I keep telling you I am quitting, and I am not. Today, September 6th, ten years ago, I was sitting in my aerie in Kuwait, overlooking the Arabian Gulf, when I gathered all my nerve and went public.
I’d always wanted to write.
What better time? While every move was a great adventure, there was a downside. The downside is that it takes a while to gather your “band of brothers” (mine tend to be mostly sisters), your buddies, your protection against the inevitable rudeness of life. I was still reeling from leaving the strong band we had formed in Qatar (and still we are in touch, celebrating and protecting one another), and I was not yet sure where my Kuwait friends would come from.
I was in for a big surprise. I met wonderful friends through blogging. To the best of my knowledge, I am the last one standing of my blogging friends at that time; they were crucial to my investment in Kuwait, and the returns on that investment. I learned from them, I changed a lot of my thinking due to new ideas they introduced, and I profited greatly from our relationships. The friendships I formed in Kuwait rocked my world.
I was so scared, at the beginning, putting myself and my ideas out there. I loved the feedback I got, and get. I wanted a place to tell my stories so I wouldn’t forget them, and to ponder things I still don’t understand well. Your feedback and input are a great gift to me.
I still love sharing our trips with you, and, from time to time, puzzlements from my own culture. I’m still that little girl from Juneau, Alaska, a stranger in a strange land.
Thank you for a wonderful ten years. No, I am not planning to stop. I’ve had to be more patient with myself. Expat lives have spaces in them, time is different outside the United States, less full-all-the-time. I can’t blog the way I used to. I can’t quilt the way I used to. My time is full with AdventureMan, and grandchildren, and family, and church, and volunteer experiences.
We have a wonderful life, and we still get restless. We take two large trips a year now, to satisfy that wanderlust, and smaller trips to Mobile for Syrian food, to New Orleans for the escape and for Ethiopian food, to Atlanta to see friends, to Seattle to see family – and for Chinese food, to Panama City and Apalachicola for family and oysters. LOL, yes, there is a pattern. And meanwhile, we are surrounded by some of the best Gulf seafoods, and some of the best BBQ in the world, but man cannot live on BBQ alone.
Thank you for hanging in there for all these years, and for all the fun we’ve had together. Thank you for helping me learn about and understand the nuances, the deep underbellies of the cultures I otherwise would have skimmed over, never knowing the depth and richness I was missing out on. Thank you for your friendships, and for all the stories you have shared with me in the background that helped me see things differently. It’s you who have rocked my world, with your honesty and your bravery.
And while you are here, have some mint tea – yes, the mint is from our garden – and cake. Those Venetian ones are soaked in liqueurs, but there are some chocolate ones, and a gingered fruit or two . . . You are always welcome.
(Yes, it is Christmas Eve, and my part of the preparations are all done. AdventureMan is cooking a duck for the family dinner tonight, the Gulf Coast jumbo shrimp is all cooked and shelled and de-veined, the Rotkohl spicing up the kitchen, the salads and side dishes ready to go. 🙂 I have time, oh, the great luxury of time, to write . . . )
When we lived in Amman, we often went to Syria. I went once with an archaeological group, visiting several sites in the bleak cold of the Syrian winter. One site I didn’t see a lot of hope for, the site of St. Simon the Stylite, a hermit who sat atop a pillar and was considered holy. In truth . . . I scoffed.
I scoffed until I reached that isolated hilltop, and saw the giant pillar, and felt how very cold it was as the icy wind blew. We were there two or three hours. I had to confront my unwillingness to believe and the fact that with every zinging atom in my body, I could feel that this was a sacred place. Saint Simon chose a weird sort of sacrificial life, but in God’s eyes, I suspect it mattered. I know visiting that site changed me, and changed my ideas about sacred spaces.
Today, I get to write about a visit to another sacred space, a space you can feel resonating from the moment you enter, the Mezquita.
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It’s early breakfast for the Smithsonian group, and then we check our whisper guides and board our bus en route to Cordoba.
Traveling with a group is a novelty for us. It means using an alarm clock to be at scheduled breakfast and getting on a bus for a 2 hour drive. On our own, we wake when we wish – usually early, but not so early as with this group. We are not usually at a breakfast with a lot of people looking for food at the same time. We are not used to coffee makers that make one cup of coffee at a time while a 100 people line up for coffee. These are things that are not normal in our experience. We might find a local small store, pick up some water and some small snacks, and hit the road, stopping here and there to take a photo or just savor a view, have some water, soak in the fresh air. On the other hand, these bus drivers know where to go and there is no getting lost trying to find the right route out of town.
