We live seasons
of friends and fruit
between us two
You send patches of violet to me
and I, iris blues to you
that your eyes may feel
as happy mine
all at once, in one time
that we may live together, apart
We whisper what our minds see
and learn, back and forth
my right side paints worlds for you
your left opens paths for me
‘neath passing clouds
that cover my skies
then drift up to you
sending many water kinds
Yet how peculiar that all things
in time do not run alike
I see rain one day before
but the sun rises, sets
where you are first
And when Sirius rises, twinkles icy blue
its sits the same about your window sill
for some distances are larger than ours
worlds stand high beyond the stars
And from that point it becomes so clear
we both lie under a larger plane
where past, present, beyond
are all in one
where we live together
under highest Grace
As the New Year approached, and listicles started appearing on social media, I thought of what New Years-y post I could do. Maybe one or two cell phone images from each month would be a nice summing up.
But how presumptuous of me—first to forget just how many pictures I take from my phone, and second, to think I could add up the year in a few minutes. As I went through the image history on my phone, Nietzsche’s words on self-discovery rang in my head: “What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?”
Looking at my phone left me flummoxed. What should I choose to say uplifted my soul? The otherworldly lushness of the summer I came back to in June, or the most lovely autumn I’ve ever seen in my 13 years in Chicago. Should I be thankful for a dream come true visiting Vancouver, or four trips to Canada in one year, each one so dear. What about Ramadan this year, what about the qir’ah recording from Fajr that one day? And April? April and all its poetry. And Adele’s Hello, but also Vespertina, also Hol Baumann, Yelawolf, Hiltop Hoods, Islands. What about the day in January I felt broken, but wasn’t left to break. What about the Surah Kahf series and Beginning and the End. That book from Annan I recommend to everyone now. The movie that felt so good I saw it twice on screen. All the tuna. All the runs to Lago. Stranded on Prairie. The city again. Friends returned, or maybe me. All the art that was made. Writing. Exchanges. Unexpected, wonderful encounters. Muhsen—he’s a moth. The day of Arafah. Learning, living that Allah is Greater. Neural nets. AI. Vectors? Really? Apple picking happened. The animation show of shows. Lost and found. All dressed chips and the lengths traveled. Inside a novel. Tea. Maple syrup. 118 illustrations. Crossing paths. Across borders. Across seas. All the many homes. Leaving all of them. And what elation, to breathe again, after years? Allah is Greater.
I don’t know. I can watch the eloquence sail away from me as I type. Two nights ago I started writing all the things from this year that were so great, extracted from my phone, conversations, writing, memory and incomplete by far still. This is the third night I’ve sat and thought about 2015, each time completely weak at what the year was. I feel so grateful.
No ode to 2015 like the year itself. Allah is so much Greater.
You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.
Spoiler Alert: Finding Neverland
Halloween at our house means handing out candy to the neighborhood in our non-costumed selves.
However, this year was different.
My cousin held a Halloween party and admission required a costume. Everyone dressed up. I went as the evil queen from Snow White. Scattered about the house was a honey bee, a 6 year old witch, a grandma cat, a burglar, a ninja turtle, Batman, grip reapers, baby cookie monster, even the whomping willow from Harry Potter. Everyone was in a festive spirit and did the costume part well. But then what?
Then, a series of games followed. The crowd of adults and children were divided into teams made up of both age groups. In one game each team ended up having to act out something as a group—ranging from crawling like a spider to doing the chicken dance. Another game entailed a balloon race where two people had to complete a distance with a balloon held in place between opposing foreheads. In the third game one group member was wrapped like a mummy in toilet paper and then required to complete an obstacle course. I was going in and out because of a balloon phobia and visits to the appetizer table. I entered in the fourth game again and saw people with oreos on their faces. You had to look upward and balance an oreo on your forehead and then slide it down into your mouth. I almost immediately acquired one and auditioned my talents. In the last game, everyone had a post-it with a celebrity’s name stuck to their back and they had to guess who it was by asking people yes/no questions.
It ended up being the most fun party we’ve had. And in an epiphanous moment, it occurred to me why.
One of my favorite parts in Finding Neverland is Mr. Barry’s decision to reserve 25
seats randomly scattered about the theatre and fill them with children from the orphanage. A child’s unclogged way to life is very different than us adults. They see and do things in ways we have forgotten how to. They aren’t afraid to laugh and be silly. They know how to have fun without thinking about it. In Mr. Barry’s play, the children’s ability to laugh and have a good time became infectious and all the surly older people soon broke free and enjoyed themselves too.
Something similar happened to us at the Halloween party. We’ve had a lot of events with games, but they were never quite like this. Yes we still had biryani, but the rest was different. All the children embedded between adults during the games really shifted the atmosphere. Everyone was okay wiggling a cookie on their face.
Everyone was live and free.
A few weeks ago I was talking about dreams with my cousin, telling her I wasn’t sure what was worse—waking up from a really good dream to realize it’s not real, or waking up from a really bad dream and fearing it might come true.
Last week when she texted me asking “how’s Vancouver?” I messaged her back saying:
Vancouver is like when you go to sleep and see a really great dream and then wake up and realize reality is well beyond better than your dream was.
I had always imagined British Columbia as a dream of sorts. It was my mental happy place without actually having visited. That sort of expectation usually means a disastrous fall nearby.
But there was no falling of that sort—Vancouver was so much better than I imagined, and everything I imagined, but more. It was a place where all dreams seemed to meet and celebrate together. Every day reality became prettier, in big and small things, and it was all true.
I came back from the trip and a day later when a friend mentioned a difficulty she’s been facing for some time now, I reassured her feeling even more hopeful than usual.
We’re programmed to expect the worse—except that we’re not. No one programmed us that way. We think it will help us to keep low expectations but that really only makes us feel worse in the present. I’ve never expected any place to be as good as I’ve expected British Columbia to be. Yet it was better. I even tried to dull it down for myself, but it wouldn’t work.
Seeing Vancouver taught me how wonderful something—anything—can be, so much so that it meets and exceeds even our best expectations. We may have fears, and low expectations, and a perception of what we think reality is or how good it can be, but Allah says: I am as my servant thinks of me.
Allah is greater, Vancouver taught me.
After conversing with cabbies, my second favorite thing about the city is probably school buses going on field trips from the suburbs into downtown. As their bus pulls through morning rush hour, some of the children inside will wave excitedly at other drivers on the road.
One such little boy was plastered to his window with his hand in motion, looking a little dejected when I didn’t see him initially. He stayed in the same position, staring out into the haze. When I pulled up closer and waved at him though, his face broke into happiness.
The three instances after that where our vehicles shared moving space, we both smiled and waved at each other each time. I’m not sure who made whose day.