Friday, August 23, 2013

The Shaman Within - dd2

Following suit with the very old family tradition, I took the wrong bus. When I realized it, instead of the good ol' E5 we were already running on the freeway. As most of you know you can not find bus stops on freeways, ours included. Fortunately I was finally back home, in the land of the flexible rules and the least-bothered people with them. I asked the driver if he could drop me at a convenient place near to my destination. "No problem," he said and soon I was on a bridge trying to figure out the best path to the exit toll booths 50 meters below. That proved easy, too; apparently many had done it before and the path down to the booths was clearly marked. 10 minutes later, I was down and walking back on E5 - we had already cleared Hereke, my final destination - contrary to what I had originally intended.

I could have taken another bus, but it was August, I had 15 days off and nothing better to do with a very light hand baggage. So... After ten minutes on foot while a gentle breeze washing my face, I saw a cemetery, alongside the road, overlooking Izmit Bay. It did not occur to me that I had been to the place before until I arrived at the gate. Then I remembered. Here, in this isolated but beautiful place had we buried my grandmother. I was 5 then and could barely remember the details.

turcoman girl in traditional attire
Cemeteries are special. Regardless of the monotheistic culture soup we are forced to swim, that little man, or the woman, your preference, the shaman inside survives. The only enemy that kills him is Hollywood. Against its horror movies, ghosts, zombies, etc, shaman is helpless, he suffers a silent death. And I met Hollywood at a very late age, so mine was alive and kicking. The little man told me to get in and I entered the cemetery. There was not a single soul around to ask for direction but the shaman knew the way. In less than a minute I found her grave and was standing by her tombstone. Her Birdie! After all those years, I was back, at my roots, at the place where I came from, and eventually would go.

"Birdie," she used to call me, because I was the one who would run to the grocery and fetch her cigarettes (now an illegal act), Gelincik brand, finest specimen of the once famous Turkish tobacco. I would run, not wasting a moment to deliver her cigarettes. The change was always mine!

Her smoking was like a ritual. She would wait for my mother, for coffee, real Turkish style, no less. Well, that meant 10 minutes during which she would open the box, take one cigarette, rolling it with her thin fingers, adjusting it so that it would fit perfectly to the holder. She took her time, hers was not a competitive world. Grace! That was all that mattered. When coffee was ready, so was she and her cigarette, now properly placed in its holder. She would light it, yes, oh so gracefully, take a puff, release the smoke with a barely audible sound. Then she would take a sip from her coffee and complement my mother.

Authority was her second nature. I had never seen her raise her voice. Yet, nobody could say no to her, especially my father. When facing her, he was like a child. I remember once reading in a study that in Turkish society the highest status for women was being a grandmother, somewhat similar but stronger than seen elsewhere around Mediterranean. A study in vain, confirming what is already known. Long time later, I asked my father if she abused it or was ever capricious. He told me "No, she was not." She was the wisdom itself, another shamanic trait.

And the shaman took over me completely. I walked over and sat on her grave, resting my back to the now slightly yellowish marble, where her name "Melek" (meaning angel in Turkish) was carved. I took out a cigarette, not Gelincik but pure Turkish still, and started my own ritual (I took a mental note to bring coffee next time). We smoked together. Although I usually gazed at the bay, I was careful enough to exhale towards the ground, so that she too could enjoy it. Here I was, together with grandma, in a cemetery, in our cemetery, two generations together, in the most peaceful place in the world.

Part 1: Significant Dots of Red and Black
Part 3: