Sunday, January 25, 2015

Um Qais Revisited

Some places call me back again and again, places whose beauty is ancient, familiar and at the same time always renewing itself. Um Qais, the ancient decapolis city of Gadara is one of those places. Our family has explored the site as a tourist would, such as during our first visit in 1992, but we've returned again and again, with no other purpose than to be in the place together as a family, soaking up it's beauty, letting it nourish our imaginations.

As we traveled to spend the day in the ruins of Um Qais last Sunday, I reminisced about previous visits: Oldest Daughter was two years old when we first visited Um Qais, and I carried Active Son in a bright red baby carrier. A snapshot from the day shows shows Oldest Daughter sitting on a carved basalt rock as if a princess on her throne. This was the beginning of our children growing up with ancient ruins and and rock piles as their playgrounds. 

The Cardo

Shortly after Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, the militarized area just beyond the ruins was opened to the public--though one must still leave one's identification card at the military checkpoint when entering this area. We visited the "Saha"(open area) on a hilltop where there are lookout towers, like this one, and a helicopter pad.


A local friend told us that the late King Hussein and the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yizhak Rabin would rendezvous in this place. 

From the hilltop one can look west to Lake Tiberius/Sea of Galilee (it was hazy so the sea is not clear in this picture)

and north to Syria, immediately beyond  the banks of the Yarmouk river.

Today one can also hear the mortar shells exploding just beyond the border.

Banks of the Yarmouk river, Jordan/Syrian border

Dirt roads winding down into the Jordan Valley toward the Sea of Galilee bring to life the story of Jesus casting the demons out of the Gadarene (man from Gadara) into a herd of swine, which Luke tells us, rushed down the steep bank and cast themselves into the sea.

This Saha is also the place were I first discovered the riotous variety of Jordanian flora: as a closed military zone, the flora was left undisturbed. When visiting in 1994 we waded through a field of wildflowers up to our waists. I'd never seen anything like it, even in the Alps of Swizerland. The same area is now grazed and/or cultivated.

Back at the ruins, we basked in the sun which had not long ago melted snow. I love living in a country where it can be winter and spring all at the same time. My eyes feasted on the bright green of newly sprouted foliage...

,,,and the soft grey green of olive trees and fig trees yet winter bare.

Artist Son, who is in the midst of an  illustration project, made reference sketches .

Dear Husband could be found where there were signs of excavation.

He found a little Roman glass along the way.

I went searching for the first signs of a new wildflower season. It has begun! I spotted my first anemone...

...and my first asphodel of the season.

Beauty in the olive groves

Saturday, January 17, 2015

20 Minute Book Notes~Brideshead Revisited

I've had so many good intentions to "write a little something" about the books I read. I've actually written about quite a few of them--in my head. When I read that my cyber-friend, J.T., planned to take a 20-minute a day writing challenge this year, I thought, "Yes! That's it. I think I can manage 20 minutes. It may not be eloquent and it certainly won't be exhaustive, but at least I will write something. So, here is my first 20 minute book review (written first with pen an paper--that's how I'm taking the challenge.)

I've wanted to read Evelyn Waugh's novel, Brideshead Revisted for some years now, and in my effort to read more fiction this year I picked BR for my first book of 2015. Besides seeing this book on "must reads" or "good reads" lists, the only impression I brought to this book was a reader's mention of Waugh's beautiful prose.

As soon as I finished reading the book, I turned back the pages--the Kindle pages, that is--to re-read particular scenes and conversations, which had become more meaningful, more poignant, now that the novel had concluded. I didn't feel this way reading the first half of the book. In fact, the thought of giving it up crossed my mind a couple times; the plot seemed indiscernible, and the lives of the skeptical characters, futile and unsympathetic. Shortly after the halfway point, the complex characters began to reveal their depth, albeit through Waugh's understated writing.

I waited to read any reviews or analyses of BR until after I finished the book. I'm glad that I did so that I could make at least some of the discoveries on my own. However, I wish I had read one statement by Waugh made about his book before reading it. He writes in a letter to his literary agent, A.D. Peters:

"The whole thing is steeped in theology, but I begin to agree that theologians won't recognize it."

God is always there, of course, even when it seems He isn't .

I enjoyed Thomas Howard's thoughts after reading the book.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cashmere Chronicles

Somehow, I found time to felt, cut, and sew cashmere during the wedding-summer. Tayta called it cashmere therapy and said it was the reason why I didn't get stressed-out before the wedding. Maybe. If I worked diligently, I could finish a blanket in one week, depending on how much time I had to devote to it.

The first two blankets/throws were completed while we were in the States (the green grass backround is a giveaway). The first one was a gift to Oldest Daughter and Music Man when the returned to Boise in August for a visit. No, I wasn't able to finish it before the wedding!

I made this baby blanket soon after we returned to Jordan in September and sent it with my friend who was traveling to Boise for the birth of her granddaughter.

