Valentine’s Day 2017 (on dealing with non-expectations)

Is there anything in Me
That can’t be fixed by a cup of tea?

Ugh. So yesterday was another busy day of homeschooling. And. Wanting some comfort, I turned to my cache of tea boxes bought from Germany last summer. Only to discover that creeping crawling insects had invaded most of them. So now I’m throwing them away. Ack! The meandering thoughts they would have inspired while being sipped! Alas, adieu was the order of the day …

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Some of the tea that I threw away … and they cost more than four times as much here in the UAE!

Anyway, I had a most pleasant surprise yesterday. Like I wrote before, we don’t normally celebrate Valentine’s Day so I was not expecting anything nor taking the hubby’s mutterings about not having a present for yours truly seriously. Truly. I can’t remember if he ever gave me a rose before we were married. (In fairness, he started giving roses after we were married and it was only last month that he gave me tulips) 

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Sadly, these tulips wilted within two days of purchase

So. He took youngest son out for a haircut. And returned with these and an apology that they were the best he could find in our desert town.

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I’d seen them advertised on Facebook and thought “Who would ever give those kind of roses to their dearly beloved!” I couldn’t help it – I laughed. And told him he need not have bothered – there were roses aplenty in our garden. Thereupon he articulated his hurt and vowed never to give another Valentine’s Day gift again.

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One of the rose varieties that grows in sandy soil – these are not sweet-smelling

Realizing that I’d crushed his delight in giving (not to mention jeopardized all future chances of ever receiving a Valentine’s Day gift again), I immediately sought to rectify my thoughtlessness. Articulating my gratitude, I remained mum concerning the box of chocolates that accompanied the rose. Though really, my first thought was “Oh no, are you sabotaging my calorie counting?

Anyway, I’ve since then been enlightened by Joe Carter’s piece on How to Write a Love Letter.” He says

Being in love has nothing to do with being reasonable. In fact, love requires that you make completely irrational choices. If we didn’t there would be no romance, no second marriages, and no jewelry stores.

So maybe purchasing a long-lasting rose is unreasonable, irrational  and downright corny. Yeah. When I think about it, what rose is supposed to last a whole year? Still … after all the busyness of yesterday and the middling musings on life and marriage that kept me awake till one in the morning, I finally found a way to allay the hubby’s hurt (who knew men could be so onion-skinned?) and express my appreciation for his selflessness throughout the year… by finally writing the dedication/Christmas greeting in the book that I gave him for Christmas. I’d asked him to read it prior to reading the book and was perplexed to find that I’d never written it. Who knew I could be unreasonable and irrational to ask someone to read something I’ve never written?

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Honestly, I don’t know whether to feel gratified that hubby is turning romantic as he ages or mortified at the thought that we’ve now been swept into the tide of crass commercialism of a day commemorating the gruesome death of a Christian martyr. No one needs a special day to convey his/her love when it’s communicated everyday, eh?

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Image Source: The Idealist on FB

Belated Heart’s Day from the sands of Arabia!

Expectation

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Daily Prompt: Anticipation

Okay, so Madam’s death squeezed out all motivation to post for the longest time. A pet’s death, however, doesn’t dry creative juices completely. Just as Billy Joel says in his song, “there would still be music left to write”  if only because life goes on despite what one is feeling.

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So. Going through my emails today, I was so excited to learn that yesterday’s Daily Prompt was “Anticipation.” I haven’t participating in The Daily Prompt for some time. But. Anticipation is the only the word that describes my state of mind right now. The church which we have hosted for the longest time (nearly ten years to be exact) is due to move out in a month or so. And all I can now do is imagine our house having more space. And what not.

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That’s a Kitty Meijering printed canvass I found in the Philippines (okay, it’s probably a fake but KM is one of my fave artists)

It’s so hard to put everything into words right now because interior decorating is a part-time hobby of mine due to the fact that it is a very expensive one at that. Plus. It takes me ages and ages to conceptualize and think about where to place furniture and what furniture to use/buy for a particular need.

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For example, the hubby right now is using the top of a shoe rack in our kitchen as a countertop for his coffeemaker. That is going to change, of course, not least because he’s been making noises about it, ha, ha.

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One thing’s for sure: we need more shelves for our growing library.

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Anyway, I’ve been looking at the current and present IKEA catalogs and my cache of color-coordinated bric-a-bracs, wall decor, table covers, sofa covers, cushion covers, curtains, etc … The last time I changed our color scheme was 17 months ago in June 2015 when I adopted the color purple.

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Ugh. Now I realize I didn’t take pics of our house with the purple curtains, carpets, etc … except for the one below.

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Anyway, the photos here do not show our current living situation which right now is very messy since I’ve been “springcleaning” soon after the end of our homeschooling year. They’re how our house looked like two Christmases ago. Meanwhile, anticipation beats steadily through my days …

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 Anticipation

In memoriam

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Farewell, furried friend
Though I cannot comprehend.
Tears may fall
At your sudden call
This I know
I cannot show
Life’s bitter clause
Rent by your claws
For all we fear
Grab things held dear
Blistering
A tearing of the heart
When the heavens part.

