Joy Found

Two young musicians, Aida Shahghasemi and Amirhossein Kiani, perform Kisses of Rain, Booseh haye baraan, at a concert in Minnesota. The original song composed by Master Hossein Alizadeh, on a priceless love poem by Mohammad Reza Shafie Kadkani, was performed by Mohammad Reza Shajarian.

I think this is the ultimate Iranian love song. This performance by the two young artists is touching and reminiscent of so many memories for me.

Is there any such thing as "love lost?" I mean, when we love someone and that relationship ends, is that love lost? I used to think it was, and I used to mourn it. Somehow I missed it so much, I used to get sad over its loss. These days I'm re-thinking past love affairs of my life. I think in each of them, I didn't "lose" anything, but I "found" something, something that will never be lost, for that love was beautiful, bold, exciting, and valuable for as long as it lasted. Why mourn it? Why get sad? It added something to me in depth and experience, and as such it should be remembered with joy and happiness and a feeling of wealth and not loss. Here's to all my past loves, wherever they are now. A big piece of those men continues to live in my heart and in my life. That is joy found, not love lost. That's what I think.

Happy Sunday everybody. Please share your love songs with me if you care.


Merry Christmas!

My favorite American singer of all time, Bruce Springsteen sings "Santa Claus is Coming To Town," at a 2007 Paris concert with E Street Band.

It's Christmas Eve. My little house holds all that is near and dear to me in this world, my two sons and their friends, good music, and a lot of cheer and hope. My little broken record here would like to encourage you all to love your kin and lovers like there is no tomorrow. Kiss them, hug them, and tell them you love them as many times as you can. The best things in life are always the simplest ones. A few words, a good gaze, a warm embrace, and a little care are all free and simple gifts you can give each other. Go do it! Merry Christmas!

Christmas, Khatami, Ahmad, and I

My younger son helped me set up our Christmas tree again this year.
It feels like it was only yesterday when I wrote here about Christmases past in Tehran. Today I remembered another memory of my days in Tehran.
I remember the first Christmas Mohammad Khatami had been elected President. Iran was a rainbow of joy and hope, and Tehran was hosting the Organization of Islamic Countries’ Summit in December 1997. I left a meeting in downtown Tehran, hailed an orange taxi cab, and asked the cab driver whether he could spend an hour or two, taking me around Tehran to buy some things. He agreed. He was a middle-aged man who was dressed in what we would consider “laat-e-kolah-makhmali” attire. His coat was resting on his shoulders with his hands free from the sleeves. The back of his shoes had been pushed inside, and in his hands he sported a green rosary with which he was playing as he drove his Paykan. True to form, he also had a black felt hat on. He had kind eyes and a deep Tehrani accent, complete with lingo that was reminiscent of old Iranian movie characters.
I told him I needed to pick up a Christmas tree first. He took me to the Armenian neighborhood of Tehran just below Takht-e-Tavoos Avenue and helped me carry the tree and secure it in the trunk. On our way to my next destination, he and I started talking about politics. I told him I had watched President Khatami receive his foreign counterparts at the airport that morning. I told him how impressed I had been with him. He looked at me in the mirror and asked me what about the President had impressed me. I told him I didn’t really know. Maybe it was that he seemed to be speaking to the arriving leaders easily, in English? In German? In Arabic?, and that he was acting “stately,” something I hadn’t seen before. I told him also that even in his clergy outfit he seemed lithe and somehow contemporary, belonging to today. Maybe it was because he wasn’t wearing sandals, I guess.
The cab driver kept moving his rosary in his hands and looking at me in the rearview mirror. He asked me gently: “Really? You are obviously a woman who has seen more than life in Tehran. Do you really think that a president who can chit-chat in a language other than Farsi is impressive? Or one who wears regular shoes? Does that make him a good president?” He said: “I feel so sorry for my country. Who would have thought there would come a day when knowing a second language at conversational levels or wearing shoes would be considered impressive?” I was so embarrassed. The “laat-e-kolah-makhmali” cab driver didn’t look so laat anymore! I asked him his name and his background. He told me his name was Ahmad and that he had a master’s degree in political science from Tehran University. He had been a teacher before he had been dismissed because of his political beliefs. We talked a lot more about a lot of other things before I bid him goodbye, tree and turkey and fruits in hand. I learned a few important lessons about myself, about life, and about Iranian politics from him that day. Those lessons have only become bolder and more important with time.
Merry Christmas!


