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New Year’s Journey

May 12th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Da Vinci's Muse for Women of Courage

This article was written by a Persian woman of courage in Iran, a medical researcher and therapist, dealing in this story with her heart attack, but who is also, as a translator of books, unable to have her numerous translations of well-known works published due to the refusal of a required publication permit. She writes in the third person as a way to reflect upon her experience. Here she writes, in a stream of consciousness, her thoughts of the Persian New Year as a way of hearing her soul raise questions about her life.

New Year’s Journey
Throughout the world, no matter when the New Year is celebrated chronologically, it offers a unique opportunity for re-union, allowing all past resentments toward the ‘endeared’ to melt away as winter frost is thawed out, to make room for joys and passions of togetherness which spring brings, especially when the new year begins like that of Iranians at Vernal Equinox.

It is the time when one more or less automatically remembers all those one loves and feels grateful to for the comfort they might have given one in times of hardship and despair. It is a time when concepts like ‘older’ and ‘younger’ has a rather more pleasant impression than what their relationship usually associates emotionally – a kind of unpleasant compulsion to obey.

That’s why she somehow was puzzled when her son’s close friends (the members of today’s ex.127 music band) did not drop by to celebrate the new year with her at the peak of their activity. She felt somehow nauseated for feeling abused by almost all her friends and relatives who only contacted her when in pain or trouble, but seldom in good times.

– “It might be because you never seem to care for national rites, social conventions and space-time dependent morality.” She heard her son responding when she finally expressed her disappointment.

– “Quite true,” she responded and continued watching where the thread of thoughts would take her after that…

The time before the New Year is indeed a unique annual period in everybody’s life ever since childhood that even when what we actually feel inside is the same old ‘rubbish,’ the surrounding felicitous air, a historical national cultural force, in the form of a thousands-of-years-old rite derive you to – at least – pretend to be as you should be at the time of the New Year– i.e. HAPPY?

And she thought, ”What’s wrong to go with the flow, particularly in this rare occasion when it is even ‘legally’ admitted to be ceremonially joyful? Indeed, what’s wrong to use the occasion, particularly when one feels so full of personal, national, international ‘hopelessness’ accumulated as the result of what has been going on our beautiful planet Earth! The economic crisis, the war in Gaza, the earthquakes, tsunamis, the collective suicide of dolphins and…”

Once again she was shocked how the balance of bad-good news seemed to be in favor of the former. It is exactly in such gloomy air that any joyful external air as insignificant as going to a party can be like taking a good anti-depressant pill, a ‘free’ ‘remedy’? Why not using it? Even though as an old English proverb says: You get nothing ‘free’ in this world.

– “Come on make the effort…”

And so about two weeks before the New Year, she started like good old Iranians, to khaneh takani literally meaning thorough-house-cleaning, so thorough as though the house is shaken. And she cooperated with her young beautiful daughter who by now knew how to set and decorate the sofreh haftsin,1 with all its symbolic meanings associating the Christians’ Christmas Tree and those Jewish ceremonial candle-sticks lit in their own New Year ceremony.

Her son was busy with his band making their new song with the intention perhaps as a New Year gift to their fellow countrymen and women. The lyric started with the words inspired by Hafez:

You the King of the good looking people
Cast a glance at the beggar
Have Mercy on we wanderers (hooligans, louts)
ای خسرو خوبان نظری سوی گدا کن
رحمی به من بی سروپا کن

The name of the piece derived from Hafez’s verse automatically reminded her of her children’s father, an ex-husband… a part of the past that one prefers not to remember… even when one has become O.K with it, as the trans-actionalist psychologists would say!

-“We are going to that flower market this year too, aren’t we? “Asked her daughter.

How could she say ‘no’ to her besieging demanding tempting voice- despite the flower market’s far distance and the scary thought of getting lost in new poorly signed highway. After all, she loved that familiar Flower Market very much, particularly at those early hours of the day when they could watch sun rise from the beautiful Damavand summit while driving to their destination! For a number of years she took their own cultivated bunches of Liliums and Tulips there for sale.
To hell with all the past memories which the thought of that Flower Market brought, as much as to those that the name on the cover of her son’s new song associated!

– “Don’t forget. The Past is Over. A New Year is beginning.”

