Sholeh Zard and Philosophy

So, I am turning a year older this weekend. I don't particularly wish to be reminded of it, not so much because I care that I am older, but because the extra attention usually embarrasses me! All day today I had to stay home and prepare an important project for a deadline. My kids went to celebrate their youth and Mir Hossein (our cat) and I spent the evening together, where I worked and he took a nap! Just to take advantage of the time, and also to prepare a dessert to take to my friends' house tomorrow night, I started making Sholeh Zard.* Here's a picture of my work in progress as of 30 minutes ago.
My cousin, Azar, had called and left me a message yesterday. She said she had dreamt of my mother. She said my mother had been in a lavish party in my house, where everyone was very happy, celebrating something. All day today I remembered my mother and missed her, but was happy to know that she is with me. I'm not sure what my mother was celebrating, but I am sure of what I celebrate in my home tonight. I celebrate a life full of wonderful experiences, good friends, loving family, and hope. Yeah, I have noticed the double chin and the small wrinkles around my eyes, too! But hey, those are my medallions which remind me just how long I have been around with all the different chances I have had at a good life. For the new year in my life, as in the year past, I don't wish for things and money. I wish for health and peace on earth. I wish for freedom for Iran and for hope for America. Things which are priceless and which can make for more hopeful nations. Hopeful nations can achieve anything. That's my wish.
*I looked for Sholeh Zard recipes in English. There were tens of options available, but none of them seemed to quite prepare it like I do. This one is the least different from how I prepare it.


Nostalgic Today

I found this sweet video clip and I would like to share it with you. A Canada-based band named HamAva has performed Simin Ghanem's 1975 song, Parandeh, The Bird. It is a really beautiful song, full of personal nostalgia for me. The singer does a very good job of singing a song originally performed by what must be one of the most powerful female voices in the history of Iranian music. She doesn't take chances with an imitation, but stays true to the music, sounding sweet and vulnerable. I searched for this HamAva band, but couldn't find anything on them. If any of my friends in Canada know about them, please do share

If you want, you can listen to the original rendition of this song by Simin Ghanem here. Believe it or not, this song was written by Hassan Shamaizadeh. What has happened to that great music man?! How come we never hear songs like this from him any more? This is all we hear from him these days! Nothing wrong with it, but he is capable of so much more. I mean there are thousands of composers who can write this, but not nearly enough who can write this. Just wondering!


History Written on Clay

I went to listen to Professor Matthew Stolper's very engaging lecture about the Persepolis tablets at UC Berkeley this afternoon. What a nice and funny man this very distinguished scholar is!

Since I posted my earlier blog about the lecture, I have heard from a very interesting man by the name of Mr. Charles Ellwood Jones. It is an honor to find out about people who have so much interest in Iranian heritage which is now really world heritage. In his profile, Mr. Jones says: "I am the Librarian at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU. From July 2005 to February 2008 I was the Head Librarian at the Blegen Library of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Before moving to Athens I spent twenty-two years as the Librarian at the Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago."

You can follow news about the Persepolis tablets and developments in the case through Persepolis Fortification Archive Project's blogs here. Before I left I told Professor Stolper how proud I was of his life's work, dedicated to research about Iran, thanking him for all his hard work.