 

Keeper of my dreams

Keeper of my dreams
At your altar do I bring
All my person’s pride and pain
And a sinner’s dross and shame.

Keeper of my dreams
Gladly do I give you everything:
The fears and tears of yesteryears –
Free them, please, on an angel’s wings.

Keeper of my dreams
To you I surrender all heartaches
Carry me so my soul won’t break
Strengthen me for thy Spirit’s sake.

Keeper of my dreams
Gently sew these tattered seams
Of long dormant desires and whims
Into a garment of psalms and hymns.

Dimly through the world I see, 
Dreary though my life may be – 
Forever will a praise I sing,
Seeking not a blessing
But the strength to come shining through;
Clutching at your hand as children do
Clinging to nothing else but you:
       Tender keeper of my dreams.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Landscape

I haven’t participated in the Weekly Photo Challenge in a l-o-n-g time. For a blog with the the word desert included in the title, it has long seemed to me that I ought to incorporate more photos of the desert.

Having lived here for nearly one-fourth of my life, here are the photos that have been stored away (meaning: forgotten) in my archives (physical photo albums are so much better at reminding us of our past). 

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<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/landscape/”>Landscape</a&gt;

The Waste Land

When the children were smaller, I looked forward to spring because I always woke up to a rainbow across the white rice cooker in the kitchen. Since I started to garden, however, spring’s association with renewed life and all its extant hopes have all but died. While residents in temperate countries look forward to coming out of winter to a world filled with color, here in the Levant residents literally feel the summer heat even before the first of April. In recent years, April marks the start of a drought of garden blooms. It’s when the gardener uproots the dried stalks of zinnias and other flowers that sparked joy through the cold months of December, January and February.

Lately, the dreariness that April brings has been compounded by grief over friends who leave. Last year a dear friend flew away on April 8. This year another close friend is returning home for good at the end of the month. Who, I wonder, will leave next April?

Perhaps it was fitting then that the month of April began with rain, an anomaly considering that our section of the desert receives rain only once or twice a year and we’d already gotten several days’ worth in early March. Thus when T.S. Eliot’s words popped up on my screen on April Fools’ Day, it seemed like an ironic and tasteless if not apt joke.

April is the cruellest month, breeding  (it sure is starting to feel that way)
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing  (my garden will soon be a dead land)
Memory and desire, stirring                 (why does memory always stir desire?)
Dull roots with spring rain.                   (April began with rain this year)
Winter kept us warm, covering            (winter blooms always warm me up)
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding         (ah snow – I’ve yet to experience that)
A little life with dried tubers.           (what I think of my existence: a little life)

Eliot’s The Waste Land, long considered a masterpiece of modern poetry, is a difficult poem to understand for its many allusions lost to post-modern readers and for the varying voices of its speaker (or the switch between different characters). That it is so long is also a turn-off. Its opening lines, however, grab readers – who, for example, thinks that April is the cruellest month? I sure didn’t until I lived in the desert. In my childhood, April meant lazy summer days spent reading and eating. In my adulthood, April meant continuing work.

There are poems that reveal themselves only after one has undergone an experience that enables one to comprehend, even though you know what it’s all about. Does that make sense? If it helps, I’ve harvested dried tubers from our backyard. Well, anyway, reading the first stanza two nights ago felt like a flash into one’s psyche. What serendipitySo I googled the rest even though I knew it was going to be a long read.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

The second stanza above has three biblical references, would you believe? I have no desire to go through a line-by-line or stanza-by-stanza analysis of the poem here even though there are many, many lines that grab me. Others have done it. Yes, Eliot’s depiction of man’s growing selfishness is a hard piece to follow or swallow since his view of man’s social and spiritual decay is not declared outright but via snippets of conversation (one of which is between two women in a pub discussing the other’s abortion) and scenes of everyday life (one of which is copulation between uninterested lovers as seen through the eyes of the poet Tiresias from Greek mythology).

Suffice it to say that if you’re in a blue mood, Eliot’s pensive, insightful prose can give comfort, yes, despite its desolate tone and gloomy critique of the world he lived in. Eliot’s despair at the collapse of Western civilization as it was before the Great War makes one pause and think that we, like Eliot’s generation, will return to a handful of dust someday and that we should strive to rise above a life that is a heap of broken images.

Then spoke the thunder
DA
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract

By this, and this only, we have existed

Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
DA
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
DA
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands
 
                                    I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam uti chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
                  Shantih     shantih     shantih

Lastly, isn’t it fascinating that after showing the decline of Western culture and referencing the Bible so many times, Eliot ends with the words Datta, Dayadham, Damyata? Taken from the Upanishads of the Hindu religion, they translate to give, show compassion and exercise self-control.

Does that mean Eliot believes that these tenets are the key to achieving Shantih, another Hindu word defined as the peace that passes understanding? Most probably – his deviance from the Bible (but not biblical principles, remember!) could mean that he was disillusioned at a religion long associated with the West for failing to arrest the decay of humankind into red sullen faces (that) sneer and snarl / from doors of mudcracked houses. Because of this, I personally don’t think The Waste Land ends on a slightly positive note as some readers believe.

