Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Abbasid Caliphate

Did you know the "golden age" of Baghdad was during the 9th century? It's when the Arabian Nights mostly take place. It's when Islam had pretty strong control over the region and most of North Africa and Central Asia. You might have known this. But did you know the Arabs were prolific poets? And that in the Abbasid court, they had poets just as they did in the heyday of Venice, who called out spontaneous poems of love and loyalty to their current rulers? And that wine was often freely drank, late into the night?

Yes. They were Muslim rulers, and they drank wine. And the people knew it.

But most importantly, their court poets wrote about love. And someone, somewhere down the line, felt compelled to write the poems down, and then rewrite them when the papyrus fell apart and paper became common. And so now we're left with volumes and volumes (only parts in English, sadly) of poems like this:

You pages, pour me out a potion
Pour me to drink her soft, sweet kisses
I suffer drought; its healing draught
Is drinking from her moist fresh lips.
The smiling corners of her mouth are brilliant as chamomile;
Her speech is like embroidery, a mantle with embroidery
Lodged in the core and kernel of
My heart, she is insatiable.
She said to me: 'I'll meet with you a few nights hence.'
But day and night will wear away, and nothing new will come myw ay.
She is content without me; my
Portion is sighs to gnaw a heart of steel.
~ Bashshar ibn Burd, medieval Islamic poet

Beautiful. And the images. *shiver*

This one made me chuckle:

Of all garments
God blast the veil

it hides the young

and masks the vile
to urge us on.
God blast the veil.
~ Dhu'l-Rumma
(696?-735?) (I.E., a LONG ass time ago.)

And one that is anonymous:

It's true.
I have left my mistresses and wine behind
and love's delirium. and have abandoned myself to my Lord.

My pleasures were long-lasting
but now He firmly holds my hand
within His law.

Today, wine is a crime,
and you,
are against His law;
but when I remember
this and that ... and your smile,
I must leave my Lord behind for ever.

Makes you wonder what transpired in those dots, eh?

And after at least a thousands years, I can feel the anguish and love the author must have felt. And because of his words, he and I are connected. (In a weird "transcendence of time and space" sort of way, I guess.)

If only I could travel back and hear the music sung late at night, while the caliph sat behind a curtain with his women, drinking and laughing. None of the music survived the ages. The lyrics and instruments, yes, but the Arabs had no way of marking musical notes, so when the singers died, and their songs were forgotten, they disappeared. What would happen if we lost our sheets of music collected the past 500 years, and then today's musicians died. Our grandchildren wouldn't know a tenth of what had been sung or played. The world would be silent.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


How often to you make promises? Daily? Monthly? Never?

I rarely do because it's always so difficult for me to keep them. Once the promise is made, it's imprinted on my mind and at the forefront for a while. I end up obsessing over it. My most pressing promise at the moment? One I made to my critique partner. After our last meeting, she made me promise not to do any crafty things (i.e., felt or sew) during the daytime in lieu of writing. It's fine to do those things once the kids are in bed for the night, but not when they're at school or taking naps (which is becoming a rarity, sad to say---I'll have to change my blog title!).

So although I'd like to be making something with my hands right now to get that high I get whenever I finish a project (that happens, what, once every other year or so with writing? Never?), I am sitting down with my computer on my lap. Writing. Well, blogging, but I'm also writing. Just taking a break because I already reached 1/3 of my writing goal this morning. And the water is boiling for tea.

Fortunately, the promise came with a gift: she made me feel, once again, like my book is worth it. I'm filled with optimism and energy. Now, I just know that this story is going to be amazing. And she surprised me, too. She said, "you're almost at the end of the book already." *

Me: What? But I'm only halfway through.

Her: No, this is closer to the climax.

Me: But there's not that much written.

Her: All that stuff we said needs to go in earlier? You can write that in, in-between what you've already written.

Me: *stunned silence as I am realizing she might be right*

Her: So go write it already.

Me: *stunned silence as I am realizing the end of the road is closer than I'd thought*

Her: And no felting!

* Conversation as I remember it. There were probably more "ums" involved.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


My Etsy shop! Yay!

I spent nearly all day yesterday getting it all set up and trying my darndest to take decent pictures when it was gloomy outside. Today proved to have better weather, so I got some scarf pictures made (and ended up convincing a neighbor girl who I had only known for 30 seconds to model for me).


And of course I'm not writing now, not while I'm so excited. Plus, I've got to go to the post office because I just made my first sale!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fear and Longing in Syracuse

I've been having up and down days. What is going on? Some days I attack my book--no, wait, fondle-- and other days, I don't want to touch it at all.

It's all based on fear, you know. That great, terrible, blinding emotion that chases us all down. Some days, I'm faster and others, well, it crawla up my back and traces its claws along my collar bone. Too close; a little too close. This morning was one of those days. I was afraid of the next scene. Not the scene, actually, but of not being able to write it well.

Which, frankly, is ridiculous. I mean, what, I can't put some words together? Someone asked Steven King how he writes and he responded, "One word at a time," or something like that. It's all a writer's got to do. They don't even have to be good (not in the first draft, or even the second).

So this morning, when fear was digging its claws into my scalp, I turned and faced it.

(Ohh, I can write fiction! You see, the truth of the matter is that I started writing, got scared, and went to something working on a project for my soon-to-open Etsy store.)

One side....

And the other side....

But now the bag is at a good pausing point and I really need to get to work.

You do too, don't you? After all, procrastination is the thief of time. (Someone else, somewhere else, said that once.)