On Separation and Words

I thought I’d turn the heat on. It was November 29th, so I’d almost made it to December without turning the heat on (except for that one time when I made sure I knew how to do it.) Back in Michigan we always try to make it until the first of October without turning the heat on. My bedroom in Michigan isn’t really heated anyways, so I thought I’d see how long I could make it. It hasn’t been too bad, about 10-15 C on average I would say. I’ve taken to wearing to stocking caps and sitting with blankets on. But I won’t turn the heat on, dammit!

But this was a solemn occasion. Graham had been here for a month and was leaving the next day, so we thought we should really sit comfortably for his last evening. It had been a nice day. I was able to escape school early and we met at a small Turkish restaurant near Taksim for Lahmacun and salgam suyu (tomato paste and salad on a pita, like a pizza, and turnip juice) for a late lunch.

We wandered around the side streets off of Istiklal in the evening, looking for a few last trinkets, stopping into a bookstore for tea, before picking up some snacks at the grocery store and heading back to my flat. It was a quiet evening, but quite pleasant. Settling down to a snack of cherry juice, tomatoes and cucumbers and enjoying the warmth of the recently turned on heater, we watched a film and played a few rounds of chess before turning in for the night (after turning the heat back off, of course.)

I leave the apartment every day at 7 to catch the metro and service bus to get to my 8am lessons. Graham had to make it to the airport for a 10am flight, so he was leaving with me. I’ve settled in to a decent morning routine: let the water heat up for a scrub down as I make my coffee, fry a couple of eggs and eat corn flakes, scrub myself clean, try to look presentable, and stumble into the cold, grey Istanbul morning air. Normally Graham hasn’t been getting up with me, but as I was stirring the coffee pot, Graham suggested that we fry up some vegetables with some eggs. I was occupied with the coffee (which is much more important, by the way), so I let Graham deal with this feast he had in mind. I was a bit perplexed by his reasoning, it being ten after 6 and all. I stirred the coffee and looked on as he chopped tomatoes, onions and peppers, and I was sure that we’d be leaving with a pan of a barely cooked feast. I hardly have time for my corn flakes and eggs in the mornings, what the hell was he thinking?! I almost wished for this feast plan to fail so that I could declare the superiority breakfast simplicity.

But sure enough, by half past 6, our feast was frying away and we gobbled it down quick as we could. Now this is something I’d never be able to pull off. First of all, the motivation necessary at 6am requires some sense of necessity for such a grandiose meal. Corn flakes and an egg or two isn’t a great meal, but it suits me just fine and is enough to hold me over until time for my 2TL lunch at school.

I don’t think I could pull off such a meal, either. There’s no way I could escape the time restrictions of having to be out the door in a few minutes. But Graham’s always had a knack for weaseling through restrictions that ensare others. Moving to Oregon without a job or place of residence? Not to worry, things will sort themselves out. And they have. I’m not sure how he’s acquired these skills, but they’ve served him well. Our mother always tells him that he lives a charmed life. Not that he feels the same, of course.

We finished our meal and each readied ourselves for our days of teaching or traveling, immersed in our reflections on the past month and the indefinite period until our next reunion. As Graham gathered his last few scattered things into his satchel and laced his boots up, preparing himself for his next adventures, I thought the occasion called for some Rumi, and read the opening passage from the Mathnawi before we headed out the door.

On Separation and Words

Listen to the reeds as they sway apart;

hear them speak of lost friends.
At birth, you were cut from your bed,
crying and grasping in separation.
Everyone listens, knowing your song.
You yearn for others who know your name,
and the words to your lament.
We are all the same, all the same, longing
to find our way back;
Back to the one, back to the only one.

Everywhere I told my story;
to the sad and the happy.
Everyone came close, but only
with their own secrets, never knowing mine.
My secret is hidden also from me,
for the light shines only outward.
The body and soul are intimate friends
but the soul remains secret from us all.
The sounds of the reed are like fire not wind,

and without knowing this fire we are nothing
The fire of the reed is the fire of Love,
the passion and beat of Love is in the wine.

This reed bends to spent lovers and friends;

its song and its words break the veil,

both danger and delight. Satyr and repletion,

the reed engorges and depletes, both.

The sensible are def, though the mindless listen,

the tongue wags only for the ear.

Our sadness spreads the days short, for time

walks hand-in-hand with painful thoughts and fears.

But let those loathsome days go by, who cares?

Stay in the moment, that holy moment,

your only moment, until the next – holier still.

We are thirsty fish in His blissful water,

like the starving buried in the feast of His sustenance.

So young our understanding, so mature

our surrounding – say less, learn more, depart.

All sons break free!

When will you let go your ambitions?

How much of the ocean fills your jar?

More than a day?

But the eye – never full –

yearns more than the heart – replete,

The oyster shell forms the pearl only

when already filled.

Only the garment of love banishes desire and defect,

the panacea of ills,

As the garden-flowers fade, the bird’s song dies.

The Beloved contains, the lover invades,

for the Beloved ignites the lover’s pyre.

If love recalls, the lover swoops to the ground.

How blind my eyes when Her light is extinguished?

How will you see in the mirror

if the dust is so thick?

Love commands the word

for this is the marrow of your eyes.

Godspeed, Graham. Come back soon and let’s make up some more scramblers.

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