Category Archives: Personal

Leaving home: two weeks in Turkey

In shallow Tuz Golu (Salt Lake)

In shallow Tuz Golu (Salt Lake)

We’re back from two wonderful weeks in Turkey, a trip we’d thought about taking for some time. Funny thing about me, though, as much as I’d looked forward to the trip, the week before leaving, I could hardly bear the thought of it. Whatever possessed us? and similar thoughts bothered me while I made lists and packed and counted down to departure. H. laughed at me, because it happens every time. I’m such a homebody, that’s the fact of it, and in a strange and completely unnecessary way I feel as  long as one of us is here–in this particular house we call home–our lives and our children’s will keep orbiting as they should. (The children will laugh at this too, for they’ve all circled their own places for years by now!) The minute we’re off the driveway, I’m fine. Nothing I can do about it now, I think, and since there really isn’t, I leave physically and mentally and I don’t worry about the house either.

Now we’re back, and this happens too: we’re in a daze and still overwhelmed by this thing that was two weeks in Turkey, both of us dreaming strange dreams about it nights–for which we can probably blame jet lag–and finding ourselves stuttering to answer friendly questions about how it was and highlights and so on. How was it? Great. A fascinating country. So many layers of history. So much beauty. Diversity. An excellent guide. Highlights? Istanbul, the Ataturk mausoleum, Cappadocia, Antalya, the Mediterranean Sea, Aspendos, Gallipoli, minarets (the basic shape, the variety). And more.

But the what. I’ve been thinking about the what of travel: what it is, what it does. We had some time to kill in Toronto on the way over, so I sat there googling combinations of home and travel and leaving one’s center–the stuff that always exercises me before I leave, per above–because I thought perhaps it was high time to figure out (again) why this venture had, in fact, possessed us. (Like that woman walking the Camino de Santiago who said, “They told me I’d find the answer here. Then I realized I didn’t have the question!)

I landed at quotes by travel writer Pico Iyer, and he was going on about travelling to lose ourselves and travelling to find ourselves and he said “home lies in the things you carry with you everywhere and not the ones that tie you down,” and he also said, “the state of foreignness is the closest thing I know to home.” Well, maybe for him, but for me, nope, nope, nope, and nope. But then he said (in the row of quotes, that is) that we travel to open our hearts and we come with our ignorance and we “become young fools again” and we “get taken in” and “fall in love,” all of which sounded plausible enough.

I think it’s a lot like reading a really gripping book and when you lift your head from the last page you realize it’s dusk and the house is cold, that’s how thoroughly elsewhere you’ve been.  Or watching a powerful movie and you step out of the theatre stunned and disoriented, and then you think about the story for days. Book or movie, it touches you and takes you in new directions, in terms of your inner life or knowledge or actions. You’ve been immersed in another story, not your own. But then when you’re done with it and home again in your life, you discover that other story has come along and is part of you.

IMG_4516

Oh to be as wise and witty and holy a fool as Nasreddin Hodya, Turkey’s legendary trickster figure!

Travel (for me) leaves home. Lines of coaches disgorging tourists with their cameras and varying degrees of ignorance and misperception can be caricatured easily enough, but nevertheless, a tour is a narrative, a choreography of getting on and off and looking and listening and eating and sleeping, of landscape and ruins and wonders and other people, a story of short intense chapters, and it’s not the home-ness of it that renders it so compelling, but the un-homeness of it all, the wrenching away into another account of life altogether. Love, like Iyer said, and its “heightened state of awareness.” Then it’s over, and you’re home, and you realize you’re still in thrall to it, you’ve been taken in, you were younger for a while. Young happy fools, you are, beguiled by the complex story of another place, which you’ll be thinking about for quite some time.

———-

Below, if you’re interested, 16 photos as a tiny peek into our trip, along with the reason I selected each.

This is a view of Istanbul from Topakapi Palace, and I think the reason I especially like it is because it's not a very good photo, technically, but for that reason it looks kind of painterly and (to me) magical and mysterious.

Because this view of Istanbul from the Topakapi Palace isn’t quite focused properly or it was hazy or something, but to me it looks kind of painterly and mysterious, even otherworldly.