Namjoo and Writing

I found this live recording of an unknown music session by Mohsen Namjoo, in which he sings Jabr-e Joghrafiaee (I translate the title into Georgraphically Challenged). I love this man and his music. I love this song and its lyrics.

It's a rainy, lazy Sunday. I'm listening to music and writing. My sons are sleeping in after a long Yalda celebration last night. I celebrated with dear friends, too, going to bed at 4:00 a.m.! I hope wherever you are, you are enjoying your day. Rest and love and eat and celebrate life as much as you can. This might be a good day to give someone you really love a quiet but sturdy hug! Enjoy your day!


The Longest Night

A Yalda spread. Photo from here.
A beautiful crystal bowl, filled with clear water sat in the middle of the coffee table in my parents’ living room. It was surrounded by bowls and plates of fruit, dried nuts and candy, Ajeel, pastries, seeded pomegranates, and bright red watermelon. My mother’s silver candlesticks had fresh candles in them, giving the room a poetic glow. My father’s old Hafez sat prominently on a side table, untouchable by the rest of us, waiting for him alone to announce the appropriate moment. My brother played his setar and its sweet sound warmed up the group sitting around him.
It was Yalda, the longest night of the year at winter solstice. A young boy, my nephew, picked up the water bowl and started making the rounds around the room. Each person he faced made a wish, and dropped a small sign, a ring, a coin, an earring, into the bowl of shimmering clear water. Once everyone’s sign was put in the water, he returned the bowl to the table. My father picked up his Hafez, prayed, and opened a page. He would start reading the poem aloud. Everyone listened. Nobody knew whose fa’al this was…yet. After he was done, the young boy would close his eyes and reach inside the water bowl, pulling out one of the signs and hold it up. That is when we knew in response to whose wish Hafez had just spoken. Everyone exclaimed and laughed, talking about the poem. Then my father would open his Hafez book again to read another poem, and we would all listen, waiting to find out whose poem it was this time, until everyone’s was done.
Yalda, the long night of memories, the night of sweet poems, the night of hope, the night of the purest Iranian celebration, is the year’s sweetest and warmest and most beautiful night for me. Happy Yalda.


For Hossein Derakhshan

Following is an open letter in protest of circumstances surrounding the arrest of Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian blogger who has been detained in Tehran for over a month now. If you wish, please publish it in your blogs and leave your name in the comments section. I will pass it along to be added to the list of those who have signed it. Thank you.
We, the undersigned, view the circumstances surrounding the Iranian authorities' arrest of Hossein Derakhshan (hoder.com), one of the most prominent Iranian bloggers, as extremely worrying. Derakhshan's disappearance, detention at an unknown location, lack of access to his family and attorneys, and the authorities' failure to provide clear information about his potential charges is a source of concern for us.
The Iranian blogging community is one of the largest and most vibrant in the world. From ordinary citizens to the President, a diverse and large number of Iranians are engaged in blogging. These bloggers encompass a wide spectrum of views and perspectives, and they play a vital role in open discussions of social, cultural and political affairs.
Unfortunately, in recent years, numerous websites and blogs have been routinely blocked by the authorities, and some bloggers have been harassed or detained. Derakhshan's detention is but the latest episode in this ongoing saga and is being viewed as an attempt to silence and intimidate the blogging community as a whole.
Derakhshan's own position regarding a number of prisoners of conscience in Iran has been a source of contention among the blogging community and has caused many to distance themselves from him. This, however, doesn't change the fact that the freedom of expression is sacred for all not just the ones with whom we agree.
We therefore categorically condemn the circumstances sourrounding Derakhshan's arrest and detention and demand his immediate release.
ما امضا کنندگان ذیل، شرایط دستگیری حسین درخشان، یکی از سرشناس ترین بلاگرهای ایرانی، توسط مقامات ایران را به شدت نگران کننده می دانیم. ناپدید شدن، حبس در مکانی مجهول، عدم دسترسی به اعضای خانواده و وکلای مدافع، و اعلام نکردن اطلاعات شفاف در خصوص موارد اتهام احتمالی نامبرده همگی باعث نگرانی ما ست.
جامعه وبلاگ نویسان ایران یکی از فعال ترین و بزرگترین جوامع اینترنتی جهان است. از شهروندان معمولی تا رییس جمهور ایران، بسیاری به امر نوشتن در وبلاگهای مختلف مشغول اند. این وبلاگ نویسان دارای طیف وسیعی از عقاید و آرا هستند و نقش مهمی در
مباحث اجتماعی، فرهنگی، و سیاسی ایفا می کنند.
متاسفانه ظرف سالهای اخیر، وبسایت ها و وبلاگهای متعددی به صورت منظم توسط مقامات ایران فیلتر شده و شماری از وبلاگ نویسان با آزار و حبس روبرو شده اند. بازداشت حسین درخشان تنها آخرین نمونه از این نوع برخوردها ست و به نظر می آید این اقدام در راستای ایجاد رعب و واداشتن وبلاگ نویسان به سکوت طراحی شده است.
مواضع حسین درخشان در خصوص تعدادی از کسانی که بدلیل عقایدشان زندانی شده اند باعث رنجش جامعه وبلاگ نویسان ایرانی بوده و همین موجب شده بسیاری از آنان از وی دوری بجویند. با اینهمه، این موضوع این حقیقت را نفی نمی کند که آزادی بیان حقی مقدس است و باید برای همه در نظر گرفته شود، نه فقط کسانی که با آنها موافقیم.
بنابرین، ما از این منظر، به طور اصولی شرایط دستگیری و بازداشت حسین درخشان را محکوم می کنیم و خواهان آزادی فوری او هستیم.
Arash Abadpourhttp://kamangir.net/
Pedram Moallemianhttp://www.eyeranian.net/
Ali Moayedianhttp://payvand.com/