PS. Blogging anonymously, I vacillate between having the public read my poems and the fear that Internet anonymity could lead to copyright infringement or worse, intellectual property theft. This being the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, I shall be unlocking the password-protected poems here for the month of April. Who knows, I might even publish one from my cache!

March thoughts: friendships and farewells

Well … this week has been an emotional roller coaster one for me. I hosted an Easter egg hunt the day following Resurrection Sunday. It should have been an eggs-ighting affair. But then. My friend’s special needs son tore up the roses that I’d gathered from the garden earlier that day. They  had smelled fabulous. Seeing them as garnishing for the grass, I was almost in tears. But. Roses are a poor excuse for turning on the taps. So I didn’t cry. I think we all had a wonderful time, though. After-dinner conversations after BBQs in the desert are always a delight.

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Meanwhile … there are times when my mind gets muddled up and I can’t think clearly to write. Right now is one of them. Because. A dear friend has just given notice that she and her husband will be leaving in one month’s time.

I don’t think anyone ever gets used to farewells. Saying goodbye is a fact of life yet still, when they happen, life gets depressing in a way that no length of notice ever prepares you for.

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Breakfast with my friend who is leaving and two other friends, Spring 2015

If ever there’s a constant to expat life, especially in the UAE where the local population hovers at only 22%,  it is saying good-bye. I don’t know about others but doing it often enough just. does not. get me inured against missing someone’s presence. And. I know. That I will miss my friend terribly. Because ….

This time last year I was steeling myself to live the coming days in the absence of a friend whose baked goodies arrived whenever I had a cry in the loo. How did she know when I needed cheering up? I don’t know. I don’t announce when I’ve wept buckets down the toilet. But real friends … they have this uncanny ability to sense another’s burden.

My friend who is leaving – she’s older than I am. She’s the one who has been privy to all my secrets, my hurts, my fears through all these years … heck, she’s the one who tells me I’m ugly without make-up! I know that if friends arrive bearing food, it was at her instigation. When I declined an invitation to join our church ladies’ plan to go on a restaurant cruise, she – being the treasurer – paid for an extra seat then coerced me into coming along, knowing that I’d enjoy it as a treat away from the kids.

But perhaps I should not let this wave of melancholy wash over even as I feel that staying connected via texts and FB is a poor substitute for face-to-face communication. Reunions happen. Just last week we, the hubby and I, had a lovely time having coffee in the garden with a couple who flew back to our town after returning home for good two years ago. They  had accepted our invitation to stay behind after service even though they were scheduled to travel to Abu Dhabi with their four kids the following morning. While our children bounced up and down the trampoline, I asked questions:

How do you feel about the influx of refugees to your country? They answered in the affirmative. Would you feel that way had you not lived here and interacted with them? Both husband and wife shook their heads. We went on to talk about other sundry matters. Child discipline. Angela Merkel. House renovations. Raising boys. Christian living. After they left, I gave thanks for the experience then reflected on how much we are all the same even though we have different skin colors. How much we are all enriched whenever we reach out and exchange ideas with others! This last was an especially meaningful insight since the hubby had dragged me to a meet-up with people whom I didn’t know just days before this reunion.

A week or two ago, I learned a new word courtesy of The Artidote:

pistanthrophobia
n. the fear of trusting people due to past experiences and relationships gone bad.

My first reaction was “So this is it!” It was a relief to finally put a word to an emotion that has been with me for so long yet remained unnamed.

It’s another fact of life that as you grow older, some friends fall by the wayside. I don’t wish to elaborate further on this except to say that some experiences make you treasure those friends who have proven time and again to be real. Yes, there will be times when you’re pissed off with one another, times to cool off until a day when the warmth returns as if nothing has happened. Right now, even as I ready my mind not to see another friend who will be leaving in three months’ time, all I can think of is …

This friend … she’s real. That’s why I treasure her. We’ve both gone through cycles of cooling off, yes. Funny thing is, when I first met her, I didn’t think we’d hit it off. But then, my friendships are always like that. Those individuals who’ve become close because of shared values and interests are usually those who gave first impressions that turned me off.

In a murderous time
     the heart breaks and breaks
             and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
     through dark and deeper dark
             and not to turn.
                                  Stanley Kunitz, The Testing Tree

Ten years ago, I cried a whole day when the family of a friend immigrated to the US. Several months later, I wept for another day when another family left. To avoid the pain of separation, I told myself one must not get close enough to people. But then life happens. Without knowing it, certain individuals – some with quirks you can’t even tolerate in your children or husband – sneak unnoticed into the heart. And expat life does not help. Living so far away from home, one’s walls tumble down over time.

Even as I write this, I know that the symphony of life will continue, the music cresting in moments that catch us unaware till their passing. The coming months will bring new people into my life, some of whom will creep into the heart unknowingly until one day one realizes that they have become friends who – as Marie Kondo so aptly puts it – spark joy.

In the meantime, I will read. Because. Books remain the only unchanging (material) constant in this ever shifting world of mine.

The words you can’t find, you borrow. We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. 
                                                 Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

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Comfort food for the mind