No.12 May 2001
The Importance of Being
|I heard that Orhan
Veli had once written a poem about spring in Istanbul, how it was so
beautiful it was difficult to get anything much done, that he tended to
spend all his time sitting at a cafe in Rumeli Hżsarż, close by the
Bosphorous, just looking. I understand this very, very well.
These are the days when I start to hate having to go to work.
Everything inside me wants to go to a cafe by the Bosphorous, as Orhan
Veli did, where I can sit, drink tea, write, and just stare out over the
water and dream. Thinking to quote from his poem here, I searched
the Internet for forty-five minutes (something I’ll no doubt rue when
the phone bill comes), but couldn’t find it, so the allusion will have
Yes, I know there’s an economic crisis. I know, I know, I know, but . . . grousing about this or that which ails us seemed quite out of place last month when I started writing this column because it was April -- April in Istanbul Now, April, anywhere, has been a bittersweet time for me for some years now, but that having been said, there is still much to recommend April in Istanbul. It’s undeniably gorgeous, lush, embracing – it was even difficult for me to stay melancholy inside an April in Istanbul. Even in an April when the economy went belly up. Now, as we go to press, it’s May. The economy is still unbelievably terrible (our salaries were late this month) but how can one quibble about details like that when this amazing season continues to unfold.
In the mornings the air is soft and warm and you know it’s time to take the cotton clothes out of the trunk to wash and iron. There’s the air, and then there are the birds -- birds certainly figure large in spring. There are hundreds of species of birds in Turkey – wrens, robins, starlings, swallows, cormorants, storks, sparrow hawks, falcons, kestrels, and best of all, the turtle doves (kumru – the name sounds a bit like their song). These mornings the birds start singing even before the first call to prayer. A short while ago I was in the garden having pulled out the green plants that grow in the cracks of the stone walls and turned over the earth in the beds. Everything is ready for the new toprak boyasż and the plants. I was sitting there drinking a glass of red wine, just enjoying the peace of it all. The sky was dark because it was about to rain but everything was very quiet. Then, a bird I didn’t recognize pierced the stillness with a deep, melodic warbling. It was as if it pierced the fragments of wintry sadness in me, opened them up, and said “Spring is here!” These days are full now of epiphanies like that one, and they’re especially welcome in the midst of this horrible economic turmoil we have been thrown into. Today, for example, I rode down the wide, tree-lined avenue that leads from Bežiktaž to Ortaköy. Have you ever really looked at those trees, or at the gardens above the walls along one side of this street? Have you ever really looked at the massive gates to the palace? Never mind it’s a five star hotel now – whenever I look I still see a palace. Those gates are incredible I can imagine them opening and wonderful processions passing through them.
The image of massive gates swinging open to allow passage evokes the function of spring. Spring opens up the darkness of the year (or, on another level, of an existential condition, whether individual or collective – my sad yearnings, our country’s current woes, doesn’t matter)) to allow longer, light-filled days, new growth, possibility, and hope. Ah yes, that’s what spring means/does. Spring creates hope. It is precisely this process that has been repeated for the time of the age of this earth and it is precisely this process that will continue to occur for the remainder of the life of this earth. This process is all about song, music, dance, love, giving . . .
What must one do in a spring like this
from Roberto Juarroz, Onzieme Poésie Verticale
Someone who knows very well what April means to me sent a message wishing me “flowers, light, and hope” for this April. Certainly things could be worse, no? Even if it’s true that depression and melancholy can have initiatory effects, as psychologist Carl Jung claimed, surely there’s no place for such things in a spring like this. Now is the time to make everything new -- in an individual life, or a national life, doesn’t matter. I’ll quote from Orhan Veli another time. Here, Rumi is perfect:
breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Now is the time to plant the garden, clean the rugs, air out the bedding, wash and iron everything you can get your hands on, and in at least one case I know, finish sanding those doors and painting them verdant green. Now is also the time to open your heart, and your soul – open them up to the soft, sweet breezes of what can be.
New is important. Joy is important. Possibility is important. Hope is important. Oh, yes.
|No.1- April 2000||No.11 April 2001||No. 20 July 2002||No 29 April 2003|
|No.2 June 2000||No.12 May 2001||No. 22 September 2002||NO 30 MAY 2003|
|No.3 July/August 2000||No. 13 June 2001||No. 23 October 2002||NO 31 JUNE 2003|
|No.5 October 2000||No.14 July 2001||No 24 November 2002||NO 32 JULY 2003|
|No.7 December 2000||No.15 August 2001||No 25 DECEMBER 2002||NO 33 August|
(No. 8 Ocak 2001 - Türkēe tercume
|NO 16 September 2001||No 26 January 2003||No 34 September|
|No.9 February 2001||No. 17 April 2002||No 27 February 2003||No 35 October|
|No.10 March 2001||NO 19 JUNE 2002||No 28 March 2003||No
36 January 2004
|No 37 February - March 2004||No 38 April 2004|
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