The Loving Snow-woman

My blogger friend, sweet Robert in Germany had promised to share a picture of his snowman in the house of his childhood when it snowed this year. He has made his snowman and has kindly shared its photo with us. Here it is! The surprising twist is that it is a sassy-looking snow-WOMAN! I love the smile and the arms raised in preparation for a hug! Her hair is awesome, too! What a great way to start a day. Absolutely lovely. Thank you Robert! Have a beautiful day everybody and stay warm!
P.S. I fixed the link on the videoclip on yesterday's post. Do take a look. It's one of the funniest things I have ever seen on YouTube!


Off to Monday!

Five-year-old Daryon, is caught while trying to eat a popsicle for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. Simply precious! I don't know this child, but having raised children myself, I think I know him quite well! Brace yourselves and enjoy! (Sorry, it's in Farsi. If anyone is interested in knowing what is happening, just drop me a line and I will explain.)

Have a nice week everybody!


Sunshine and Onions

Picture of food prepared at Alborz Restaurant in Austin, Texas. I wonder what Tameshk and Hossein think of this restaurant's food! It looks great, don't you think?
It's a cold, dark, and rainy Sunday. One might take such a day to be gloomy and melancholic. It isn't such a day for me! My son came home for the holidays yesterday. He will be around for several weeks now. I am actually caught up on most of my outstanding writing commitments, and for the first time in a few weeks I feel a little more in control of what's happening around me! I may have worried a few of my good friends by the disappearing act of the past few days, and for that I apologize! Heeh! I am chipping away at a very large photo essay I am writing about my life in the San Francisco Bay Area. The project is complicated, because hundreds of photographs have to be numbered and sequenced to match the chronology of the text I am writing. When I get caught in that maze, I can't find my way out to do other things!
In celebration of our first weekend together, my kids and I and their friend Ardavan will be having Chelo Kabab in a few minutes! I'm so excited to be eating my favorite food with my kids on a Sunday. Simple joys of life always impress me the most! I think I will have a big fresh onion with my lunch, too! We will go to see a movie together tonight. It's a beautiful and bright day for me, despite the weather. I hope you all are enjoying yourselves wherever you are, near and shoulder by shoulder of those you love most in life. I hope you reach out and kiss them if the urge hits you. As for me, I'll do that just before I eat my onion! Be good y'all!


