Friday, August 31, 2012

Fatma's Story

It’s great fun to travel with a guide when he’s scouting the country for new sites. And when that country is Turkey, it’s an amazing adventure. Almost overwhelming. So we (my guide Aydin and I) had stumbled into the village Cambazli. (If you’re looking at a map of Turkey this is in the area that is the southernmost tip of Turkey near Silifke Aydin had found an ancient church, not listed in the Blue Guide Book. Probably built in the late 400 or early 500 AD and the most complete Aydin had ever seen. This was rich country for ancient things and so he drove further and found an old Roman tomb. As we were leaving, an old woman called from her second floor porch to come for chai. We hesitated, but she insisted and so we climbed the stairs to her home. Her name was Fatma. She kissed my hand then put my hand to her forehead, a gesture of respect, one I should have given her for she was older than I. A tiny thing, her fingers twisted from years of hard work, tufts of hennaed hair under her scarf, and eyes blue as the sky.

The living room was small, banquettes lined the walls and a fire burned in the fireplace. To the right was a closed door. Off the kitchen were the bedrooms. Kilims covered the floor and a folded stack sat near the fireplace, ready for use when family or friends came to visit. Goats and chickens were housed beneath. Everything was clean. The house was cheery and smelled of herbs and wool. I felt right at home.

Fatma disappeared and returned with chai and iran, a drink made of yogurt, water, and salt that is oddly refreshing. Fatma showed me how she made yarn from black goat hair. She had a simple wooden device that came apart, which made it easy to travel. She said she could spin yarn and walk at the same time. She was proud of her work and showed me an old kilim she had made when just a girl. It was soiled and patched with brightly colored pieces of fabric. It was obvious it had been heavily used. I admired it, and she immediately wanted to give it to me. “No, no,” I said. In my heart I wanted it, but had no idea how to arrange to buy it.

While we were having our third cup of chai, Fatma’s granddaughter Haci (Hachee)  (aged 12) arrived. Fatma’s son had brought her home from school. She was limping and obviously in pain. Only then did we learn that Haci’s parents were dead and Haci needed to have an operation on her hip. The uncle explained they had been saving money for a long time and would soon have enough for the operation. Aydin prodded gently and found out how much more was needed. Now I knew what the kilim I wanted was worth. Fatma insisted “no,” but Aydin insisted more firmly. She finally relented. Then she gave us a packet of eggs, onions, and a plastic with 6 apples. Many kisses later Aydin and I floated down to the jeep buoyed up by all that gentle love.

We drove then to Olba, a place I like as it feels so familiar to me. The area was completely occupied during ancient times. Houses today in these villages often have ancient building stones in their construction. At one temple site a young boy of eleven explained in English about the columns and capitals. Beautiful carvings of animal heads and garlands were carved into the stone. He was obviously proud of his village and his English.

It was soon two o’clock and I was hungry. We stopped in a village where the ancient theater columns are in the middle of the main street. Mehmet, owner of the only restaurant in town, spread his arms. It was all finished, he said, even the bread (ekmek). But we had food! Eggs, onions, and apples. Mehmet said if we could find bread, he would make lunch. Aydin knocked at the first door he came to, explained our situation, and we were given bread. “How much?” I asked. The woman just smiled, gave us her blessing, and waved us on.

Mehmet placed a tiny table under a tree, fresh flowers in a jelly glass. Lunch was marvelous. Scrambled eggs with onion and tomato, a plate of sliced apples covered in honey and cinnamon, a dish of hot peppers and tomatoes. He cut the fresh bread loaves in half and filled them with a marvelous mixture of goat, onions, tomatoes, and spices. He ran across the street and brought back warm cans of cola. The meal was superb. Cok güzel (very beautiful). And then Mehmet insisted we come to his home for dinner. But that’s a different story.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Being Aware

