A picture, and a Thousand Words

As a part of the Cyber Activism Conference that is to take place between 9-13 May in Copenhagen, we were asked to submit materials for an exhibition in the House of Poetry. I submitted a couple of pictures along with a text about each picture. I might have posted most of these pictures before but having to say something about them made me view them in a new light, and since I’ve written the texts (one of them I actually took from an older post) I thought I might as well capitalize on that and blog them.

Amman:  the heart wants what it wants

No matter where I go, no matter what beautiful things I see, a part of me always yearns to go back to Amman. The city whose streets I know, and they know me too. A city where the old meets the new. A city where familiarity is personified in the flight of a flock of pigeons, and love lurks behind every wall

The eye, and the beholder

A horse is like a mirror. It reflects your feelings, your thoughts. It’s the best friends that knows what you want to say before you say it. It’s the therapist that makes you feel better when you’re feeling gray. It’s Beauty in one of its purset forms. It’s a proof God exists, and the love you yearn for deep inside

A sea of thoughts

I can think of a few things better than sitting by the sea alone with a book. It’s like catching up with an old friend who has all the stories in the world to tell you. Just the two of you, listening to the sound of waves breaking against the shore, not a care on your mind, at least for the time being. It’s a lifetime within a lifetime where the world outside this realm doesn’t seem to exist

Homesick

Home is where the heart is, where the mind dwells, and to where the soul migrates with every thought. Home is a place you can never be away from, no matter how far the distance is

Cat unwinding

I used to be afraid of cats. Yet, once I decided to conquer my irrational fear and started to get up-close and personal with them, I was hooked. There’s something irresistibly childlike about them. The way they stare, the way the play, but above that all: the way they so openly seek to be spoiled. I love watching them, being around them, but most of all, I love taking pictures of them

Childhood

I’m not the eyes with which you see, not the tongue with which you speak, not your heart that beats with life, not the air you breathe, not the blood that runs in your veins, not the light that guides your way, but I’m a part of all that, and with that you shall cherish me…


I’m a wave leaving the shore, a gust of eastern wind, a touch of flawless Art, a refuge from the complex, a taste of the mystic…

I am the miracle of life

Get a Life or Die Trying

It’s been an unusual year so far. All these revolutions and the establishment of the Island of Misfit Dictators, the wind of change blowing our way, can’t even say it’s a dream come true because I’m sure most people didn’t see it coming in their wildest dreams. Yet, in the midst of this surge of national pride, some things never change,  such as the willingness of some people to put the same amount of energy needed to fuel a revolution into something as trivial as arguing over a football match.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of football. I find it a great display of synergy, coordination and harmony. Some people might argue that it’s stupid to have 22 people going after a ball trying to get it into a net, but I wouldn’t put it like that. Nothing is that superficial, unless you choose to see it that way. After all, isn’t that what we all do? We set goals for ourselves and we spend our lives trying to achieve them, it’s all connected. So, in my humble opinion, football is a great sport and a major source of entertainment. But that’s the keyword: Entertainment.

I don’t know about you but entertainment is something I enjoy and then I move on with my life. You don’t build your life around entertainment. You don’t make it the epicenter of your whole being. The world doesn’t come to a sudden halt just because someone lost a game. And most importantly, “Loyalty” is a big word, too big to associate it with a football team let alone one that you have absolutely nothing to do with, it’s not even in your country! So correct me if I’m wrong but to have people selling Real Madrid and FC Barcelona flags on the streets while just last week they were selling Jordanian flags is kind of  insulting.

I’m not going to deny it, I’m a Barcelona fan, I feel bad when Barcelona loses a match but the universe doesn’t suddenly become a pitch black hole of nothingness, life goes on. No one can win all the time – Although this seems to be the case sometimes- but after all it’s all about enjoying a nice thrilling game. So to see that my friends who are Real Madrid fans insist on dwelling on their first victory over Barcelona in almost 3 years as if they have won 10-0, not 1-0 in the last minute, it’s kind of funny actually, because it looks as though they can’t believe it. So, stop it, it makes you look really bad. Same goes to my fellow Barca fans who won’t let go every time Barca wins. Don’t milk it, it could backfire.