The woman on the right, in this mosaic in Hagia Sophia? Empress Zoe. Because I want to learn more the her and sister Theodora. Two powerful women, but friends, it seems, they were not. not.

Because I’m curious about the woman on the right of this mosaic in Hagia Sophia, Empress Zoe, and her sister Theodora: powerful women, I gather, and also powerful rivals.

I don't care for Turkish Delight, actually, but it certainly looks appealing. I wonder if C.S. Lewis was being subconsciously or consciously racist by having Edmund switch loyalties to Aslan all for the taste of Turkish Delight?

Because, while I’m not fond of Turkish Delight,it certainly looks appealing.At Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.  (Sudden thought: Was C.S. Lewis being subconsciously or consciously racist by having Edmund switch loyalties from Aslan to the White Witch over his desire for Turkish Delight in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”?)

Because I love this scene of three older women reading in a window nook in Bursa's Grand Mosque. I see private devotion but a sense of community, peace, ease, beauty. H.  grabbed this for me on his cellphone at a bit of a remove after I spotted and had watched them awhile.

Because I love this scene of three older women reading in a window nook in Bursa’s Grand Mosque. I see individual devotion but community too, concentration, intention, purpose, beauty. H. grabbed this for me on his cell at a bit of a remove after I had spotted and was intrigued by them.

IMG_4536

Because the mausoleum of Turkey’s “father founder” Ataturk is impressive, and because I love the color of the stone. Like earth and grain and sun all mixed together.

IMG_4539

Because you see pictures of him –Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey–everywhere.

IMG_4624

Because it’s Goreme, site of the fascinating rock chapels, in Cappadocia, and because the guy lower right was part of our group. (Tourists like to buy hats),

Because this Turkey trip was our 40th wedding anniversary to each other, and here we are, so far so good, at the family grouping in the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys, Cappadocia.

Because this Turkey trip was our 40th anniversary gift to each other, and here we are, so far so good, at the family grouping in the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys, Cappadocia.

Because this old Roman theatre at Aspendos was amazing. (We saw a lot of ruins, most of them more ruined than this, however.)

Because this old Roman theatre at Aspendos was amazing. (We saw a lot of ruins, most of them more ruined than this, however.)

Perge. Because we really did see a lot of evacations and ruins of earlier civilizations.

Because we really did see a lot of evacations and ruins of earlier civilizations. These are Roman and at Perge, I believe.

Because this street scene in Antalya is so pretty, and the weather was so nice, and it was a leisurely, happy day.

Because this scene in Antalya was so pretty, and the weather was warm and sunny and it was a day at leisure in which we wandered around the narrow streets of Old Town and made some interesting discoveries and later that day, swam in the Mediterranean Sea.

IMG_4782

Because it’s the Mediterranean Sea and I grew up on its blue on Sunday school maps, and now I was in it, here, at Antalya.

Because I like biblical Philip, and this, apparently, is his tomb; in Hierapolis.

Because I like biblical Philip, and this, apparently, is his tomb; in Hierapolis.

Because the war memorials at Gallipoli -- both Turkish and Anzac -- were emotional (feelings of both sadness and anger) and I'm always interested in what families chose as epitaphs.

Because the war memorials at Gallipoli — both Turkish and Anzac — were emotional (feelings of both sadness and anger) and I’m interested in what families chose as epitaphs for their dead sons.

Because I'm still smiling over this one: she was an old woman, clearly, an old, hardworking, peasant woman, when she suddenly whipped out a cell phone to answer it and sat down to chat. But why not? Why shouldn't she have a cell phone before I do?

Because I’m still smiling over this one: she was an old woman, clearly, an old, hardworking, peasant woman, when she suddenly whipped out a cell phone to answer it and sat down to chat. But why not? Why shouldn’t she have a cell phone before I do?

Because minarets feature  so frequently, these two, for example, from a mosque on the Bosporous.

Because minarets feature so frequently. These two, for example, from a mosque on the Bosporous.

18 Comments

Filed under Personal, Travel

The experience of being honored

Besides celebrating our 40th anniversary last Sunday (Aug. 10) with food and conversation and stories and a slide show that still chokes me up a little, some awfully nice things were said to and about us in that public setting. Our children spoke generously and touchingly, and H. and I had the opportunity to give tribute to one another.