I had a problem and was seriously focused on it. I was struggling with a needed segue wording for a blog. (My friends tell my I’m a crazy person when it comes to segues.) Had the ideas clearly thought through, but couldn’t find a clever way to connect them. Old hackneyed phrases and clichés kept popping up. Suddenly, I heard a siren. OMG! I am in my car, stuck in heavy traffic, have missed my exit, and an ambulance is bearing down behind me. There I was, interacting with my mind instead of the world. Now I have a new problem—getting to my appointment on time and saving my life in the process.
            My mind is the most amazing machine. I just wish I were more able to manage it. (In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt says we are like a rider on an elephant and think we’re in charge.) 
But being stuck in my own thinking is not the only place I have trouble. Sometimes it’s when I’m too focused out there.
(I don’t know how to segue into this next part so will just leap in. I DO have a point so please hang on……..)
            I’ve always been aware of bridges. They’re like doorways in that they make it possible to go from here to there, the possibility of connecting areas. Once in Turkey, we took a side road to attend a camel-wrestling contest held by two villages. (Yes, the camels wrestled, but that’s another story). The money raised was to build a bridge over a deep gorge that separated the two villages. I knew how important it was to be connected so it made me feel good to help the villages build their bridge.
            I love the bridges in Seattle. Big bridges, little ones, they’re all over and many of them open for ships. I never complain when stopped by an open bridge. It makes me feel connected with a greater world. That ship might have come from China or India. Who knew? And they make a great excuse for being late. “Sorry. Bridge was up.” You’re hardly ever wrong.
I have favorite bridges. I like the little Fremont Bridge where Rapunzel’s hair used to stream down from the Tender’s turret. And the bridge over the Montlake Cut is sweet with its tiny parking spot for the Tender’s car. I like the high University Bridge and the one that links International Village with Beacon Hill. Breathtaking views. But my favorite is the Ballard Bridge. It goes over that stretch of water between Lake Union and the Locks that lead to the Sound.
            I love that bridge, as the water below is filled with fishing boats, those hardy ships that brave the Alaska waters. And so one afternoon, as I drove onto the bridge, I noticed the light at the Tender’s tower was orange. “Hm-m, that’s interesting,” my focused mind began, “I thought the light was supposed to be green. I wonder what’s happened? They’re like the traffic lights, you know red, orange, green,” my mind chattered on as I stared at the light and continued to drive. As my wheels hit the metal grids, the light turned red. OMG the bridge is opening! I raced across, heart pounding and there in the rearview mirror, saw the metal grid begin to rise. That’s why the light was orange.
            I knew better than to let my mind get so focused on one thing. In one of the programs my friend Judi and I had designed for The Boeing Company, one aspect had to do with a phenomenon called “situation awareness.” That’s when a person focuses intently on one thing at the cost of the whole. Our examples were videos of plane crashes. The one that struck me most was (recreated) of a crew that noticed a light blinking on their dashboard. Within moments, every crewmember was concentrating on that blinking light as the plane dove straight into a mountain.
            I know it’s important to focus intently while working. I’m able to do that—so able that when the phone rings I jump a foot. However, in order to survive, I need to be fully conscious—I need to be here, now. And thus I’ve brought us full circle from my original point. (Thanks for hanging in there.) Being conscious is not that easy. I must somehow manage to live in the present while my mind keeps up its constant chatter about being haunted by the past and wondering about the future. Big task. There are those fascinating things that capture my attention and I’m stuck like super glue. And there are the filters my mind has about what I see, hear, and remember. Who can figure it all out?
            So with my imperfect brain, my muddled mind, my desires and dreams, I daily step into my life and do the best I can. Moment by moment by moment. It boggles my mind. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

More Scraps

Sometimes when making a quilt (or a blog), there are pieces not big enough to do much with, but too colorful or interesting to throw away. Here are a few of mine.


I have a veritable garden of friends, needing feeding, watering, and definitely lots of sunshine. I’m not going to take this any further, for I’m not sure what to do about pruning, fertilizing, and weeds.