So, to all those who weren’t born in Madrid or Barcelona, Never breathed the fresh free air of Catalonia or took in the sweet aroma of the flowers of Madrid and who absolutely have no shares in either club hence no financial gain is expected of any wins or losses yet they insist on making a football match their main source of satisfaction in life and their biggest distraction to forget about whatever they don’t want to deal with, to those I say: Get a life or die trying

One is the Lonliest Number

These are some of the pictures I took today. When I looked at them I noticed a common theme. All the things in those pictures seem either too lonely or too distant. Yet, for some reason don’t they don’t look sad (except for the horse, or maybe because I have a soft spot for horses), it’s like they are not waiting for anything, just standing their ground, basking in their solitude.

في اللا انتظار أكون نهراً، لا أقسو على نفسي، ولا أقسو على أحد، وأنجو من سؤال فادح: ماذا تريد ماذا تريد؟ 

محمود درويش

This little kitten is up for adoption. It’s a perky one! Contact me if interested

LAYLA…12 (The Finale)

(12)

We stayed at the door all night, until finally Saif’s father came looking for him. I told him he was asleep and I didn’t want to wake him up. He felt Saif’s forehead and cheeks with the palm of his hand while tears streamed down his face. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a man cry, but I still didn’t understand why, or didn’t want to believe it.

My mother took me inside and asked me about how Saif got there and why we were sitting outside. I couldn’t say anything, and she gave up quickly. She slid her hand down my face and then started saying things about life and death, things I’ve heard before but never thought I would need to think about. I was confused and asked her why she was telling me all those things, and that I must go to see Saif because he was very ill last night. I told her that he must be better now because he was sleeping soundly and his fever went away.

“He’s dead” Noura’s voice came out of nowhere. “Don’t you understand? The boy is dead!” Her eyes were red and misty.

“Don’t say that!” I found myself screaming at the top of my lungs.

Noura gave me a look of pity and then turned around and walked to her room. I looked at my mother, waiting for her to say something.

“She’s lying, mom, right? She is a liar! Saif isn’t dead! He was talking to me when he fell asleep, I know he’s not dead!”

She looked at me with teary eyes for a moment as if looking for something to say. Finally she hugged me tightly and said one thing.

“I’m sorry”

I broke away from her embrace and ran outside. I kept running until I reached Saif’s house where everyone was gathered and I could hear women crying, and then everything turned black.

***

When I opened my eyes I was staring at the ceiling in my room, and I could hear my father talking to my mother about some funeral. He said it went fast but it was the most heartbreaking thing he’d ever witnessed. Just then I realized it was Saif’s funeral.

I don’t know how long I’d been unconscious, but as soon as I came to my senses it hit me that all those people were wrong. Saif wasn’t dead. They just thought he was like what happened to Abu Ashour. And then a wave of panic swept through my body.

“Saif was buried alive. He’s now alone there under the ground, where it’s dark and cold.”

I didn’t waste anytime. I left the room through the window so that my parents won’t stop me and try to convince me that Saif is dead again. I ran and ran until I reached the graveyard. It was just before sunset, and the place was dreadful, but I felt nothing. All I wanted was to dig Saif up from under the ground.

I started looking for his grave, his name must be on it like all the other graves, but I couldn’t find it. Then it occurred to me that it couldn’t have his name on it because it’s still new, so I found the only grave without a name and starting digging in the dust.

“Don’t worry Saif, I’m here! I’m going to get you out”

I don’t know how long it was before I felt a huge silhouette towering over me. When I looked up, it was none-other than Saber, standing there like death itself.

***

For some reason, I felt no fear. I didn’t panic. Instead, I stood up firmly  and looked keenly at Saber with flaming eyes.

“He’s alive. I know he is!” I yelled, filling the awkward silence in the air.