Later, we talked privately about the powerful effect this experience of being honored has had on our spirits. I find myself still moving within the effect of it, in fact, as if in awe, and have been wondering how to describe it. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Personal, Uncategorized

Anticipation

I’m re-reading Middlemarch by George Eliot in anticipation of Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch, waiting for me on the reserve shelf at the library. I plan to get into that book post my finish of the base book, and post the celebration of our 40th anniversary with family and friends this coming Sunday. All our children and grandchildren will soon be spilling into this house from parts east and west for about a week, and yes, we’ve got enough beds and mattresses for the 15 of us. More on that event, perhaps, in a future post. Though maybe not. I’ve already gushed some nostalgic tears, picking photos for the slide show and listening to the songs they’ll be set to. Generally I find it hard to put into words the deepest and most familial of joys. Or maybe I just like to hold them private. But about the books, for sure, later in August.

But this note to say I’m having a lovely summer, my novel manuscript revisions done and me in full break from writing and the weather quite glorious, the birds frequent to the feeder and bath for their pleasure and ours as we watch, and the tomatoes ripening, and the pink-purple petunias sprawling fuller over the balcony railing of the front porch than any year yet. I’m full of anticipation and I feel blessed.

sc0014f93dP.S. A quote from Middlemarch‘Fred’s studies are not very deep,’ said Rosamund, rising with her mamma, ‘he is only reading a novel.’

I guess Fred wasn’t reading Middlemarch; it’s a fine, deep book.

4 Comments

Filed under Books, Personal

Does the First World War belong to me?

The first question Susan Sanford Blades asked me in an e-mail interview about “Mask” was, Was this story informed at all by any of your personal experience (via family etc.) with the war? (“Mask,” which will appear in The Malahat Review this summer, concerns the repercussions of an English soldier’s facial injury in the First World War.) A perfectly appropriate question, perfectly innocent, about the story’s origin. When I read it, however, I reacted with an inner gasp of panic. Does the First World War actually belong to me? 

It had never occurred to me to me that it didn’t, but in that moment, before I went on to answer Susan, it loomed large. Did it belong enough, that is, for me to use it in a story?    Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Personal, Writing

A bow to the past in Kansas

In the spirit of the rather fitful reporting to which this blog has devolved, I’m here this Monday afternoon to say that I was away four days in Kansas, hanging out with historians and archivists. (I believe I’ve mentioned before that these are some of my favorite people.) I’m on the Historical Commission of the Mennonite Brethren (MB) denomination, which meets once a year, rotating between the four archival centers in Kansas, California, B.C., and Manitoba. We hear reports from the centers, undertake various publishing projects (including both scholarly and popular history–last year’s was the fascinating mystery-biography, It Happened in Moscow by Maureen Klassen, which has sold astonishingly well), sponsor research grants and an archival internship, and occasionally plan symposiums, all to foster the preservation of, study of, and reflection on our history. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Mennnonite Brethren, Personal

The strong memory of places

House on Kildonan Drive, Jane's Walk 2014

House on Kildonan Drive, Jane’s Walk 2014

H. and I participated in one of Winnipeg’s 24 Jane’s Walks* this weekend: the one along Kildonan Drive North.  It was a chilly, rather overcast day, but a large group of us gathered to wander along a river street associated with North Kildonan’s rich or famous—names familiar to the Mennonite settlement here like Henry Redekop, A.A. DeFehr, George Janzen, Henry Krahn, and  those connected to pioneering and municipal leadership like J.M. Morton and Angus Matheson McKay. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Daily life, Personal

A baby, a novella

20140411-IMG_5769A second set of sticky notes about books is nearly ready to post, as promised, but I’m going to interrupt that brief series with two recent happenings in my life.

First was the birth of another granddaughter! I visited the family in B.C. for ten days, to help as best I could in a busy household with a new baby and returned with warm memories of the lovely child (who bears the distinguished name Honor) and many memories of the other children as well. Choice sayings by the nearly-three-year-old, for example, moments of closeness initiated by a child who tends to self-containment, and so on. Things a grandparent gathers and chuckles over or ponders upon. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal, Writing