My Book of Matches

My beautiul friend and teacher, Dr. Zari Taheri, forwarded pictures of Zereshk harvest in Birjand, Khorasan, to me. Zereshk (Berberis vulgaris) is used as a dried fruit in Persian cooking. The fruit's taste is sour, so it is fried in butter and cooked with sugar, and a bit of saffroned water to create a sauce/mixture which blends well with Persian rice. Though Dr. Taheri had forwarded these pictures in a Peyvand link to me, I prefer using the original ISNA link for these photos to give their photographer, Amir Hossein Heydari his due credit.
O.K. So I'm walking down the road, observing "the signs*" these days. You know, like Paolo Coelho said* in his book, The Alchemist... I have been through a bit of confusion of late, and I'm trying to get on (and stay on!) the right path. And thinking about the signs I see, I'm thinking how many times have I been another person's sign/s...!? How many times the words I said, my actions, and my presence could have served to help another person to see his path more clearly?
I hope you all have a great day, full of good signs and candles, flashlights, lanterns, and projectors lighting up your paths, showing you to joy, peace, and happiness. I'm making do with a book of matches I have found somewhere, trying harder than I have ever tried in my life to see my way. Be good you all!
*“In his pursuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage. So he could not be hasty, nor impatient. If he pushed forward impulsively, he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path.”


The Phoenix

Sheraguime Yushij, son of Nima Yushij, recites his father's poem, "The Phoenix," or Qoqnoos. The music is by composer Ahmad Nadimi. Mr. Yushij and Mr. Nadimi both live in the Washington DC Area. I tried to find the English version of this poem, which is Nima's very first free form poem, changing the landscape of Persian poetry forever, but I was unsuccessful tonight. I will look for it again tomorrow. I'm exhausted, so I crawl to bed now, wishing you all a beautiful Tuesday.


Mi Gilan

P.S. 12/18/2008: The video clip I had posted here earlier has been discontinued, unfortunately. In its place I have posted a picture of Gilan's rice paddies.
My friend sent me the link to this clip about Gilan. It made me very happy, remembering my beautiful memories of the land and people of Gilan. I thought I'd share it with you guys. I have said enough times that I am not from Gilan, but that through a bridge of love, I became an "Honorary Gilak!" Have a good day!

The Leaf That Hangs On

Autumn in Kurdistan, Iran. Photo by Shahrooz Sharifinasab, Fars News, December 7, 2008. Look at that stubborn heart-shaped leaf. It is hanging on with all its might. What an important sign that one was to follow tonight!
I am working on something for work through the weekend. It is an important document and I want it to be perfect when I send it in on Monday. Today I had a quiet day working my way through my project, so when my younger son invited me to join him for a late lunch and a funny movie, I jumped for joy and followed him! I know I keep saying this, but he has turned into such an interesting young man, wise and thoughtful and responsible, with an interesting sense of humor.
Tomorrow I will continue working on my project and will go to catch a Berkeley Lecture Series presentation in the afternoon. Deljoo Abadi will be talking about the Qisas Laws of Iran, and Director Mahnaz Afzali will be presenting a screening of her film, Red Card. (UC Berkeley, Barrows Hall, Room 110, 4:00 p.m.).
Bayramali wrote something about Babak Bayat tonight and made me remember the late Iranian musician. He was a composer who wrote many memorable Iranian songs and film scores. I found a videoclip of him playing and singing along one of his songs with Mani Rahnama. I leave the link for you here, in case you are interested. He had such a beautiful and strong voice, too. He is making music in heaven now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_1XyaoyFk0
Have a happy Sunday everybody and take care of those around you. Kiss them often, hug them, and if you have love in your hearts for anybody, make this the day you will tell them, even if you have never done it, even if you have done it a thousand times before. You won't regret it, I promise!


The Western Man's Music of Our Hearts

Kees van den Doel plays Laleva, a Mazandarani tune on the Ney with an Iranian ensemble (I think their name may be Sheevash, but I'm not sure). Isn't that fabulous? I searched high and low for Mr. van den Doel on the internet, but couldn't find out much about him. Hopefully he will find us, as it has happened in the past! I want to know where he learned to play the Persian Ney like that!

Enjoy this fun and beautiful piece of music everybody, and have a great Friday! Oh, yes, I forgot to mention...I'm exhausted! I had to do some things for my friends and had to work on a bunch of writing for work today, so I'm all "typed" and "written" out! I promise to write something meaningful tomorrow, but I also promise not to bombard you with posts like I did last night! I had to peal myself away from the keyboard and take myself to bed last night, or I would have written five more posts, so you guys were spared! That occasionally happens to me, where I have too much emotion and too many thoughts to share, but luckily for you, it always passes! Whatever that burst of energy was, it has been put to good use and it's almost completely exhausted by this hour. Tomorrow will be a great day, I just know it!