“Why do you say that?” Saber asked patiently.

“Because… because there are still many things I want to tell him!”

“Layla, I buried him myself, he is gone”

“How can you be so sure? You buried Abu Ashour too but he was alive. I saw him open his eyes, Saif saw him too!”

I was expecting a reaction of shock and surprise from Saber, but he only shock his head as if he knows everything. I started to suspect that he knew Abu Ashour was alive and buried him nonetheless. It scared me, and before I could think of running back home as fast as I could he took me by the hand.

“Come with me”

I wanted to shout; after all this was the man that has always inspired fear in everyone and he was grabbing my hand and I had no idea where he was taking me. Yet I didn’t shout, for I still hoped he had something to tell me about Saif, or maybe Saif was still alive and he was hiding him away, then decided to take me to him when I told him I knew everything. It was the first time my hopes conquer my fears.

We kept walking until we reached the water spring, but this time there was a painful familiarity about it. I never thought I’d be back here again, I never pictured this place without Saif around.

He sat on a big rock and I sat beside him, waiting for him to say something. He looked at the reddish sun almost touching the face of water, and then a moment of silence he turned his face towards me, it had a sad glow about it.

“Do you know why I became an undertaker?”

I shook my head.

“My father was an undertaker. He was a good man but everyone avoided him. They were scared of death, and he symbolized it, at least in their eyes.”

“Is that why you became an undertaker? Because you like to scare people”

“No!” He chuckled. “That’s why I didn’t want to. Yet, when my grandfather died I helped my father preparing him for burial. After we were done washing him and while we were wrapping him with white sheet, his eyes slid open. I panicked and started shouting that he’s alive, but my father calmed me down and explained to me that he was dead, and that his eyes opened as an involuntary muscle movement. He said that his body was now like an empty vessel, he was no longer there.”

“So, that’s what happened to Abu Ashour? He is really dead?”

“Yes, he is. But, like you, I kept dreaming about my grandfather and thinking, what if he was really buried alive? That’s when I decided to become an undertaker, to be there to make sure that when someon’e is buried, it’s just an empty vessel.”

I let out a sigh that gave away my deep relief. “What about Saif?” I asked in a near whisper.

“He’s fine, don’t worry about him.”

I kept looking him in the face as if I wanted to hear more. He then reached out and picked a dandelion that was swinging in the wind nearby. He put it in my hand and made me lay it flat.

“But, this is Satan’s eye” I exclaimed

“No it’s not. It’s just a messenger that’s carried with the wind. Now, close your eyes.”

I did as he said. No questions.

“Now I want you to think of all the things you want to say to Saif.”

I took a few moments. A wave of memories came down cascading before my eyes. Nimrah, the letters, Dalila, Siwar, Noura, the dandelion, the watger spring… and then in a spontaneous move I blew at the dandelion, and as I opened my eyes I saw it flying away with the wind.

“He will be fine.” Saber said again, in a more solemn voice this time.

I kept following the dandelion as it disappeared in the horizon, and with it everything disappeared: the fear, the guilt, and the uncertainty. For a moment there, everything was fine, and without any other thought in my mind I leaned with my head on Saber’s arm, and cried.

Related:

LAYLA… 1

LAYLA… 2

LAYLA… 3

LAYLA… 4

LAYLA… 5

LAYLA… 6

LAYLA… 7

LAYLA… 8

LAYLA… 9

LAYLA… 10

LAYLA… 11

Small Pleasures

Inspired t by Roba’s post

We always talk about small pleasures, but if you think of it, small pleasures make up  the bigger part of the overall  pleasures in life. I mean, what are the “big” pleasures in life? Launching a new business, having a new baby, getting a big promotion, finding the love of your life, toppling a dictator… this kind of thing. But these things don’t happen often and they certainly don’t happen to everyone, so that leaves us with the small pleasures which can occur on daily bases, anytime, anywhere, out of the blue, and which are, as Oscar Wilde put it, the last refuge from complex.

