Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Tuesday Report -- Moments

I never tire of sunrise at Spa for the Soul
It's Tuesday. My Tuesday Report, well, it hasn’t happened much since Christmas. This Tuesday finds us in Alaçatı, a little town on the Çeşme peninsula west of Izmir. At one time this area was part of Greece and the town is being restored. Architecturally it doesn’t feel a bit like Turkey, and our host for the renovated Greek villa to which we’ve retreated is Italian.
Lovely retreat space. Feeling treasured.

For today, a writing exercise. I want to describe moments that have arrested my attention enough that I revisit them. I notice and attend the movements they suggest. My effort is to write them so that a reader can feel the spaces, can enter them. Different that simply telling what happened. If you like, you can let me know if it works.

And being with Curt never gets old....

Last week. The damp Monday morning follows another night of drenched bedcovers and dark dreams.  Concerned for my restless health, Curt had prepared my prayer place with candles and incense before I came down. Mugs of rich coffee in hand we sit together puzzling over the order and desire for coming days. A few days wander in lands west of us? Design elements of a new glass room off the kitchen? Should we or shouldn’t we? If we should, then how should we?
Candles and incense at dawn

We move through the kitchen and through the French doors to the terrace. We pace the wet stone yet again, and pray. “Two levels," I say. "The step up will come across just here.” My hands wave a line from the stone wall to the side of the house. I point to the beat up old plastic table. “See how that fits? There’s enough room.” “One step up here,” in the middle of my line. “Then,” crossing dirt to the upper corner, “we’ll just need two steps out to the back where the barbeque will be. If we do separate levels it will minimize the size of the stairs. Small woodstove in the back corner. Two easy chairs up; small table and chairs down.” 

I love Curt’s presence. He is here, every morning, every day for--what is it now? Ten months since he retired.  

Steps toward decision. Curt heads upstairs for his prayer. The sky-roof of heavy grey gives way to puffs of grey against bright white. Faster wisps drift eastward over the sea and sunny patches begin their play around "my" islands.

Mid-JanuaryTwelve women walk up the dirt track in twos and threes chatting and savoring the air. Pleasure in being together, and in striding outdoors. First through piney woods, and later across open yayla where shepherds graze their sheep. Everyone pauses. They watch, and take photos. “The Lord is my shepherd; I lack for nothing. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters...." The theme for our weekend together is here made tangible, for we can hear it, see it, smell it. Rain in the air, puddles in the field, dogs alert for strays and intruders. 

A short scramble up through rocky scrub and we stand on a 500 meter cliff. Kaş, the sea, and its islands spread below us. Calm and flat. The sky is dark with gray cloud cover, but sunbeams break through to play with the edges of Meis, that Greek island just offshore. Exclamations of delight rise around me. They sound like awe and wonder. Then cameras and phones whip out to snap the play of clouds and light.

I settle onto a boulder to savor the drama that spreads below me. The rest return phones and cameras to pockets, gather themselves into a couple of circles, and carry on with the chat. Most with backs to the magnificence and space.

My silent awe seems a bubble alone. 
Another window into wonder from a hike we did a few days ago

Written in the middle of an angry-and-hurt night. I pick up the ipod or the TV remote to let go the need-tos and I-shoulds of the day. Just one show, or a game or two before returning to more mindful occupations. My muscles relax and sink into sofa cushions as I let go responsibility.  For a while I celebrate the freedom. But then, just outside my conscious self, darkness closes in around the shiny surface and I am once again captive to the stimulus of just-one-more. Just one more win and I'll stop; let's see if the pattern continues; argh, dumb mistake, one more try; just one more episode--until moments have become hours. All the while mind and heart muttering together the frustration of again succumbing to bondage, the mystery of being so helpless to simply lay it down, and the why-demand angry and condemning the silly old woman that has put herself in this place--again. 

Empty pleasures that separate me from Jesus. From community. From me.

Another Tuesday. The gate rattles. Ayşe ascends the 40 stone stairs to the entry. She’s laboring to climb them today. Every step measured. Compact and, well, heavy, this 39-year old mother of a nearly grown son has lived in this village all her life. When she was still a little girl she walked the two hours up the mountain to the old school in Gökçeoren. That was when Gökseki was just olive groves and winter grazing for that upland community. A difficult thing for a little girl, but then she didn't have to do it for long because her father decided four years of school was enough and kept her home to work after that.

She puts in a hefty workday on her Tuesdays here. Five floors, six bathrooms, 36 windows and French doors plus two rooms that are all glass on three sides is a lot to make shiny. "Günaydın, canım! Nasılsın?" I inquire. "İyiiYİMMM!" Strong expression: she’s GOOD! Her eyes dance and her plump cheeks glow.

I think an angel just entered my house.

Not the typical approach to language study. Çiğdem comes over three morning a week to help me with Turkish. I have her drill me with numbers, times, dates and prices. We find pictures full of stuff for me to describe and plan pretend trips so I can give directions and read airline timetables. She corrects, and pushes for speed and accuracy. She chooses numbers with lots of “1” and “8” because I so often get those wrong. We give each other vocabulary and grammar words and make up sentences so I can experiment with how new words are used. We tell stories of our past and our children and our hopes for the future. We share journal entries.

And to practice commands, body parts and locations, we exercise. “Touch your toes!” Verb tense of command, vocabulary of body parts, possessive construction. “Touch your right ear with your left hand! Run to the corner next to the lamp.” Try saying THAT in Turkish!

Today I've got her on the floor for planks and push-ups. New tricks. Unfamiliar body postures to this woman accustomed to the genuflection of Islamic prayers. "Popon aşağı koyarsın. Böyle." I demonstrate. But Çiğdem doesn't get the flat-body part. Can't keep her backside down. "Duz!" I shout. She planks, then her backside pops right back up. "Popon aşağı koy! POPON AŞAĞI!"

Two middle-aged women collapse on the rug in fits of giggles.

Endings. The day’s work is done. It is long past January dark, and we are full with our dinner. Outside the wind is wild and cold. The trees shudder, and furniture on three balconies and the roof-top terrace rocks and taps and slides. But Curt has a fire going in the woodstove. I relax into the red leather of the old sofa, with feet up and showing from under the throw. Bare. Warm. My toes wiggle. Candles in colorful Turkish lanterns reflect patterns on the wall. The fire dances behind the stove glass. Something nice to drink is at hand.

Toes wiggle again. Warm. Free. Happy. Joy wells. Curt beside me. Good work completed. Bare toes. Liberated toes. Overwhelmed by goodness, by peace and joy.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you; the Lord life up His countenance to you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26