En route to Cordoba, most of the jet lagged Smithsonian group slept. Wide awake, I watched as acres and acres of olive groves and wind farms passed by. We saw an ancient fortification on the side of a hill that had a view to die for – 270 degrees plus of visibility.
It is raining once again as we arrive in Cordoba, but almost immediately it stops, and by the time our group has walked up the hill by the Mezquita, the sun is out and the day shows great promise. Cordoba is beautiful. Everywhere you look is some exquisite detail. Cordoba is a treat for the eyes.
Even the police are polite and helpful, directing tourists to where they need to go:
Art Nouveau bench:
Flower pots on the stucco walls:
Tourists coming up to The Mezquita:
Masques in a local art shop:
Finely wrought silver filigree jewelry:
At one point, we had a choice: Do we go shopping or do we have lunch in a highly rated local place? I bet we could do both, and we opted for lunch – more on that to come. At the end of lunch, we had only ten minutes to shop and not enough time to get back to this wonderful shop. I won’t call it a regret; lunch was a wonderful experience . . . and I do love filigree, and this artisan had beautiful silver filigree . . .
Ben Maimonaides, a Jewish scholar and ethicist, with wide influence. This was a continuing theme on the entire trip, that the interaction between Jew, Christian and Moslem in this period led to a great leap in ideas and artistry. The interaction was like pollination; science and the arts and mathematics and medicine bloomed.
I wonder if this is happening today, as Moslems, Jews and Christians study together in universities, to they interact and inspire one another? Is it possible that in spite of dire political headlines, under the radar, people are learning to cooperate and collaborate in the interest of a better world?
(Wikipedia: Aside from being revered by Jewish historians, Maimonides also figures very prominently in the history of Islamic and Arab sciences and is mentioned extensively in studies. Influenced by Avicenna (c. 980 – 1037), Averroes (1126–1198) and Al-Farabi (ca. 872–950/951), he in his turn influenced other prominent Arab and Muslim philosophers and scientists. He became a prominent philosopher and polymath in both the Jewish and Islamic worlds.
Bulls everywhere, LOL
An artistic courtyard
Love the little blue pots, and love the people who take care of them!
After our walking tour of Cordoba central, we gather in the gardens while our guide goes to pick up our tickets to take us inside the Mezquita, built as a mosque, becoming a cathedral after 1492.
Did I mention we learned two major dates on this trip: 711, when Tariq crosses into Spain (Jebal Tariq . . . Gibraltar) and 1492? Americans know 1492 as the year “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety two, but 1492 is the year that the Moslems were driven out of Spain, weeping at the loss of Andalusia, Al-Andalus.
When the Moslems were driven out of Cordoba, the huge, beautiful mosque, Al Mesquite, was not destroyed, but recycled, repurposed, space holy to one faith became holy to another. I love it that the original mosque, with its spectacular soaring arches and inspirational proportions, was recognized, and re-utilized. Holy space is holy space. We worship the same God. We saw the shrine to John the Baptist in the Grand Ummayad Mosque in Damascus; why should we not share holy spaces?
This is what you see immediately upon entering the Mezquita – a gorgeous kind of meshrabiyya covering the windows, patterning the light as it enters, keeping the harsh heat out and shrinking light in star like patterns across the floor.
The interior of this mosque/cathedral takes my breath away. It was crowded with tourists, but it just swallowed them up and maintained its sacred integrity. We could wander off and still hear our guide, thanks to this whisper-technology, where we all had headphones and our guide could broadcast. This was a place where I needed to wander off and experience it on my own, but felt some responsibility not to get too far afield from the group. I didn’t want to be a pain in the neck for the guide. And I also didn’t want to be a part of the group within this structure. It’s a problem.
Just look at these spaces:
I’ve always had a thing about light fixtures, LOL, I probably should own a lamp show except I would only stock what I like and I would have a hard time selling anything in the shop. Guess it’s just a good thing for me to admire light fixtures and not to have to manage them.
The beautiful Mihrab (points you in the direction of worship in a mosque) from the original mosque:
The Christian altar built in a structure added to the original mosque:
With a piece depicting King Ferdinand holding a globe:
As the tour ended, our tour guide warned us that we had only an hour and a half for lunch, so not to go to a restaurant, just find something quick, or shop, and BE BACK ON THE MEETING PLACE AT TWO!
We had seen a restaurant we wanted to try, so raced to it. We hate being rushed, and part of the fun of traveling is trying new kinds of food in new places!