Here’s my list:

1- Catching my 3 year-old niece having a spontaneous moment of serenity. A child consumed in a book is such a sight for the sore eyes.

2- A cup of tea, anytime, anywhere.

3- Watching my brothers, who are adults by the way, wrestling (so much for don’t try it at home)

4- A brief conversation at the office that drives me to laugh until my eyes tear up.

5- Sitting around with family listening to my cousin playing Oud, with someone singing, especially someone who should be legally banned from singing.

6- Twitter conversations

7- Waking up thinking it’s time to get up and go to work only to find that it’s still the middle of night and you still have all the time in the world to sleep

8- Checking something off a checklist

9- Planning a trip

10- Cake… nuff said

And that’s just to name a few

نعي مواطن عاطل

ومما بلغنا عن الأمم الغابرة، أن المدن لها ذاكرة، فهي تعرف أبناءها وزوارها، وحجاحها وثوارها، ومن مات قهراً عند أسوارها

وفيمن تذكرهم عمّان، رجل يقال له سلمان، وسلمان هذا مواطن مستور، لا يمشي بين القبور، كيلا يرى من المنامات ما لا يبعث في النفس السرور. وبالرغم من بؤس الحال، كان يتعفف عن السؤال، وكان ذا علم وكياسة، لكن لم يكن يتكلم في السياسة، فذلك خلق مذموم، إلا لمن كان مدعوم

وذات مساء يا سادة يا كرام، وبعد أن خيم الظلام وهدأ الأنام، شعر سلمان بضيق في الصدر، ولعله لم يعد يطيق الصبر، وما من دواء للمواطن المكبوت إلا الخروج للمشي بين البيوت، وليثبت أنه مواطن مغوار، مشى ملتصقاً بالجدار، فكما يعرف أي حمار، الرجولة ثلثاها حذر وثلثها الباقي انتحار

فلما وصل وسط البلد، لم يكن هناك أحد، وما  أن بدأ خياله بالدوران، حتى سمع صوتاً من أحد الجدران

الصوت: يا عبد الله، يا مواطن

سلمان: من المنادي؟

الصوت: أنا حجر في الجدار

سلمان: والله ما علمت أن الحجر ينطق إلا في آخر الزمان

الصوت: هداك الله، وفي أي زمان ترانا؟ إذا ما أكل الغني الفقير، وذلت الأسود واعتزت الحمير، أوتظن أنه بقي الكثير؟

سلمان: ما أخبارك بالعجيبة، لكن في النفس منك ريبة

الصوت: وفيما ترتاب وقد أغلقت في وجهك الأبواب وتقطعت بك الأسباب؟ ثم إني مجرد حجر، وما حملني على الكلام إلا الضجر، وقد شعرت بهمك الثقيل، وعرفته من صوتك العليل، فحدث ولا حرج، لكن دون هرج أو مرج

فلما فكر سلمان في الأمر وجده معقولاً ولاقي في نفسه قبولاً، وراح يحكي عن البطالة المقنعة، والجوخ الملمعة، وذكر فيما ذكر الممتلكات المنهوبة والحقوق المسلوبة، والفئات المشلولة والأموال المغسولة، ولما بدأ يحكي عن الوقود، وإذا به يربط بالقيود، وعندها فهم سلمان طبيعة اللعبة، إذ لم يكن ذاك صوت حجر يبغي الصحبة، وراح يستجدي الشفقة، بطريقة لبقة، ثم اجهش بالعويل، لعله يكون السبيل، إلا أنه أضاف إلى سجل التهم مقاومة رجل أمن محترم

كان هذا آخر ما وردنا من أخبار سلمان، وإن خفتم من ملاقاة نفس المصير، فالأمر يسير، قولوا إنكم سمعتم القصة من أحد الأعراب، ذو خبرة بالأنساب، لكن، والله أعلم، يقال إنه كذاب

For All That Was Missed

We’re often told to spend every moment we have with those we love, that is while we can. And to be honest, I never realized how true that is before I lost my grandfather.

