and down my knees. My hand makes a small round shape, gloves curled, imagining keys. It is a habit of thinking; in the familiarity of the scales from C up an octave to C, I find familiarity upon which to daydream. I have learned enough of my religion to feel at ease with submission and belief. Islam and iman, the first two i-words, have meanings which are clear to me. One can list their requirements on two hands, and fulfilling them, feel complete. But what of the third i-word, what of ihsan? It appears in the dictionary under husn: beauty, perfection, excellence. Ihsan is a derivative verbal form meaning the enacting of these. To do what is beautiful, to do what is perfect, to do what is excellent; what do these mean? Each time I consider these questions, I recall the same hadith.

Narrated Omar bin Al-Khattab:

One day while we were sitting with the messenger of Allah there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black; no signs of journeying were to be seen on him and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down by the Prophet. Resting his knees against the Prophet’s and placing the palms of his hands on the Prophet’s thighs, he said, “O Muhammad, tell me about Islam”.



Turkey Diary: The Cistern and the Gorgon’s Head 4 July 2008

Posted by ANNA in ANNA, History, Psychology, Travel.
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Istanbul, July 3

The biggest fish are nickel grey, though some of the smaller ones are gold. I do not know if they lose their color as they grow, or if perhaps the more beautiful ones are not, in the end, fit to thrive. I remember my mother’s disdain for flair. She would be pleased by the triumph of the plain.

In the northern corner of the cistern, a feeding frenzy breaks the surface of the water. A little girl throws chunks of ekmek into the shallows. There it takes on water, growing dark, until the carp have torn it apart.


Riverview 19 June 2008

Posted by ANNA in ANNA, History.

I cannot remember whose idea it was to go swimming in the river. We walked down ravines, thick as lines on my hand, in sunlight metered through vines. Far at the bottom, the gully widened where water began to flow. A stream the color of hog snakes bubbled along our toes. We followed it, empty handed, until it reached the bank. There, still wearing jeans, we set out to wade in the shallows.

It took less than a minute to realize that we were in trouble, and less than five to drift across the Iowa to its less welcoming side. Whatever ideas we may have had about not really swimming, about our mothers finding out and killing us, were slowly abandoned. We clung there together to handfuls of weeds, and looked back the way we came. There, on the empty bank, our sweatshirts waited all alone. When they came looking for us, I imagined, they would find these. It struck me as funny, then, that I of all people would be in such a state. Wasn’t I supposed to be smarter than this? Did the river, in sweeping me away, forget about my brain?


Happy Birthday Malcolm X 19 May 2008

Posted by MOZAFFAR in History, MOZAFFAR, Politics, Spirituality.

To express my appreciation to the Creator for bringing you into my life, I quote the following story from Gulistan. [Trans. Omar Ali-Shah, p. 65]


The Cancer of the Conquered 21 April 2008

Posted by MOZAFFAR in History, MOZAFFAR, Politics, Psychology.

When a people begin to believe they have been defeated they have entered a bottomless pit. They continue and continue and continue to live in defeat. It is a cycle that can cripple a people not for a year, not for a century, but for a millennium.