It’s been so long since I’ve last talked with you. I’ve been off on a great adventure, and I want to tell you all about it, but I’ve been recovering from a bug I caught the last day of our trip (I was so generous; I shared it with AdventureMan). Today is the first day I could really face blogging, and I was inspired by a reading I received this morning from Richard Rohr, whose religion and spirituality seem to hit me where I live.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Just as different ways of interpreting scripture and various types of truth (e.g., literal vs. mythic) are valuable for different purposes, so scientific theories have different applications while seeming to be paradoxical and irreconcilable. For example, we have the Newtonian theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and quantum theory. Physicists know that each of them is true, yet they don’t fit together and each is limited and partial. Newtonian mechanics can’t model or predict the behavior of massive or quickly moving objects. Relativity does this well, but doesn’t apply to very, very small things. Quantum mechanics succeeds on the micro level. But we don’t yet have an adequate theory for understanding very small, very energetic, very massive phenomenon, such as black holes. Scientists are still in search of a unified theory of the universe.
Perhaps the term “quantum entanglement” names something that we have long intuited, but science has only recently observed. Here is the principle in layperson’s terms: in the world of quantum physics, it appears that one particle of any entangled pair “knows” what is happening to another paired particle–even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which are separated by sometimes very large distances. Could this be what is happening when we “pray” for somebody?
Scientists don’t know how far this phenomenon applies beyond very rare particles, but quantum entanglement hints at a universe where everything is in relationship, in communion, and also where that communion can be resisted (“sin”). Both negative and positive entanglement in the universe matter, maybe even ultimately matter. Prayer, intercession, healing, love and hate, heaven and hell, all make sense on a whole new level. Almost all religions have long pointed to this entanglement. In Paul’s letter to the Romans (14:7) he says quite clearly “the life and death of each of us has its influence on others.” The Apostles’ Creed states that we believe in “the communion of saints.” There is apparently a positive inner connectedness that we can draw upon if we wish.
Ilia Delio says, “If reality is nonlocal, that is, if things can affect one another despite distance or space-time coordinates, then nature is not composed of material substances but deeply entangled fields of energy; the nature of the universe is undivided wholeness.”  I’ve often described this phenomenon as an experiential “force field” or the Holy Spirit. In Trinitarian theology, the Holy Spirit is foundationally described as the field of love between the Father and the Son. One stays in this positive force field whenever one loves, cares, or serves with positive energy. I know that when people stand in this place, when they rest in love as their home base, they become quite usable by God, and their lives are filled with “quantum entanglements” that result in very real healings, forgiveness, answered prayers, and new freedom for those whom they include in the force field with them. I have too many examples here to list or to even remember. Jung called these events “synchronicities”; secular folks call them coincidences; the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, who taught me, called them Divine Providence.
On the other end of the spectrum there are people who carry death wherever they go, toward all those they can pull into their negative force field. (Is this hell?) I know that when I regress into any kind of intentional negativity toward anything or anybody, even in my mind, I am actually hurting and harming them. Etty Hillesum, a young imprisoned Jew in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, says straightforwardly, “Each of us moves things along in the direction of war every time we fail to love.” And if so, it would surely follow that each of us moves things along in the direction of healing each time we choose to love. Each time it is a conscious choice and a decision, at least to some degree. Grace and guilt both glide on such waves of desire and intention.
Consciousness, desire, and intentionality matter. Maybe they even create and destroy worlds. We cannot afford to harbor hate or hurt or negativity in any form. We must deliberately choose to be instruments of peace–first of all in our minds and hearts. Such daring simplicity is quantum entanglement with the life and death of all things. We largely create both heaven and hell. God is not “in” heaven nearly as much as God is the force field that allows us to create heaven through our intentions and actions. Once quantumly entangled, it seems we are entangled forever, which is why we gave such finality and urgency to our choices for life (heaven) or death (hell).
This is such a “WOW” for me; I feel I can feed and nourish myself on this meditation for a long time. Google Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation to sign up to receive his daily e-mail meditation.
It’s time to celebrate, and, my friends, we have to do it fast because September 11th is nipping at our heels, and September 11th is a day that makes me very sad, very sad, indeed. So for now, forget September 11th! For today, we will celebrate nine years, yes, nine years of blogging.
So many times I have thought “why bother?”
I do it for me. I do it because writing is what I was born to do. I do it because from the beginning, you have given me such wonderful support and feedback.
I’m in a Paris frame of mind 🙂 I’ve gathered some wonderful cookies and cakes for you; you can nibble, peruse, re-acquaint yourself with old friends in the comment sections – I know I did, and it re-inspired me.
