And so here I am in Istanbul, the experiences from this rich summer piling high and fast creating quite the blog jam. The “when to live” vs. “when to stop living in order to write ” conundrum is a long standing one for me. I nearly always opt to jump into life rather than to pull out of it to write. But I’m a writer and I get cranky when I don’t write.
There’ve been comments lately, lots of them about the dearth of recent blogs on my website and well… OK, no more excuses. I’m either a writer, or I’m not. And so I sit down to write.
Then the To Do list for Oneworld, my business in Istanbul, fills my head…..
Followed by the biggest I’ll do it later boogeyman of all, Mr. Perfectionism – the only Virgo trait I’ll admit to. I can’t bear to post anything less than perfect, and, well, perfect as we all know, never arrives.
And so I’m going to post stream of consciousness experiential stuff in this space, because if I don’t I may as well retire this blog, and I really do want to share the richness of the life that has been mine these past few months (make that years, but we’ll settle for months for now).
It’s not easy to get going after a good long bout of procrastination and so I begin in as good place as any – “Yesterday…
The phone rings. I get up to answer because I am expecting a call from my manager Elif. We discuss me walking to her apartment (30 minutes through central Istanbul) to clear my things from her home where I stayed last week and to pick up the keys to the flats we rent out. I remember that I need a manicure and a pedicure before catching the bus to meet Alexandra in Fener to ferry over the Bosphorus together to Husam and Ellen’s party in 3 hours.
Oh yeah. The blog.
Yesterday after meditating, I got up to prepare coffee. But the refrigerator was bare in the apartment I’d just moved into, and so off I went, down the 5 flights of stairs, and up the hill to Galata Tower (the Coit Tower of Istanbul) and down the back alleyway called Camekan to Molly’s Restaurant.
Molly is from Toronto, Canada, a robust redhead with freckled white skin and a sweet smile and big bosom that makes me want to curl up in her lap. She has this little cafe that I’ve been wanting to try, she’s got filtered coffee and she’s got internet. So I sank into a big leather armchair facing a floor to ceiling bookshelf packed with books at Molly’s Cafe, next to where a cat was sleeping in a window sill, and someone in an apartment across the alley was playing a violin. We chatted for a few moments and next thing I knew I was sipping a mug of coffee and eating a breakfast burrito prepared by none other than Molly herself.
I opened my Mac and begin to write. My morning stream of consciousness journaling is free form, completely unedited and done directly from my heart in a nearly subconscious manner, often with eyes closed. After approximately 30 minutes, the writing stops itself. I just know when it is done. And usually I have no idea what I have written until I read it again. And I am nearly always surprised . I wrote THAT? It’s my daily visit with my inner therapist.
I left Molly’s leaning into the winding cobblestone alleyway twisting, climbing, dropping past the hamam shops, past the new designer boutiques, to a ezcane (pharmacy) . I showed the pharmacist a piece of paper on which I had written the name of a medication I needed for a minor but persistent infection. I understood in bir az Turkish that they were telling me that they must order the medicine, and would I please return in half an hour. So I crossed the street to Sok Market, filled my basket with milk, yogurt, almonds, and plums and headed back down the hill and up the 5 flights of stairs to my apartment to unload the food. I slipped out of my sweaty clothes (this has been the hottest summer in Istanbul’s recent history) and into a sundress and flip flops and returned to the pharmacy.
The pharmacist pointed to my dress and said something in Turkish. I looked down and horror of horrors, saw that my dress was on wrong side out, its big white tag flapping like a flag from one of its exposed seams. The pharmacist motioned to a room in the back where I could change.
I stood there in that room eyes focusing in the dark and what i saw was row after row of dusty brown jars in all shapes and sizes with white labels with names like Boric Acid and Sulphur. Ancient bronze scales and crusty bunson burners. My God. I was in an old time chemist’s workshop. I wanted to whip out my camera and start shooting. Sometimes memory is best.
I walked across Galata Square (which is actually a circle)past gypsies playing happy music that made me want to shimmy my shoulders. Beatnik types (do they still have those? Oh well, the word fits) were everywhere just sort of hanging out. On benches, in the surrounding tea gardens, seated at sidewalk cafes, on benches around the tower. As if no one had anywhere to go, and as if nothing was more important than just being there. It was like stepping back into 1960’s San Francisco or Soho, New York.
Hours later I was walking back home along Istiklal Avenue (a 2-mile pedestrian artery through central Istanbul with over 1000 restaurants, taverns and bars), when something caught my eye in a side alley way. Looking into an early evening summer sun, there in sillouette were several old Turkish men gathered around a tiny turkish table, a cloud of smoke billowing up behind them from the nargile pipe they shared, and I heard the click clack of backgammon pieces being picked up and set back down again on a wooden board. I was filled with something that can only be described as joy.
I thought about that as I walked the remaining half mile home. Why did the sight of those men in that cinematic setting make me so happy? Why did I love finding myself in that old timey chemist’s shop this morning? Why did I delight in seeing an Islamic woman on the street earlier, her head covered in a scarf for modesty, whilst her blouse was revealing and tight? Why did hearing the gypsies play beneath Galata Tower make me smile? Why did I stop to watch the man with the little round hat on, long pointy beard, standing in the street selling big platters of baklava?
Because I’m hooked on surprise. I love being childlike, wonder-filled, confronted with things I’ve never before seen, smelled, tasted, or touched, and I like it pretty much all of the time.
I thought about this and the fact that I have been on this search for home – a place on the planet to settle.
What is this thing called home that I am looking for? Do I really want it? Is it possible that home for me is the freedom to change my environment whenever, wherever I want? Is home for me an eternal state of surprise and delight? A never-ending state of wonder? If so, why am I looking?
Maybe all this searching and not finding has just been an excuse for the journey.
Maybe I am home.