UC Berkeley Lecture: Embattled Tablets

You can't love Iran and not care about what has been happening over the past few years with respect to the priceless Persepolis tablets in custoday of University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. A lawsuit threatens to claim the priceless collection which has been kept on loan from the Iranian government since 1933. Those tablets belong to Iran and to humanity. They should never be considered the appropriate medium of severance pay to anyone. If the Iranian government is found guilty of any crime in a court of law, they should be responsible for monetary payment of damages. These tablets or any Iranian heritage artifacts are not suitable choices for settling such liabilities.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. Professor Matthew Stolper from University of Chicago's Oriental Institute will give a lecture entitled "Embattled Tablets: News from the Persepolis Fortification Archive Front" at UC Berkeley's Department of Near Eastern Studies, 254 Barrows Hall. I am going to attend this lecture. If you live in these parts and you can, please come and join me.
Photo shows Professor Matthew Stolper examining one of the Persepolis tablets.
Here's an excerpt from a 2006 article about the collection and the impending case. You can read the full article here.
"In a small, dark room on the Oriental Institute’s third floor, Matthew Stolper puts thousands of ancient Iranian tablets under the microscope. Studying the unbaked clay artifacts over the course of 25 years, Stolper, the John A. Wilson professor of Near Eastern languages & civilizations, has translated many of the tablets—their slanted lines are mostly Elamite cuneiform. Taken together, the circa-500 bc documents from the ancient capital Persepolis—excavated by OI archaeologist Ernest Herzfeld in 1933—form the “records of one office palace bureaucracy handing out basic foodstuffs,” Stolper says. “Food, wine, grain.” The records follow “people traveling through the region on business from the Mediterranean coast to India: ‘So-and-so gets so much barley and so much beer.’ When you connect them all, you get a complicated network.”
"If a group of litigants gets its way, the tablets may be split up and sold at auction, the proceeds compensating survivors of a 1997 Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Five American survivors and four family members won a 2001 U.S. court case against Iran, which trained and supported the terrorists, and were awarded more than $400 million in damages. Because Iran doesn’t accept U.S. court jurisdiction, the plaintiffs’ lawyer looked elsewhere for assets: American museums holding Iranian artifacts." (Read the rest here.)

Autumn Around Me

This is my season. Something about the Fall makes me happy, energetic, and very very romantic! These days I am spending a lot of time in my home. I am glad to report that my surroundings are better organized than they have been in a long time and my kids are fed generally better food! Northern California autumns aren't quite like they are on the East Coast or where there are the four seasons. We only get specks and small splashes of color and folliage in our area. Just the same, it is evident if you look for it. Here's a picture I took of the trees just outside my house yesterday. You can see the specks and splashes of color changes.
And of course it won't be a proper autumn without a pumpkin. More decorations will be coming soon! See? We do have color changes on the leaves! Beautiful!
This is how autumn happens in a pot! I love those heart-shaped leaves!
And last but not least, blessed is a home on a rainy autumn day which has a sweet cat asleep nearby, delicious tea brewed, and love of family surrounding its every corner.
I have such a home. As I take stock of my "harvest" for this year, despite some losses and setbacks, I have to admit that I continue to have it really good in life! I am grateful for my gifts in life. Looking back at my life, I see it was a great idea to plant those seeds of love wherever I could. My harvest again this year is plentiful, complete, and continuous. Happy Autumn y'all!


Aah Mother...

Can’t begin to imagine
Can’t begin to feel
Mother’s loss
Mother’s rage
Boy smiles

Boy walks

Boy tells of school and marbles

Mother’s delight

Mother’s love


Boy loves

Boy hurts

Boy laughs

Mother’s pride

Mother’s love


Boy goes

Returns never

Boy is dead

Mother’s loss

Mother’s loss


Boy repents

Boy cries

Boy implores

Mother’s rage

Mother’s rage


Boy and noose

Boy and noose

Boy and noose

Mother’s doubts

Mother’s doubts


Boy and prison

Boy and pain

Boy and shame

Mother’s choice

Mother’s choice


Boy and noose

Mother and bench

Boy and life

Boy and death

Mother and memories

Mother and rage


Boy and airborne bench

Mother and revenge

Boy suspended

Boy ended

Mother’s moment

Mother’s remorse


Two boys dead

Two boys gone

All mothers’ loss

All mothers’ shame

Read here for Behnoud Shojaie's story.