Homeless Guy

He was standing at the edge of the park, speaking, a homeless guy. I watched carefully, curious about what he had to say. I wondered if I should go and listen, give him an audience. But after a while, I realized he didn’t need an audience. Didn’t want one. He just wanted to hear his own thoughts out in the world. Each one like a newborn person.

In Tune

The large chorale I sang with was giving a major concert.  We had invited two other ensembles to perform with us, had a full symphony orchestra, and were being televised.  This was big time stuff.
            The house lights dimmed and the concertmaster came onstage and bowed to the appreciative audience.  Everyone hushed and he nodded to the oboe player who took the cue. Clearly she played her ‘A’ and the orchestra tuned.
The concert was brilliant and right on key. It’s the oboe who set the key because it can’t be tuned like violins and timpani.  Every group has its “oboe.”  In my family we have two, a precious five-year old and an 87-year old great grandmother.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Filthy Lucre

When I was growing up, no one talked about money. It was the time of the Great Depression and there was little cash about. But I think the not talking about money had deeper roots than the economic condition of the country. Value was not based on the cost of things in those days. There was more at stake.
You couldn’t talk about money for your friends’ families might be destitute, have lost all but their dignity. I sometimes felt pangs of guilt, as my family was very comfortable. Joyce’s father lost his Cadillac agency and eventually their home. They moved in with a grandmother, aunt and uncle in an upstairs apartment in a brick building on the corner of Spring Street, the first brick building built in that town, built by Joyce’s great grandfather. Marion’s grandfather had started the bank and her father had become the president. But now he was also the only clerk in the bank, and the maid’s quarters in their home was empty. Ramona’s father, who had lost everything, had skipped town, deserting his wife and two daughters. Ramona’s mom worked in the dry cleaner’s but no one ever mentioned that. Ramona often told us that her father had flown in to the nearby town airport to visit. We knew she was lying, but never said so. We knew Ramona needed those daydreams. All were living different lives, but I never heard any of them complain. They held their heads high, did the best they could, and lived their lives with honor and dignity.
Recently, while watching an episode of “Downton Abbey,” I saw a scene that perfectly demonstrates my point. Carter, the butler, is acting as a valet for a guest, Sir Richard Carlyle, a self-made owner of newspapers. As Carter brushes Carlyle’s shoulders and back, Carlyle says something about money and his ability to spend a lot of it. Carter flinches in distaste. He’s not offended by Carlyle’s wealth, nor is he envious of his position. He is, however, deeply shocked by Carlyle’s talking about his money.
We are daily inundated by talk of money. “Name” products—the name crassly advertised on the product itself—daily assault our eyes. The value of the current movie is based on the “take” for the first weekend. People are ranked by how much they are worth, how much they earn, as if we aren’t ALL equal in the eyes of God. I’m tired of it.
My father taught me many wonderful lessons when I was a girl, and one of the best was about money. He had taken me to a shoe store to buy me a pair of shoes—a rare occurrence for mother took care of all that “business.” I found what I wanted, navy blue with a new kind of sole—thick rubber—and a fancy tongue that flapped over the top of the laces. Suede brogues. When daddy asked why I liked them, for he thought them ugly, I said they looked more expensive than the others. He thought a moment, then said, “Money is a criteria, but it’s not the important one. There’s quality to consider first.” This at a time when having enough money to live was really vital. But he was right. Our placing money in such a place of importance has turned too many to be greedy. What has happened to the other criteria of quality, usefulness, honor, dignity?
           I begin to despair, but when I talk with my children, grandchildren, and friends, I cheer up. I’m hearing a conversation closer to that time I lived so long ago. One that was kinder, gentler. I think the pendulum may be swinging away from greed. I certainly hope so.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Gift For My Grandchildren

The Gift 
I open my eyes to a big surprise,
a present just for me.
It’s just my size,
it’s sure to fit,
I’m pleased as I can be.

What is this gift so bright and new,
so special in every way?
Why, don’t you know?
You get one too.
A brand new shining day.