As she thought to herself, “So it is better to make the super-effort and take the extraordinary ‘remedy’ of this rare joyful occasion, swallow its pill and try to be HAPPY. After all, as old Iranian proverb says: Talking or thinking about pleasures is like experiencing half that pleasure. Come on take the Pill.”

It had been some years now that the first sign of the coming spring for her was like hearing the song of “Titmouse,’ with its name in Persian, charkh-risak, associating spindles, spinning wheels, the Greek Myth of Fates, the three goddesses spinning the thread of human destiny… One of those threads welcoming associations to think once more about: the old question of human freedom and human will.

“Indeed it is “good” to go with the flow and use this very rare opportunity when one can dare to openly wear colourful outfits, laugh, celebrate and be Happy even ‘outdoors! But so hard it is in the suffocating surrounding air… Though, it might not be that hard! It is enough to allow the Kid inside to come to the surface as in childhood when winter was reaching its end and house cleaning (khaneh takani) started… “

Yet, the more she looked inside, the less she could find that inner child, so in order to find her, she started the house-cleaning with her own room… after all, most children love the game hide and seek.

-“By the way, what time exactly is this cosmic great event, vernal equinox going to happen this year?” she heard herself asking.

-“Three something in the afternoon.”

Feeling deeply grateful that her son wasn’t around, she celebrated the first night of the new year with the remaining members of his band. As though they were making up for the past, while together, they had another occasion for celebration too, their ‘exoneration’ from the accusation of participation in what is called ‘velvet revolution.’ The term automatically revived vividly the picture of the days of revolution, war and bombardment and a curious deep sensation of the idea that the days of revolutions are perhaps over as the monarchies have been fading away.

“How beautiful! Look, our last year’s Hyacinth is blooming and ha, these must be our last year’s Tulips or perhaps the Narcissus!”, she said out loud. And her daughter while rushing to see what she was so excited about responded “They say this year’s crop of hyacinths has not been very good. “

Yet, somehow the ‘happy pill’ of the joyful air of the New Year seemed not effective enough to wash away the past couple of years wares and tears . She felt a heavy weight on her chest most of the time. And expectedly-unexpectedly the heart broke on the second day of the new season.

– “Jug makers drink from a broken jar?” Ha?
Referring to an old Persian proverb, asked a cousin who had come to visit her after hearing the news…

-“Don’t you really want to go to the hospital? He asked.

She noticed how her daughter, as well as her mother and aunt who had come to the capital to bury a dear member of the family, were also anxiously waiting for her reply …

While pointing to her acupuncture machine next to her pillow and various herbal medicines as well as pinkish red pills of nitro-glycerine, she said:

-“Hopefully, the broken jar will repair itself!”

Inside, she felt deeply sad for not being able to join the family in grieving the loss of that old wise lady of the family.

There are times when “consciously chosen ignorance” seems a far less threatening risk than the ‘truth’ which may be too “bitter” to acknowledge. The old dilemma: How much should one know about the ‘prognosis’ of one’s illness, once again occupied her mind? For some odd reason she suddenly felt an urge to check the word prognosis in the dictionary: forecast, prediction, prospect, diagnosis, projection and she thought to herself, “Wow, what a meaningful simile: scenario!” And automatically these verses from Shakespeare’s Macbeth echoed in her mind’s ears:

Creep in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded days
While all your yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to the dusty death ,Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing

Deeply she preferred the good old days’ scenarios of acupuncture, herbs, rest and rest… to that of the conventional medicine of bypass or even open heart surgery.

As though reading her mind, they curiously demanded the reason.

– “In one word, because as long as one is not able to actively deal with the causing factors of one’s “stressful” life scenario, the risk of myocardial infarction would stay more or less the same.”

And in order to change the subject, she asked sarcastically, “Who do you think will win in the next presidency election?” And after listening for a while, she drew the blanket over her head pretending that she needed to rest.
Repeated telephone calls which kept waking her reminded the advantages of hospitalization. Every choice has its positive and negative sides.

Three whole days and nights were spent more or less entirely in sleep and if not in sleep, in automatic staring at the books lying on bookshelves around the room, particularly and curiously her first published book: Disease: A Message of Life often coming into her field of vision.

