Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Christmas 1997 - Turkey (no not the bird)

Here's some old news - written 14 years ago (edited slightly) for Kurk

No news! A normal year for us for the first time since January 1990. As the Turks say (speaking of our years 1990-1996), Geçmis(h) olsun - may it be in your past.

The year in review. Kirkegaard said most thoughtfully - "we live forwards but understand backwards". Physicists may say that their laws work as well regardless of the direction of time, but we are none the less its apparent prisioners forward. We appear "for a moment and then are gone", (James 4:14) leaving a unique trace in the space-time hologram (Bob 13:2).

So this year had departings: Three of us (Simon from Montreal, Sarah from Halifax, and Bob from Victoria) began the year with the grand Eastern Townships funeral of our sister Diana's husband, Derek. What a sendoff - the whole town and all the surrounding countryside of Brome was in attendance. Bob had not been able to get to the too recent funeral in 1996 of another brother-in-law, Gib Allen, former chief surgeon at the Belleville Hospital and former Reeve of Tweed (following in the steps of our sister Barbara, his wife). More of the whole family was at Derek's funeral than at any other time in recent history - since our sister Janet's death at age 9 almost 33 years to the day earlier.

There was another departing in September as our Rector and friend, Bob MacRae retired from the parish after 20 years. We really have to get used to departings, don't we? Just a week ago, we went to Bob's 65th birthday party in Vancouver.

But I lied - there is news.

  • Sarah has gone back to Cambridge where she and Marcus are both tutoring and she is assistant organist at Great St Mary's and graduate organ scholar at Robinson College. This is the continuation of a good beginning - as the Turks say - Saatlun olsun - may it last for hours, (meaning in this case may it last for ever).
  • Jeremy recovers steadily; he has been back at work since March, and has just purchased a second hand jeep. Bas(h)inig sag() olsun - may his life be spared. (I can't find the Turkish keys on this keyboard!)
  • Simon has finished the academic requirements for his master's in violin performance. Afiyet olsun - may it contribute to his health.
  • And James has just been given 15 months of compulsory free room and board in northern Alberta. Canlnlz sag() olsun - may his soul be safe from harm.
  • Diana soldiers on alone as manager of the GVYO, her co-manager, Sue MacRae having accompanied her husband to Vancouver.
  • Bob has created a new framework for software development, and continues research in first century history.

That's the real news. I know several of you went to Turkey this year. So did we! And we spent a week in the Isles of Greece including three eternal days on Patmos. Some days in the hologram stand out - they really do last for ever. Some weeks, some holidays. Our three recent European trips are like that, and this one is built on the other two. Immediately as we left on holiday, we were there - time out of time in a villa in Turgutreis near ancient Halicarnassus, now Bodrum. We rented the villa from Gary Retzleff of Bishop's University, who recently completed a trip of the silk road journey from China to Turkey. We took day and overnight trips to many major historical sites on the west coast of Turkey.

What can I say about the hospitality, the carpets, the history, the food, the 20-cent loaves of bread, the architecture, the religion, the art - a feast for the heart, mind, and soul. There was a special character to the high roadside curbs. Having a cane was useful. Dogs and cattle guided us on two of our walks in the hills. We swam in the old Roman baths in Hieropolis (Pamukkale) while snow fell in this high country. Then we returned to the sunsets and more temperate weather on the coast. The weekly markets are personal and full of variety, truly a delight to the eyes. Bob's haircut was an experience of a lifetime. Three generations of sculptors hovered over him for the 1.5 hour operation. We bought four carpets! from Süleyman of Selçuk. His sign reads:

Buy from Süleyman or God hammer you!

He took us on a personally guided tour of the hill village of (S)irince where we met his friend with whom he had done military service. He fed us with yufka, a very thin dough, made by his mother and her sister over a open fire. He gave us home made soap, made by hand by his mother from olive pits. Oh Süleyman - how all this touches our hearts. It is like washing with the soap equivalent of gold. Please tell us how to make it. The recipe must be preserved and followed. We in the West have forgotten to live, we are in such a hurry. Our produce is mass produced, polished to boredom. When we finish our work, we don't know how to occupy ourselves. We labour over information, but communicate nothing of value. Oh Turks, do find yourselves, but do not imitate what is the worst of our traditions. Süleyman's carpets adorn the living room and dining room now in Victoria. They are precious - seemingly ageless, and a testimony to a beautiful craft that has spoken for millennia.

Bob and Sue MacRae joined us on our last week in Turkey. We went together to Greece where we read the Apocalyse out loud for a blessing on the very ground where it was written 1902 years ago. Here Bob (MacDonald) by the good graces of Mr. Loukas, got to sing with the cantors from the Orthodox parish of Scala - a special treat for one who reads neither Greek nor their musical notation. Mr Loukas guided us in the holy places. Father Simeone, a monk from the Monastery of St John the Theologian, was also our host. We will remember these days always as a very special gift to which these two men of our day gave a personal touch.

Something happened at the beginning of our era, friends, that has no parallel in space time. It has to do with the container of the hologram, Glory itself that is immanent everywhere and everywhen, turning our passing moments into Life. For a time, it too experienced the fulness of our artistic, sensual, and political life. We have seen traces of this Glory in the past year. The Apostle of the Glory walked in these places that we have walked in. [The Glory itself spoke in Greek in the cave of the Apocalypse. Ego eimi to alpha kai to o. (I am the alpha and the omega). It is said that the bays of Patmos make the shapes of these letters of the Greek alphabet.]

Friends, let us care for one another.

As the Turks say, S(h)erefinize - in your honour/to your health!

Bob and Diana MacDonald