You see, old people are like treasure boxes that look rusty on the outside but inside they hold rare gems you can hardly find anywhere else. They hold hidden truths, stories you can’t find in history books, memories of a times gone by. They are witnesses to the events that shaped our history, and that we still try to understand until this day. This was the case with my grandfather, a man who lived long, did a lot and saw a lot. And no having not spent more time with him listening to all the stories he had is one of my most genuine regrets. Yet, I still have a lot to be thankful for, as my grandfather left me with an abundance of the fondest memories.

People in the family sometimes joked about how many times my grandfather, told the story of his father coming all the way from Turkey to Haifa on a donkey – Mind you, he’s my grandfather from my mother’s side, I’m not from Turkish origins, my mother is -. And then there were the stories from Ma’an, where he was born, and the stories about the army, where he served, and I all the names those stories contained from King Abdullah I to family names like Kabareety and Talhouni, I was too young to ask or care for details. Oh, the waste of it all!

I remember him telling the story of the assassination of Riyad Al-Suloh in the 1950’s. He, my grandfather was serving in the army, while his cousin, a member of the Syrian Social National party back then, was one of the assassins. That story remained one of the most interesting personal historical accounts I’ve ever heard, but I’m not sure I can divulge it here, even if all the people involved are dead now. I’ll just say my grandfather thought the assassination was a terrible idea.

Away from all history and politics, my grandfather was a warm, light-hearted kind of person. He used to pull pranks all the time, like the time when my cousin went missing and they looked for him everywhere, only to eventually find him hiding inside my grandfather’s cloak. And there was the time when we were all gathered at my grandparents’ living room, then he went inside and suddenly I saw a huge scary person coming out of the room. That scary person was none-other than my grandfather wearing my grandmother’s gown and scarf, which made him look scary, at least to me, but obviously he didn’t mean to scare anyone as he was laughing whole-heartedly.  He also loved to listen to Abd Al-Wahhab,  and singing for him. One of his best moments in my memory was when he sat beside my grandmother and started singing for her “Ya wardet  elhob el Safi”. Recently, a tape dating back to over 20 years ago was rediscovered, where my grandfather and other family members sing. He was the best amongst them all.

Yes, he loved it when we were there, and he loved it when we went to sleep over during summer breaks. He used to play cards with us, take us out for errands. He was an active person and he loved to have people around. One time my 2 cousins and I were visiting him and grandma, and he went to bring something from the kitchen, then when he sat down he said: “See? I like to do everything on my own. You can ask your grandmother, I never ask her to do anything for me, I like to stay active because when I die I want to die standing”.  I vividly remember this scene, as vividly as I remember him on the wheel chair when bone cancer was starting to take a heavy toll on him. He didn’t die standing but at least he was surrounded my many, many people who loved and respected him.

My grandfather’s legacy goes beyond intangible memories. His stack of books is still intact in his room, actually I managed to move some of them to my shelves. Perhaps the most important of them to me was the one he wrote himself. Well, actually it was a booklet for teaching driving, since after retiring from the army my grandfather opened a driving training center. His manual was adopted by the Traffic Department as the official theoretical material for learning driving. I also still have his gray wool jacket that I refuse to give it up for anyone. They say it’s good to wear things bequeathed from those who passed away, good for the deceased that is.

But perhaps the piece of legacy that touched and affected me the most was a small poem he wrote for his youngest grandchild at the time, few months before he died. My cousin and I were going through some photos and paper s when we found the poem printed on a picture of him and the young granddaughter he wrote the poem for.

I have so much regret over all the time I could spend but didn’t with my grandfather, mixed with some guilt for giving him any hints that I wasn’t interested in the things he said. But I was young, and I didn’t know better. I like to think he knows that now, and knows how much I would like to sit with him one afternoon for a cup of tea to listen to all the stories he has to say. I also like to think that he forgives me, because the other day I saw him in my dreams, and I hugged him, and he cried.