She had sensed that there was something not going right even before the appearance of the actual symptoms. The morbid vibrations of the capital, the deep feeling of empathy with her patients, the hopelessness she experienced in regard to the disease-oriented Western medical approach to the subject of health and diseases without disregarding the miracles it is capable of in cases of emergencies and surgery were among the main causing factors of her heart attack…

-“Last night I discovered how unfathomable the depth of my destitute is! I can’t even die for the sake of my young ‘poor’ son”…
…who grew up without his father as his father died of cancer of the kidneys when the boy was only one and half years old…-

She found herself silently continuing the possible thread of thought of her cousin, who made that heartbreaking confession, mostly because of a deep suffering caused by a painful bankruptcy, brought about by her naïve trust in some of her ‘dear old friends’ just a few days before the new year …

Having experienced this most powerful instinct of motherhood, she knew this instinct would find a way to give the mother the required strength and hope to deal with her agonizing suicidal situation…

Now, only a few days later, while struggling with death, this was more or less how she felt and what she said to herself.

-“After all, heart attacks can be a type of suicide in the sense that it shows one has failed to deal with one’s stressful life situation.”

– “Come on! How can you still blame the outside for your heart attack? You have been calling it yourself, have you not, you bloody chain-smoker? You, hopeless altruist humanitarian… You, the living martyr, the ‘crucified,’ Ecche Homo! And she went on and on recounting other important inner causing factors of her heart-attack.

-“What if they continue refusing to issue the required publication permit for her numerous translation? No income then…

-“You better immediately stop that thread of stressful thoughts!”
And immediately out of nowhere as though helping her to change the subject of her inner dialogue she felt an urge to know whether Einstein died before the advent of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or after that?

– “If after, then can’t this be the real reason for not spending a penny of his Noble Prize on himself?” She wondered.

– “Listen, you the most powerful force in the world, you ‘death…’ It is not that you weren’t there all this time. You have been hovering ever more closely above us in the past thirty years of revolution, war, bombardments, vast persecutions, executions, suffocation, suppression, oppression, destruction and the resulting hopelessness, helplessness, morbidity…”

-“Wow, Wow, Wow Wow, Calm Done! Where are these seemingly unending shootings come from? Besides, don’t forget, as nature and history both can attest there is always light after darkness…”

-“Oh, no! Give me five! Can you really still deceive yourself with such ‘facts’?”

-“Do you know of any other solution? If you are truthful in saying that you still don’t feel ready to die; then, the first thing you need most of all is Hope.”

Suddenly, the joyous singing of hajji firouz filled the air outside. A smile automatically bloomed on her lips imagining the time in ancient Persia when these now modern clown looking fake bards with their black painted faces were in fact real imbeciles elected by public vote to replace the ruling king in the last five days of the year, symbolizing the pre-creation chaos and disorder, just before the cosmos was born on the first Vernal Equinox of the universe.

– “I am the Victorious. You see me once a year…” was singing the haji firouz with his coarse voice of a beggar instead of a real bard of the ‘good old days.’

– “Even if you still feel a bit weak to go out, would you please make sure to throw out the wheat-seedlings” (see fn1) she heard her daughter saying as her daughter was leaving the house to spend the day outdoors, another ritual of the new year period since ancient time. They believed it was a bad omen if people did not throw those personally grown seedlings into running waters on this last day of Holy Days.

Once again she wondered what can distinguish believes from superstitions?

-“Come on! It is thirteen days that you have not put a step outside the house! It is a good way to begin the new life with a refreshed heart and enthusiasm and walk to the big dustbin outside to throw out the seedlings.

– “May illness, evil eyes, envy, greed, jealousy and as such do not touch their beings in this coming year…” she heard herself saying while throwing the seedling into the dustbin.

And with a deep sigh, she breathed in the fresh rejuvenating air of spring, feeling as one feels after coming home from a long adventurous journey to an unknown land.

To Mali Mostoufi who was my main motivation for writing about this ‘journey’.

sofreh haftsin: Literally meaning a table set with seven edible and non-edible things whose names start with the phonetic ‘S.’To begin with about a couple of weeks before the new year, housewives grow wheat-seedlings on a plate which should be covered with newly grown green seedlings by the time of new year. It symbolizes the realization of the wish of having a good harvest in the coming year. The dish is called Sabzeh, making the first ‘s.’ The other six are, garlic (sir), sumac, vinegar (serkeh), samanu (specially prepared cooked wheat-seedlings), wild olive (senjed), apple (sib). Other constituents are mirror, candle, a bowl of water with a couple of goldfish, coloured eggs, all various kind of cookies and pastries…


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 LANDON // Aug 13, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Good read, lots of quality information

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