I’ve now officially restarted this blog twice! I’ve been busy writing other things, as my work on my memoir feels like it is starting to pay off. It is rather like finding a sculpture in a chunk of marble, trying to tell a story about your life. Spring has arrived, though the snow on my fire escape would have you believe otherwise. Still, I celebrated with my own version of the Persian holiday, Nowruz – a new day. I spent the morning writing and planning my day before running around the neighborhood to buy the essentials: flowers and flour – I was looking for barley flour, since barley cakes are a traditional new year offering, but I settled for spelt. I bought honey and incense and beer and scampered home in the snow, which was falling in lacy flakes. I was a bit thrown off by the weather, and not as thorough as I could have been, but I got some fragrant pink hyacinths and bright yellow daffodils. I came home and finished cleaning the apartment – the traditional Spring cleaning, which is also part of Nowruz. Painted eggs is a tradition, too, but I didn’t think of eggs till I was already home and so made due without. The Persian New Year is celebrated by compiling a table full of symbolic food and flora: apples are for love and beauty; garlic is for health and strength; vinegar for development; sprouting lentils for happiness and rebirth; walnuts for creative fertility and money; the flowers symbolize the rebirth of nature after winter, of course, and I placed another of my houseplants on my table. To these, I added my own touches – spelt cakes, made with barley syrup and honey – and beer: libations and sustenance.
Strange how familiar this ancient tradition feels to me. It is a tradition which predates the historical record – one that is practiced today from India to the Black Sea – and beyond, really, as the Christian Easter is a variant on the theme, just tying it to Christ’s death and rebirth instead of the Earth’s, and removing it safely from the old association of the Equinox. But co-opting the symbols – the egg, the lamb, the cross. Even in Muslim countries, this festival is celebrated among some sects. The very countries where relics are now being destroyed by radical extremists – those very relics were often tied to rituals celebrating natural and astral phenomena. The result of that ancient culture’s interest in the stars is modern astronomy and mathematics, lens technology, knowledge of the Earth’s shape and its position in the galaxy. By celebrating and marking the Earth’s cycles in relation to the heavens, our ancient relatives achieved a remarkable amount of understanding of the cosmos and our place in it. Speaking of our place in the cosmos, I’ve been taking classes at the C.G. Jung Institute here in the city. One class is about the Goddess archetypes of the ancient world and how that iconography and mythology changed over time to reflect our changing relationship with the world, with nature, and with our own fate. We talked about Cybele, the lady of the mountain, accompanied by lions, symbolized by the doorway. She was the Great Mother to the Romans. But before her came Ishtar/Inanna, the star goddess (indeed, it is from Ishtar that the word star is derived) of war and lust – the Queen of Heaven and the Great Below. She was the kingmaker, the provider of bounty and fertility. When she descends into the underworld, the world of humans begins to wither and die. Inanna eventually returns, but in her place, she sends her lover, Dumuzi, who didn’t mourn her in her absence. From then on, the people mourned for her every year, for the loss of her lover. But they celebrated his return with the beginning of spring – the new year. I’ve been steeping a bit in ancient history of late – recently went to see an exhibition at the Institute for Studies of the Ancient World, which featured items excavated from ancient Uruk and showed their influence on modern art, notably Henry Moore and Picasso.
A couple of weekends ago, my good friend, Jenna, was in town from Portland and I got spend time with her and her boyfriend, both of whom were with me at Burning Man in 2012. Jenna and I spent an afternoon roaming Central Park before heading to the MOMA, since it was free Friday. It was packed to the gills, but I enjoyed the Lautrec posters exhibition, which was quite impressive in its scale. I even saw a model of the Oslo Opera House, which was designed by my former company, Snohetta.
Jenna and I joined her friends in Hells Kitchen, drinking whiskey and chatting until it was time to figure out dinner. We ended up at an Afghani restaurant around the corner from their apartment, where a very congenial waiter entertained us all. The food was delicious, though, and I cleaned my plate. Yum! The next day, I met up with Jenna again in the evening and we had another lovely night on the town. She lived in New York before I moved here, and even lived on my street! Jenna and I have been crossing paths since we met in 2006 when we were both traveling in north India before studying yoga in the south. We didn’t realize when we first met that we were going to the same ashram on the other side of the country!
It is nice to have such long-term friends in my life. It is a gift. I can’t help but wish I’d been a better friend to my sister, when she was still alive. I can only do my best to treat the family and friends I still have in a way that shows them what they mean to me. Well, all for now – lord knows this one’s been postponed long enough! Love and miss, Kira