Back in the beginning, back in 2006, the blogging scene in Kuwait was such fun, so wide open. Bloggers had really interesting things to say, and said them. I learned so much from the Kuwait bloggers, and made some great friends. 1001 Nights and I became life long friends, even though we are far apart. Other bloggers, one in particular from Saudi Arabia who is now deceased, and another from the Netherlands, Aafke, with whom I have stayed in touch and maintained a friendship were full of ideas, started great conversations, it was like being in a salon in France when ideas were steaming and popping and revolutionizing everything.
While the newness of blogging has long worn off, the need to write has not. Mostly, I keep blogging because every now and then I have something to say, and this I where I say it. Yes, there are other, newer platforms, but sometimes you need a place where people with a longer attention span can come and work through an issue alongside me.
Of course, I also continue because we still love to travel, and I love to share my adventures and my resources with you of similar interests 🙂
Life has greatly changed, once again. This year, our oldest grandchild started kindergarten, real school, and comes to our house where his parents pick him up from work. He is so much fun! We are loving seeing life through his eyes, hearing about his day, learning his new song and his joy in learning. We also get to see either our son or our daughter-in-law every day; it may be just a few minutes, but it keeps us up to date. Life is sweet.
This coming week we also have Grandparent’s Lunch Day with our granddaughter at her school. She is now fully two, and as my favorite nephew Earthling says about his daughter of about the same age “she is very opinionated.” She is also very sure of her right to be right, and to have her way, and she is full of spirit and energy, so she, too, leads us on a merry race. It is a joy to watch her struggle to express herself – and increasingly, to succeed. She is learning new words every day, and you can see the excitement on her face as we understand what she wants so desperately to tell us.
We never have plans for just one trip; we always have one coming up and one in the plans 🙂 so here’s a hint:
Thank you, thank you, all who have remained with me so loyally, those who comment and those who lurk, those who check in now and then and those who write to me in the background to bring me up to date on your lives. You, and your feedback, are what makes this all worthwhile.
Have a cookie, or three or four and some cake and some of this wonderful Moroccan mint tea we’ve brewed, and celebrate nine years and still standing.
Long ago, and far away, in the exotic Kuwait City, I started this blog, holy smokes, almost nine years ago in September. I met so many wonderful people, some of whom I’ve even become friends with in person. Others I still keep up with, in a comment here or there (LOL, Here There and Everywhere) or in a backnote, or on FaceBook.
Several months ago, I contacted one blogger, Aafke, whose very honest and very artistic blog I admired. We often commented back and forth in those days. I wrote about how outraged I was at a veterinary tech in Doha who told me my cat was the demon cat from hell, and I raged at how scared he must have been to have behaved so badly. Like, if you work with animals, you should know that! If you treat them roughly, they will respond! (Oops! I still get worked up revisiting it!)
Aafke loved the story, and did a painting, our sweet Pete as the demon cat from hell. There were some things I loved about it – moody purple background, a great representation of Pete. It sort of hurt my feelings that she painted him with horns and a forked tail, not my sweet Pete.
But as the months went by after Pete’s sudden and unexpected death following an operation that succeeded in its goals, but killed Pete, I thought about that painting so I wrote to Aafke, and asked if I could buy it. I thought it would make a good present for AdventureMan, for Father’s Day. She responded quickly, said she thought she knew where it was, and in the mean time, she also painted another, a really lush, beautiful portrait of a cat we dearly loved. She wouldn’t let me buy it, it was a gift.
So the paintings arrived, and I had them framed. They are small, exactly what I wanted. We don’t want a shrine; we want a sweet reminder. When I gave the beautiful one to AdventureMan, he wept. Aafke truly captured the sweetness of Pete. He hung it on his office wall, where he could see it from his desk.
When he came into my office, he laughed. I have my painting just behind my chair where I write these posts. “You’ve got the devil cat looking over your shoulder!” he crowed with laughter!
Yes! I do! We all have our sweet side, and our devilish side 🙂 Pete was no angel. He loved to escape, and he was fast. We loved him, warts and all, and this portrait makes me smile every time I see it.
Thank you, Aafke, for your beautiful heart that captures the nature of those we love.
I didn’t even know I was getting this close; it crept up on me as I wrote about the long trip we took through the American Southwest. It’s almost nine years of blogging.
Wouldn’t I love to think that the most profound posts I write would garner the most attention and the most comments? But the truth is so humbling; the posts I write for fun, or in a hurry have long legs, or so WordPress tells me, and gather up statistics year after year.
I never know, when I write an article, what its future will be. It’s not unlike giving birth – you can input, but you have no control over who that child will be or where he/she will go.
God has the most wonderful sense of humor.