Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Remembrances from lives past, 5

As a reminder, you can find the complete text of this unpublished book on my website, in the Reading Room, in the bookcase marked Ottoman Beachcombing.

May, '83, "Riding a trail to who-knows-where" (Maverick's theme song)
...As the plains slant imperceptibly into lowland, the thirsty vegetation grows greener. The fields are divided by narrow paths or winding gullies. Though the creeks are dried or are barely trickling, deep green reeds crowd the banks. Poplars and cypresses line the roads and are scattered in ones and twos elsewhere, like proud and stately sentinels. Or, you pass over a rounded ridge and see lone cypresses marking the corners of fields, deep green spires against dry soil and grey green crops. This is the epitome of a Turkish valley.

And then there are the other spires, the minarets of ruined mosques and new ones. Where their tops are flat, by choice or by decay, the giant nests of storks can be seen. You see one and you will want to see more. Scan the roofs. Each village has a few storks as residents. Lucky the family that is chosen by a stork to build its nest on their roof, for they are believed to be omens of prosperity and happiness. And I am sure it is true! These birds are truly lovely, and yet awkward in their elegance. Sometimes they can be seen standing on one leg in their nests. Other times they appear, gliding lazily with their legs stretched behind them and their long wings extended casually, black in front and white behind. Or else they are wading in the marshes and stream beds, picking for food with their pointed beaks. You stop. You watch, as if savoring good news. And it will happen to you as it did to me: you will forget what you meant to do. I meant to speak of mosques!...

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