Mendocino County, California, a vineyard after harvest, November 2010
One Rubai from Omar Khayyam for you:

Literal Translation:

Khayam, if you are intoxicated with wine, enjoy!

If you are seated with a lover of thine, enjoy!

In the end, the Void the whole world employ

Imagine thou art not, while waiting in line, enjoy!


In life devote yourself to joy and love

Behold the beauty of the peaceful dove

Those who live, in the end must all perish

Live as if you are already in heavens above.


And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,

End in the Nothing all Things end in--Yes-

Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what

Thou shalt be--Nothing--Thou shalt not be less.

Source: Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam


Farewell Hannibal Alkhas

For Buna Alkhas:

I went to a memorial service for Iranian (Assyrian) artist, Hannibal Alkhas last evening. I listened to his son, Buna, and his daughter talk about their father, among a dozen other students, friends, and admirers of Hannibal Alkhas. Buna's speech particularly moved me. He spoke about his father in the same style as he does his writing and drawing--simply, honestly, and poetically. I really wanted to spend more time with Buna and his handsome son, but time was short as he will be returning home tomorrow.

Since I heard of the great painter's passing, I have had a certain sadness, a sense of personal loss, which has been hard to fathom and convey. I mean I never met him, even though several months ago I had asked Bella how to go about finding him and talking to him. I am so sad I didn't do it. My sense of loss may also have something to do with the painting above. This is a small painting he did in Berkeley in 2001. This sketch and another have been two of my most prized possessions for the past several years. This one has been particularly dear to me, because I believe it to portray me, "The Asymmetrical Woman." He has written at the bottom of the sketch, "Who said only symmetry is beautiful?"

After last night, I feel closer to the artist who drew me without having ever met me, The Asymmetrical Woman! People just couldn't stop talking about how kind and loving and fun he was. My sense of loss at Mr. Alkhas' passing grew last night. But I felt privileged to have listened to his son and daughter talk so lovingly about him. Those of you who have read Buna Nameh have already seen Buna's love for his father, while the great artist was still alive. Those of you who have not read Buna Nameh must absolutely read it. It is probably one of the most original and fantastic things that was ever published on Iranian.com. In a part of his poignant eulogy for his father, Buna read this poem (page 189).

Rest in peace Master Alkhas.


In the company of friends--a reading of “Copenhagen”

I’ll have to warn you--this may look like I am showing off! I promise I can’t help it this time! This Saturday, July 10, 2010, I am going to a very special event. Three of my friends are reading Copenhagen, a play by Michael Frayn, translated into Farsi by another friend of mine! What’s more, the venue for the event is Central Stage, which is managed by another one of my friends! And guess what?! In all likelihood, the cozy and warm theater will be filled with many of my other friends!

Showing off aside, for those who live in this area and have a chance to come join me (and my friends!), there is something really special in store. Director Hamid Ehya’s translation of Copenhagen won the award for “Best Translated Play” from Iranian Playwrights’ Association in 2009. The readers will be Ari Siletz, Bella Warda, and Behzad Golmohammadi. Actor and director Mansour Taeed will be hosting the reading at Central Stage at 5221 Central Avenue in Richmond, CA 94804 at 8:00 p.m.

I hope you can join us if you live in this area. It will be a night to remember!

Copenhagen is a highly acclaimed two-act play by Michael Frayn, about a discussion among the Danish physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962), his wife, Margrethe Bohr, and the German physicist Werner Heisenberg.

Niels Bohr received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922 for his contribution to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics. Werner Heisenberg was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics for the creation of quantum mechanics and its application. Niels Bohr was a prominent scientist in Denmark whose life was in danger because he was half Jewish. Heisenberg was a high-ranking physicist in Nazi Germany. Both men had the theoretical knowledge of how to create a nuclear bomb. They were once on the same side of the scientific pursuit, but now stood on opposite sides of the war. During the course of the play, the two scientists go through what went on in a meeting at Bohr’s home.

Please see the reading's Facebook page.


Music of Hope

This is my friend Parisa Vaaleh. On very short notice, she performed at an International Women's Day rally in San Jose this past Sunday. She has many beautiful songs in her two albums, but chose to sing Ostaad Shajarian's Iran, Ey Saraay-e Omid for the occasion. She has a lovely voice and an absolutely beautiful soul. She is one of my best friends in the world, full of compassion, kindness, and generosity. This clip is an amateur video and she will probably get mad at me for posting it here! Heeh! I'm sure she will forgive me, though! I'll be back with a story for you.


Finding Mir Hossein

On the eve of Iranian presidential elections in June, a black cat showed up to our household. He sat on our front porch and refused to leave. More than once he followed the incoming crowd into the house whereupon I screamed "Get that cat out of my house!" I was not interested in having a new pet and I knew that the cat which seemed loving and comfortable next to perfect strangers was a house cat which must have gone AWOL on a loving family who must now be frantically looking for him. I told my son to let him stay outside, so that his family can locate him if they went by our house. My younger son kept feeding the cat and naturally, he would not leave. I made "Cat Found" signs and posted them in the neighborhood and the neighbor next door posted a "Cat Found" announcement on Craig's List. Nothing doing. No one came looking for the cat. I made my son take him to the local animal shelter to see if anybody was looking for him. Nobody was, according to my son, who had decided to return the cat upon receiving the news.

