"All sorrows can be borne if you can put them into a story" - Karen Blixen
In this world love has no color-
yet how deeply
is stained by yours -- Izumi Shikibu from Ink Dark Moon
Here comes the Full Moon just in time for Valentine's Day.
Turkish Delight on a Moonlit night.
|Rose water flavored Turkish Delight|
I thought to pick the flower
of forgetting for myself,
but I found it
already growing in his heart.
- Ono no Komacchi from Ink Dark Moon
|Brassai Heart Grafitti - Hotel de Ville Expo Paris - December|
|Brassai Photo Expo - Pour L'Amour de Paris|
As I wandered around historic, forlorn Istanbul's twisting streets and rolling hills, I thought about its Moonlight Culture, embodied in the engravings of Thomas Allom, who portrayed darkness as a source of evil. The full moon saves the city from total darkness. In Pamuk's book "Istanbul", he writes of how the "Istanbullus loved to whisper about murdered harem girls whose bodies were smuggled out through the Palace walls under cover of darkness and taken out into the Golden Horn to be thrown overboard."
|Gate of Horn - Archeological Museum,Istanbul|
Harem, a Turkish word in the English language since 1634, comes from the Arabic "haram" - forbidden because sacred/important. Sultan Ibrahim the Mad, Ottoman ruler from 1640 to 1648, is said to have drowned 280 concubines of his harem in the Bosphorous. Guess he had a short attention span.
|A Harem Bathhouse - Fazil Yildiz|
|Sultan's Palace on Bosphorous, Istanbul - 1840 Antique Print, Thomas Allom|
"...it seemed to me the colors of the Bosphorous hills were not reflections of an external light. It seemed to me that the rooftops, the plane trees and the judas, the wings of the gulls that would flap so rapidly past us and the half-broken walls of the boathouses - all of them glowed with a dim light that came from within..." Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul
If you walk along the Galata Bridge that spans the Golden Horn at twilight, you'll see how the waters of the Bosphorous "take on the finish of washed silk", as the Turkish writer A.S. Hisar described it, with the hint of moonlight behind the clouds. Strong currents run through the Bosphorous; the waters are deep and dark.
|Ferries pass beneath the Galata Bridge - December 2013|
The Turks we meet always ask us where we come from, & when they find out Rosita and Freya are from San Francisco, their teeth flash big and white, saying Istanbul is a sister city of S.F. And they are not far off the mark-- Golden Horn/Golden Gate, hills, ferries, the steep, winding, Hitchcockian streets -- beaucoup de Starbucks. And now that I think of it, big flashing white dents too.
|Meawhile Rosita is chatting up the locals|
I open up my pores to Istanbul, so it's easy to fall into a vat of melancholia (note to self, check the Gutenberg Library for Robert Burton's "The Anatomy of Melancholy", published in 1621 it's still in print, a classic!) walking the streets at dusk...that is till you see a guy dressed like a genie with a turban, curly toed shoes & a Lemur on his shoulder. The metro guard made me so nervous I couldn't get a clear photo. A shame since the Lemur was so photogenic.
|Arabian Prince and his consort|
But now I have to get serious. I'm on the hunt for Tarot, & the Cafe Majestik, where I've heard rumored there are cards and readers. Still, I am compelled to stop because the air is punctuated by prayers - five times a day - now it is Magrib, sunset prayers. I like the way the Turkish days are organized around this ritual. The church bells used to ring twice a day in our tiny French village, but now they are only rung for funerals. I miss the holy ringing, the way the sound reverberates through one's cells.
|Prayers in the Blue Mosque|
|Taksim Station tiles - Istanbul|
|Ottoman times mural - Metro station Istanbul|
I'm lost, I'm late, for a very important date!
Does our heroine ever find the Cafe Majestik or the Fortune Tellers or the coffee ground readers?
As the poet says, "Not the coffee, nor the coffeehouse is the longing of the soul. A friend is what the soul longs for, coffee is just the excuse".
|Tasseography - Coffee Fortune Telling|
Postscript - I came across a line from the poem "Syria," by UK poet Jeremy Reed: "The Ancients said poetry is a dream letter to God'." I believe that with all my heart. Later I was checking out an Arab poet, Nizar Qabbani, and discovered the poem below, "On Entering the Sea". After being in Turkey which isn't Arab, yet somehow has the feeling of old sand and young sea, with lots of jasmine water sprinkled around, the Sufi rhythms have infused my veins, almost like the Chai that is poured lovingly and endlessly into the tulip shaped tea glasses. You see the color of the tea through the thin glass; Kitlama Cay they call this style of drinking tea. Not as ritualized as the Japanese tea ceremonies we had at Green Gulch Zen Center in Mill Valley (ahhh, the halcyon days of the jet set gurus, replete with incense & scandals) here less silence, more chatter & easier on the knees. I feel what a young country the USA is, and the sense I have that the paradise in this poem is not one easily found in that shiny land.
And last, but not by any means least, a Magnetic love poem I wrote for my funny valentine, Kevin
Bonne St. Valentin à tous les amoreux du monde!