From Grieving Mother to Murderer

I am appalled with Behnoud’s execution. There is no way anyone can convince me that this child did not have the potential to rehabilitate. I am mother to two young men. I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that a seventeen year old boy is a child. Behnoud was a child offender and still a child when he was executed after spending four years in jail and walking up to the noose six times. My mother’s heart says that to me.
The victim, Ehsan, was also a child. My heart wept for his mother who saw her son off one day and never saw him alive again. I cannot begin to imagine what pain and agony she must have gone through over the past four years. The worst thing anyone could have done for Ehsan’s mother was to let her decide the life and death of her son’s murderer, Behnoud. As if dealing with the immense loss is not bad enough for a grieving mother, she has had to continually search her soul for forgiveness for Behnoud. As it turned out, she could not find it.
I feel so sad for Ehsan’s mother. She will never be whole again. She is now a murderer herself. True, the law won’t come after her and she can live just like any other citizen for the rest of her life. But I am a mother and I know that by choosing revenge over forgiveness, Ehsan’s mother has forever put herself in the solitary confinement of loss, grief, shame, and remorse. Whereas up until yesterday Ehsan’s family had been affected with the unimaginable grief of a child’s loss, starting today they will have to carry the burden of having taken another person’s life. Ehsan’s mother will soon know, if not already, that Behnoud’s death is not going to bring Ehsan back, nor make her cope with his loss any better. I can only imagine that that family is now completely destroyed.
Death penalty is inhumane and Qisas Laws are savage. My heart weeps for Ehsan and Behnoud. My heart weeps for Iran.

Dinner, Art, And Friendship

O.K. I am going to keep my promise and slowly start to tell you what I have been up to over the past few months! To start, I am going to look at my millions of photographs and share the interesting ones with you. These are pictures from dinner preparations at my artist friends Faranak and Kourosh's home in San Jose. I had the good fortune of being invited to their lovely home in September, along with a very small group. Kourosh was the chef and I want to show you what artistic dinner he served us!
First he prepared the plates with endive leaves, filled with seafood. He and Faranak had made a very delicious mashed potatoes, too. String beans were added to enhance the presentation color and taste. An art project was unfolding before our eager eyes in the kitchen! Grilled salmon was added last, and the plates were painted with a balsamic vinegar sauce. Watch Kourosh add the parsley garnish, too!
We sat around and enjoyed the delicious and beautiful food and the wonderful company, talking about politics and life, telling jokes, and chilling. It was really a wonderful evening. A big blessing in life is having good friends and finding opportunities to to build new friendships. The art and the delicious food are only an added bonus! And of course, knowing a man who can cook like this is not to be underestimated as a personal treasure! I am so lucky!



این عکس از مجموعهء عکس هایی است که کسی در خوزستان گرفته است. آن را از سایت ایرانیان برداشته ام. برای دیدن عکس های بیشتری از عکاس، به صفحهء پیکاسای وی مراجعه کنید.
مسعود عزیز می گوید :
سلام ای کسی که یادی نمی کنی از کسی حتی به یک کلیک!نمی گویی در این خراب شده چه بر سر فلانی و بهمانی آمده است؟از خودت هم که چیزی نمی نویسی الا با قطره چکان.از آغاز رکود اقتصادی اشاره ای به مشکلاتت داشتی ولی دیگر خبری ندارم چه می کنی و در چه حالی هستی.روبراهی؟در این ایام نکبت بار اما امیدوار،راستش حوصله نوشتن هم سلب شده است.گویی فریز شده ایم.اخیراً داستانکی خواندم از احوال هموطنان غربت نشین که در آن یکی به دیگری می گفت:تا بزبان مادریت ننویسی در میهنت کودکی به دنیا نمی آید.حرف غریبی است ولی محض رضای خدا هم که شده دوکلوم فارسی بنویسحرفی بزنخطی بکش.
و من می گویم امشب به فارسی می نویسم تا در میهنم کودکان زیبا به دنیا بیایند. من ایرانیم. معلوم است که به فارسی می نویسم. فقط در این خانه به انگلیسی می نویسم تا حرف کودکان و زنان و مردان زیبای ایران را به دیگران، به غیر فارسی زبانان هم بگویم. مسعود عزیز بداند که لحظه ای از فکر ایران و هموطنانم دور نیستم. این روزها همه کمی کلافه و نگران هستیم اما نباید یادمان برود که ظرف چند روز کوتاه در تابستان امسال، ملت زیبای ایران چه رشید و چه شجاع و چه صلح دوست به چشم همهء جهانیان آمد. این روزگار نیز می گذرد و به روزهای بهتری خواهیم پیوست. امشب حافظ را باز کردم و این آمد:
چو باد عزم سر کوی یار خواهم کرد
نفس ببوی خوشش مشکبار خواهم کرد
بهرزه بی می و معشوق عمر میگذرد
بطالتم بس از امروز کار خواهم کرد
هر آب روی که اندوختم ز دانش و دین
نثار خاک ره آن نگار خواهم کرد
چو شمع صبحدمم شد ز مهر او روشن
که عمر در سر این کار و بار خواهم کرد
بیاد چشم تو خود را خراب خواهم ساخت
بنای عهد قدیم استوار خواهم کرد
صبا کجاست که این جان خون گرفته چو گل
فدای نکهت گیسوی یار خواهم کرد
نفاق و زرق نبخشد صفای دل حافظ
طریق رندی و عشق اختیار خواهم کرد