During this time, the elections had happened in Iran, people had shown up to street protests, and Neda and some other protesters had died before my very eyes on YouTube. I can barely remember a sadder time in my life. Sitting at my dining table, working and writing, crying tears of loss, confusion, and anger, suddenly I did not mind seeing the black cat come in and sitting on the floor next to my feet. I reached for him and he immediately hopped on my lap, where he sat and made me fall in love with him through my tears.
I named him Mir Hossein.
The cat became a member of our family. Loving, peaceful, and low maintenance, he quickly surpassed my last cat, Asghar, in popularity and familial love. He followed me everywhere and always sat where he could keep an eye on me. In many ways he was like a dog, attentive, kind, and loving. My friend Maryam said later that he is a Maine Coon, a particularly loving species of cats.
In January, I went on a three-week business trip to Washington DC. Staying away from home, I was missing my family, friends, and Mir Hossein so much. I couldn't wait to get back. I returned looking forward to having my cat by my side to remind me about the simple joys of life and all that I love and hold dear in the Bay Area.
Alas, things were not that simple. My son informed me upon my return that Mir Hossein had gone missing for 48 hours and that he had been actively looking for him in the neighborhood, without any positive results. After a couple of days went by without spotting our black cat, he posted "Missing Cat" signs in the neighborhood and told all the neighbors to be on the lookout for him. By the week's end, he had visited all the animal shelters in our neighborhood and the next ones over, to see if anybody had turned him in. Nothing doing.
I refused to put his food bowl and bed away, waiting for him to return. "He will come back," I kept saying, but feeling less and less hopeful.
Yesterday, the next door neighbor called to say that she could hear a cat in the vacant house next door. We went to the door and could see Mir Hossein's black face with the one tiny round white spot right under his nose through the side glass window. Oh My! He was alive and well! We located and contacted the real estate agency which had listed the home. The firm's office manager showed up with a key and let Mir Hossein out. She said he must have quietly walked in behind the realtor the last time he had shown the house some sixteen days ago.
The cat had lost considerable weight and was anxious. For the first time since I had met him I found out that he had very sharp claws which he used on anyone who came close to him. He must have been able to drink water from the toilet bowls in the house, but naturally, he had not eaten in sixteen days. He ate and ate and ate and I was standing by, waiting to take him to the vet if he started getting sick, which he never did. Later in the day he finally calmed down and went to sleep.
As I write, my sweet cat is sleeping in his bed next to me. When I finish posting this blog and turn off the lights to go to bed, he will follow me and curling up in my bed, he will put his right paw on my face and go back to sleep, as he is used to doing.
I am one lucky woman today. I have found Mir Hossein.


Music in the kitchen

I live with two men. They are tall and handsome. They are wise and kind. Nobody in this world would probably ever love these men as much as I do, for I am their mother.
They come and go, eat, sleep, watch TV, study, fight, make up, laugh, and on increasing occasions, feel in love with or heartbroken by a woman. We are a normal family or not. I don't know, and I don't care. I care that I live with two good men. They are good to me, to each other, and to their friends.
More than once, I have asked myself whether I have done a good job in raising my children so that they are sure and grounded with their identities, their roots, their heritage, and the world that could benefit so much from people like them who know more than one language, have traveled extensively since they were infants, and who have compassion for mankind world over. Time will tell what kind of human beings they will be. To be sure, for now they are both understated and humble adults, just as I like to see adults.
I was sitting at my usual spot, working on my computer as usual this evening. My younger son and his friend Farhad arrived and went directly to the refrigerator, looking for food. I guess my son was really happy to find decent food in the house! As he pulled out the tub of chicken salad and started making himself and his friend a sandwich, I heard him whisper a tune. How sweet! He is singing, I thought momentarily and forgot all about it. A few seconds later, though, the notes from his song made it into my consciousness and heart and gave me a jolt. What is he singing? Is that a Hayedeh song he is whispering?!!! Hayedeh?!!! Hayedeh died in the same year my son was born, you know? My son likes Hayedeh?!! How come?!! Where did this come from? When did this happen?!
I sat here till he finished making his sandwich and whispering his song and go to join Farhad in the other room. I found the Haydeh song and listened to it. The experience moved me enough to come back to writing in my blogs tonight. It has been too long. I miss writing and I miss my friends. Here, listen to the song with me. I feel so good tonight. To be sure, for well over a year, I have not been as happy as I am these days. Things are going my way again. I will write again soon.
Legendary Iranian singer, Hayedeh sings "vay be halesh. (too bad for him)" Music is by Farid Zoland, arrangement by Andranik, Lyrics are by Leila Kasra (Hedieh).