No.9 February 2001

A Tribute to Prince 

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For me, the New Year has never been a time for drunken brawling and carousing; rather, it has always been a time for sharing with the beloved and for introspection.  There have been years when there was no beloved to share the passing of one year into another, but not one New Year has gone by without my going deep inside and taking stock. 

This year, however, was marked by something especially difficult, so difficult that it’s moved me to depart from what I usually do.  I have always written about things that specifically relate to Istanbul and to Turkey, but this month I’m going to write about something that simply happened to happen here. 

Early in the afternoon of 24 December, after being ill for a week, my dog Prince died.  He was 16 years old.  If we reckon that one dog year is equal to seven human years that means he was 112 years old!  Since I have always believed that death, like birth, should take place at home whenever possible, we didn’t keep him at the vet.  We brought him home and made him warm and comfortable.  When he died we were with him, stroking him and talking to him, and he went very peacefully.  I washed him and dried him and brushed him and wept and said goodbye.   Then we wrapped him in a soft, heavy green and white cloth and took him and buried him in a beautiful, safe, private garden, high above the sea. 

Fortunately for me, school was closed for the holiday.  I couldn’t have functioned at school.  I’d already taken one day off to be with him during this last illness. You see Prince was a huge part of my life.  My daughters had found him wandering the streets of our California neighborhood, begged me to let them keep him, and, as children do, swore they’d always take care of him.  What happened was that I wound up falling in love with him, bringing him first to France and then to Turkey.  Prince “participated in personhood,” as I expressed it in a letter to a friend.  He had character, intellect, psyche, and emotions and he was the one living being who knew everything there is to know about me.  Every evening, when I opened the door, he came running to greet me.  That’s all over. 

Now, in spite of the fact that he meant all of this to me and was like a son to me is in great part so “culturally specific” (as my sympathetic, astute and highly-intelligent head of English put it) that it would have been extremely difficult to explain to the management of the school that I had to stay home and grieve because my dog had died.  Such an explanation just wouldn’t have ‘translated’ too well. That’s why I was lucky it was bayram and no explanation was needed.  I spent the days of the holiday in seclusion.  I didn’t go anywhere.  I saw only my partner (who was also very affected – after all, he’d taken Prince for his morning walk every day for years) and stayed up each night until 1 or 2 a.m. going through the entire house cleaning, sorting, organizing, filing, and throwing out.  I made conscious choices to keep only what spoke to my heart.  I did all this because it kept me occupied and helped me to manage the grief I was experiencing because of Prince’s death and also because I was inspired by a book.  An American woman recently sent me the book as a gift after she visited Turkey for the first time.  This woman wrote me an email saying that she’d been searching the web for information about Turkey when she found and read one of my columns.  She loved what I wrote and asked if it would be possible for us to meet when she arrived.  We arranged a meeting.  I showed her around and shared some things with her that I thought she would like.  I even brought her back to my apartment after we had dinner one evening and she said it seemed to her that my life and my home were like a fairy tale.  (That comment, by the way, set me off pondering for days.  Let’s just say it brought a new perspective to bear on a lot of things.)  Anyway, she sent the book after she returned to the U.S., and, as things turned out, it really helped me get through this terrible loss.  The author insists that we rid ourselves of baggage – material and otherwise – in order to create a “manageable lifestyle” that evolves into the condition of “living in a state of grace.”  Reader, take note:  she isn’t talking about a religious doctrine here; she is making an ontological point about what the quality of a human life can and should and must be. Well, I followed her advice and ended up throwing out eight large trash bags filled with material stuff, the whole while going back and reviewing my entire life.  By New Year’s Eve everything was finished, the entire house exuded order and beauty and harmony and I was more than ready to continue with my annual introspection. 

The New Year is always and inevitably accompanied by resolutions.  What are my resolutions this year? 

* I resolve to remember what it means to be human.

* I resolve to remember who I am, really, and to act accordingly. 

* I resolve to remember that the English word poetry is from the Greek word. ‘poein,’ meaning “to do, to make, to create” and, since I am, at heart, a poet, to act accordingly.

* I resolve to worry more about how well I love then about how well I am loved, and to act accordingly. 

* I resolve to not allow myself to be distracted by anything when I am in the space of the classroom with my students. 

* Finally, I resolve to work really hard on writing – to write, and write and write.  This is the year in which I want to finish Istanbul? Yes, Istanbul, that book, and go on to other projects.  (I figure that if I write this here, it will be really embarrassing for me if I don’t finish and one thing I hate is being embarrassed.)    

You know, when we were talking about planting roses this spring in the garden where Prince is buried I said that I wanted to have a marble marker made for his grave.  What will future archeologists make of a grave marker that reads: “PRINCE Born San Jose 1984 Died Istanbul 2000,” all written in Turkish?   Who would have thought a California street dog would grow old and die in Istanbul?  Life really is strange.  It reminds me of a poem about Istanbul I read during the bayram: 

Yeni bir ülke bulamazsýn, baþka bir deniz bulamazsýn.
Bu þehir arkandan gelecektir.  Sen gene ayný sokaklarda
dolaþacaksýn.  Ayný mahallede kocayacaksýn;
ayný evlerde kýr düþecek saçlarýna.

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighbourhoods, turn grey in these same houses.

Well, iþte böyle -- another milestone in my life here in Istanbul.  This was important to me and you readers are important to me.  I wanted to share it with you.  It would have been dishonest to write about anything else this month, and I didn’t want that

 

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 January 2001
(No. 8 Ocak 2001 - Türkçe 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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