Tonight's Last Thought...

And one last thought tonight...
Remember the story of that four-leaf clover?
Two weeks ago, my son gave me his four-leaf clover for good luck.
These days I walk around remembering my son and my four-leaf clover all the time.
And I'm thinking, how can I get any luckier than this?

Through The Fire

And sometimes,
All you need to do
Is to remember love
How you loved,
And how you were loved
The mountains you moved for love
The fires you walked through for love
The mountains that were moved for you
The one waiting for you
On the other side of fire


The joys of love
And forget
The pain

Remember love.


Two Embraces

My coworker lost her brother last week. He suffered from bipolar disorder, lived alone, and took his own life. I saw my friend in our office kitchen today. What do you say to someone who has lost her only sibling in the world? How do you comfort her? I said to her what I remembered her having told me of this brother over the past year; how much she loved him and how hard she had tried to care for him. She was listening, as though she needed to hear an objective person tell her that she had done everything she could for someone with mental illness. As I was talking to her, I abandoned the words, reached out, and embraced her. She came to me like a child, looking for the arms of someone bigger, wiser, and stronger. We just stood there embracing for a while and we cried together. No more words. Our silence said all that needed to be said.
This afternoon, my coworker Mary Ann, stopped by my office. She was so happy, she came over and hugged me, smiling! She said her nephew announced his engagement to a young Iranian woman, named Susie over the Thanksgiving holiday! She said how nice this young woman is and how happy she and her family are to have her in their family now. She said Susie is beautiful and oh-so-kind and considerate. The two of us talked about this happy event in her life for a few minutes. My happiness was two-fold, one because my friend was so happy and the other for learning that a beautiful young Iranian had brought joy into another family's life. Mary Ann asked me if I had a relative by the name of Susie, and I laughed with joy, feeling happy that Mary Ann would want to be related to me! I said Susie is related to me through my culture and tradition and as a good ambassador of good Iranians, I consider her my family without having ever met her!
My life has meaning, for I am connected to a large family all around me. I am seeing and reading my signs these days.


Following The Signs

Autumn in Golestan province of Iran. Photo by Sohrab Sardashti, Fars News, December 2, 2008.
This week has gotten off to a good start, it seems. I'm not superstitious, but I do believe in signs. Did you read Paolo Coelho's Alchemist? He talks about signs all through his book, one of my most favorite books in the world. I see signs around me which give me hope and strength for breaking out of my tough times of late. I received a phone call with mildly bad news yesterday. I hung up the phone and sat there thinking, "why am I not sad?" Then I tried to see how I did feel. This is when I realized I felt relief. I couldn't believe I was feeling relief at hearing bad news! I guess though the news wasn't good, knowledge of it felt good, hence the relief. In a somewhat twisted change, I felt lighter and happier afterwards. Does that make any sense to you?
Mehran came to see me in Berkeley after work today. We had such a good time sitting in a cafe, talking, and laughing. It felt good to hang out with a good friend and forget about everything else in the world for a couple of hours. I am so much lighter today than I have been in a while. I am following the signs.


Where Joy Was Planted

Autumn in Mazandaran, Iran. Photo by Mohammad Rezaee, Fars News Agency.
For several weeks every autumn, our front yard and the blue pool in the middle of it would fill up with fallen leaves. The leaves were in so many different colors, yellow, orange, brown, and red. Our gardener, who had a name I have never heard since, Arabali, would sweep the leaves to a corner and fetch the ones in the pool, putting them in piles around the yard, until he could get a chance to collect them all and remove them. One of the funnest things my sisters and I used to do was to jump on the piles of leaves in the backyard, throwing them around and burying ourselves in them. We would leave a mess and if we were caught by my mother or Arabali himself, we had hell to pay! This never stopped us, though! That yard had so many of my childhood memories in it. From the spring roses around which we did our annual Nowruz photos, to the mulberry trees which come May would be filled with delicious fruit, to the pool which was our sanctuary during the summers, to the leaves which were our autumn joy, to the snowmen we would create during the winter, all my childhood is now planted in that yard. It's still around, you know? Well, modified and made a lot smaller, but I have gone back to see it again, and it's still there. Trees and plants have grown where those joys were planted, I know. I miss my childhood house's yard, but I am happy in the knowledge of the life that goes on in it, still.