I finished this blanket/throw last week--another belated wedding present for a June wedding of dear friends. As you can see from the way we are dressed, now is when my friends can use it! (66"x 67")

I will be putting aside the cashmere for a little while so as to get to work on a scrap/recycled fabric quilt for Tayta's college dorm room next fall. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

~Merry Christmas~

~Merry Christmas~
Just three of us were home for Christmas this year, but we had a fine time celebrating with dear friends. Oldest Daughter has three homes now: one in Chicago with Music man, one with us in Jordan, and one with Music Man's family in Colorado--that is where she is this year. Active Son is enjoying time with grandparents, an aunt, an uncle, and cousins in Arizona, and Artist Son spent the day in Paris. To say that I am thankful for Skype is an understatement. We enjoyed talking with all our kids over the days surrounding Christmas. We hadn't planned to hear from Artist Son, but he surprised us with a Skype call on Christmas Day.

After the traditional Christmas morning program and reception at the hospital, we came home and relaxed awhile before putting our Christmas lasagnas in the oven to bake. Later that evening we had a merry time around the dinner table with friends from the United States, Egypt, and the UK. 

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Awladuna Akbaduna--again

I'd call today an Awladuna Akbaduna kind of day. The Arabic proverb that most often comes to mind and most often describes my heart:

اولادنا اکبدنا ماشیین علی الارض

Awladuna akbaduna mashyeen 'ala al'ard.
Our children are our hearts walking around outside of us.
(literally: Our children are our livers walking on the earth.)

Dear Husband, Tayta, and I gathered around the computer monitor, two continents away, to watch Active Son walk in the Boise State University commencement ceremony and receive his Bachelors of Science degree from the school of  Heath Sciences. 

That wave was for us. We cheered loudly!


We were able to spot Active Son in the commencement crowd with the Jordanian flag on his mortar board.

Love that smile. Love this guy so much. We're so proud of you, Active Son!

Also today: I was praying for Oldest Daughter as she had an event in Chicago, and for Artist Son as he traveled to London to begin a holiday tour of Europe with a college friend. That is a lot of mom-emotions and mom-prayers for one day. I wish I could hug them all!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A Charming Singer

The white-spectacled bulbuls which frequent the trees in our yards, serenade me throughout the day. Their beautiful, clear songs often draw me to the window and sometimes out the door, beckoning me to observe the creatures who sings so charmingly.

Today I spotted these bulbuls, resting after an brief afternoon concert and cozied up to each other in our pomegranate tree, which is nearly bare of leaves.

I tried to sneak around to the other side of the tree, guessing that they would spy me and fly away, and so they did, only to alight on a nearby olive tree.

This bulbul's white spectacles and bright yellow breast can be seen in this picture.

It spied a few olives on the tip-top branches, missed when Dear Husband and a friend completed the harvest a couple weeks ago...

...and found one within immediate reach. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wedding Day

Last summer much of our family's energy, emotions, and imagination were involved in The Wedding--the wedding of our precious Oldest Daughter and (hmm, I guess he needs a blog-name, at least for now) Music Man.

It was our family's first wedding: the first of our children to marry and the first grandchild on both sides of the family to walk down the aisle. And, the first wedding in Music Man's family. I think all our hearts were expectant and full of anticipation of the joy a marriage would bring to our families.

The wedding was to be held Idaho, though the bride-to-be lived in Chicago, the groom-to-be, in Denver and then Chicago, and the rest of us (sans the college sons) lived in Jordan.  We arrived in Idaho five weeks before the wedding, and Oldest Daughter joined us two plus weeks before. Thanks to the internet, family, and friends, all was ready for the much anticipated wedding day.

The bride with her youngest sister-in-law and her youngest cousin

Tayta was an awesome maid-of-honor, anticipating every need and doing what she could to meet it.

I love this photo and all of God's goodness to me that it represents. It is framed and on my desk so that I can look at it as I pray for these dear ones daily.

We are family

We were beginning to wilt in the 95 degree heat, but we tried to keep smiling.

A posed picture, yes, but I think this was a case of the photographer helping us to get in touch with our true feelings.

My wonderful family. I love them. I can't remember the last time we were photographed together. When I was in high school?? My sister designed Oldest Daughter's bridal bouquet.

My dear father-in-law officiated the wedding

Dear Husband's family--we were so happy to have them all with us! They came from Arizona, Montana, Colorado, and Illinois.

Active son as the marvelous Master of Ceremonies

First Dance

(iPhone picture by Maida)

Oh, and how we danced! The happy dance and many more. Turns out Music Man was the president of a break-dancing club in high school and all his friends were fantastic dancers. We also did some Arab-style dances--mostly just the arm moves. 

This was an impromptu picture taken by our photographer/friend's daughter just after the bride and groom departed. I love the people in this photo--no family, all friends, though friends-like-family-friends. Represented here are high-school locker partners, college roommates, weddings (officiating and participating in), raising children together (though often across the continents), living together, three families who have lived most of their adult lives overseas, bible-study, lots of prayer, lots of joy, and a few tears.

Just this week a thoughtful friend whom I hadn't seen in months asked me to share my favorite memory of Oldest's Daughter's wedding day. I could answer without hesitation: Being surrounded by the love and rejoicing of our dear family and friends as we celebrated together the marriage of our daughter and new son-in-law. Included in that family now is Music Man's family. Our tribes have united in love and a hope for our daughter and her husband's future together. I thought of the Grinch that day--yes the Grinch!--as I felt my heart grow three sizes.

Photographs by Valerie MacMahon of Pictoria