با آرزوی پاییزی سرشار از امید و برداشت خرمنهای مهر و دوستی، شاد و سرزنده باشید دوستان عزیزم

Of Hope

Mohsen Namjoo and Golshifteh Farahani sing "hammash delam migireh" (I long all the time) in Milan Italy. I love Namjoo.

It's Friday night. I know I have been lazy in keeping up my blogs. I have been writing, but not here. I'm going to write again. I have missed it too much. So much has happened that I haven't told you about, mostly good things. I've had to learn more than a few lessons since April of this year when I was laid off my job. I have had to adjust to some major and some minor changes, but all good in the end. It's been an emotional time for many Iranians living outside Iran, just as it has been for Iranians inside Iran. There is all at the same time a lot of fear and hope and concern about Iran. I think about my friends in Iran all the time and I follow the news with interest. Certainly nothing is the way it was just a few months ago. I may not have been the only one to go through some changes. I feel the whole world has changed in drastic ways and it will never go back to the way it was. Maybe that's a good and necessary thing. Maybe things always change at this pace and I never took notice before. All I know is that it's not the same as it was before. It is better, I think. It seems to me that everyone in my circle of friends and family is moving forward with a new awareness, with more knowledge. I can only hope that this awareness delivers us all into enlightenment and a more positive state.

It was a calm and quiet Friday night. My sons have already gone to bed and my cat is sleeping right next to me. Namjoo sings and I reflect. Pretty blissful. I want to thank people who came looking for me, banging on my door, sweet Mina, lovely Aida, and the ever thoughtful Masoud. I have missed you all. I'll keep on writing here, sharing pictures and stories from the summer until I catch up. I want to tell you about hope. I want to tell you about love. There is so much I need to tell you. I will.


A New Arrival

Last June, two nights before the Iranian presidential elections, he showed up at our house. He was sitting on the front walkway, refusing to leave. It was obvious he was a house cat, familiar and comfortable with people. I wouldn't let him in the house, hoping that his owners would come and take him away soon. I know what it feels like to lose a pet, even if temporarily. I wanted him to stay outside so that he could be seen by his owners who must be frantic, I thought.
I had had a painful time separating from our cat, Oskie, or Asghar, when I left Iran in 2006. I still miss my gorgeous "hanaee" (henna colored) cat who is staying with a family in Karaj. But I also knew that I didn't want another pet, not yet. This cat which had invited himself over was getting on my nerves. I could see my younger son getting quickly attached to him and I was desperate to find his family. We posted "Cat Found" signs in our neighborhood. My next door neighbor posted an announcement on Craig's List, and I finally managed to convince my son to take him to the local animal shelter to see if he had an identification chip or if anybody was looking for him. For some strange reason, it turned out that nobody was looking for him. My son left contact information at the animal shelter, but didn't leave him there, bringing him home again.
The events in Iran were unravelling fast, first the elections, then the demonstrations, then the violence, and finally the grief and outrage. My older son joined us and we stood vigil to what was happening in Iran, much like millions of other people in the world alternating between pride and respect and outrage and sadness. The cat stayed and became a member of our family. He is a loving cat, peaceful and trusting of people. He sits by me all the time. This is a picture of him, taken this morning while he was taking a nap by where I sit to work at the dining table. When I get up to go to another part of the house, he follows me and comes to sit wherever I am. He is a new member of our family now. His name is Mir Hossein.