I only knew a handful of things about my whiskered grandfather who lived across the salted seas: he was respected & wise, he loved the natural world and adventured all over Iran in his beloved Chevy Blazer, and he owned a “factory.” Raised here in the States, all I could imagine was the perpetual billowing of fluffy white or dirty dark grey, slabs of concrete and click clack machinery, whistles and punchcards and lines of men with Iranian lunchpails filled with saffron rice and onion chicken, lots o’ fruit, and of course the break room with a giant Giant-sized samovar ornate and intricate as the liquid heart of the factory and it’s men. I had seen pictures of the tenement garment factories of New York, formerly New Amsterdam, formerly Manna-hata (the "land of many hills”), formerly no name but part of the fabric of life filled with gods and goddesses and great beings of all densities singing and swaying and sleeping under the same sun-lit sky and living uninterrupted according to their natures. Clear as today I still remember footage of the great Detroit assembly lines where mustached men ( I ❤️ the 70’s!) gave their hands to the giant claw that lifted and pushed and pulled and put into place the thousand and one parts needed to marry into the medley of motorization known as the wondrous automobile.
When first re-visiting my birthland, I was so excited to visit “the factory“ and meet this great chimney stack that I had heard about for 25 years. Lo and behold - it was a shop with four hands greased! At first I thought I had been duped… “Why do all Persians make a mountain out of a molehill?… This is not a factory… ” and so on and more. In Farsi, the word for factory is “work-house.” Yes, actually it was a work house where lovely greazy hairy dark skinned short strong men who politely gazed indirectly towards a visiting woman gave their hands and backs to assemble industrial ranges for dignitaries and embassies and hotels and mostly European & North American expansion as most Iranians can easily (and always have) feast a wedding weekend, a holy day, a clan day (around 40-100 I’d say), a guests night, or any night deliciously without breaking a sweat, especially on the saddle of a Clydesdale range. Their home fires held the powerful embers found in the lineage of rings, the pressurized plant remains called coal, and even the desiccated forage frayed into feces that litters, actually loves arid mountain rock and sands. Those native fire-breathing dragons were known as well as the back of any hand by people who know hands! And so I learn “factory” … U.S. of A. 80’s style, then 1990's style while working in a fishery in Kodiak, Alaska, post revolutionary Iran style (2000), and now-not-now style in looking at the root of the word from Latin meaning “to do.” A place where things get done, and did, and made, and most often for trade. But always in my mind I see what you may see… the fluffy cloud atop a cylindrical steed, a workhouse for the workforce - all without prayer beads.
After creating this collage I took ten or so pictures throughout the day capturing the variance in light from the natural movements of the sun through the glass, as well as several electrically lit frames. To my amazement, every single picture showed different colors and textures and shapes and feel and image. So many faces to this one creature. Yes the perspective of life is always 360 degrees on one plane multiplied by by another 360 on a second plane, and so on and so on which makes me wonder how in the heck is any perspective retained for longer than a nanosecond? What is the imprint, who does the embossing? What kind of glue sticks so good and leaves a mean tear mark that needs a huff and puff buff and polish in it’s aftermath? How did perspective get to be static and non-imaginary in the predominating accepted reality? Wait… I choose the print? Which image captured do I want to reign supreme and send forth as my creation… purple hue, polka dotty, pretty, primitive? Which is to be presented as permanent publicly? Which one do I make more real?
… a strange new power discovered and dictated by “the factory.”
Remember marble mazes, mother-may-I, monopoly, or musical chairs when thinking back to your childhood? Well, for me the sound the dice clambering on wooden board, the sight of men sitting and sipping tea for hours as they chit-chat and play away, and the hours of intense strategizing competition with my sister filled up a lot of those years. Not just a game to pass idle time, but a cultural keepsake of a time when there was time to roll the divination bones and allow fate and strategy, two forces fierce in life, to be center of attention and played out on boards of beauty.
This game of old has had many variations and names throughout many a culture for more than 5000 years. Archaeological evidence from the Burnt City in the Sistan-Baluchistan province of Southeastern Iran unearthed the oldest known gaming board, made of ebony with agate and turquoise pieces from approximately 5,200 years ago. (First discovered and investigated by Aurel Stein in the early 1900’s, this site also revealed the world's earliest artificial eye made of bitumen and gold - hung in the socket by gold thread! 2900-2800 B.C.E! Have a look: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran_s_Burnt_City.htm)
Iranians, Afghans,Tajiks, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Uygurs, Turks, Kurds of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, as well as certain tribal peoples of Yemen, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakistan, India, and Pakistan all celebrate this New Day/New Year/Spring Equinox with traditions and festivities passed down from the eldest of our elders. Every inch of the house and it's belongings are renewed and revitalized, colorful New Year clothes have been sewn or purchased, the ceremonial cloth/Sofreh has been spread and on it the Haft Sin alter set for this 13 day celebration of Life. Families gather around the ceremonial setting for prayers and blessings as we count down the movements of the Sun into Pisces traditionally called "the first point in Aries" (March 19 9:29 pm PST). Gifts are given and the traditional meal of herbed rice with fish is shared. Mouths are sweetened for the year ahead with almond, walnut, rosewater, and rice created delicacies: Oh the Sweetness of Life! Then ...
the visiting begins as these 13 days are filled with tea and the sweetening of our mouths from the Haft Sin cloths of all our relatives and friends. Schools, businesses, and government offices close during these celebrations as what could be more important than celebrating life and renewing relations as we are gifted another year. On the 13th day all happily picnic and party as we release the heart of the alter, Grass, back to the wilds in the flowing waters of rivers and streams, asking the Waters to return to us this gift of Life in the year to come.
Wishing you all much Health, Happiness, Love, Laughter, and Peace - Nowruz eh Shomah Mobarak!
A refugee is one who is forced to seek shelter in order to protect; to leave home and often homeland due to violence, imprisonment, genocide, revolution, war, kidnapping, persecution and all other acts that make one flee in order to retain life. Those of us gifted shelter outside of our homelands have learned new languages, adapted new customs, and become vital, productive, educated, hard-working, tax-paying citizens of our adopted countries with great gratitude. We naturally become dual citizens, and if gifted with financial abundance after many years of hard work and saving, we try to visit relatives that were scattered elsewhere or remained on the soils of our birth. It is our innate human right to try to keep ties when distances are often so great, to show our children and grandchildren where the leaves of their culture and roots reside, to have our relations come and visit us when abundance is in their lives. Sound familiar? This reality of migration is almost as old as time.
These travels are the only way I have seen, met, and kept many familial relations and known my homeland since the age of four. The amazingly discriminatory Visa Waiver Bill will change the reality of living in a "free country" with the ability to restrict traveling rights for all American citizens whose countries of origin include Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Columbia, and Venezuela. I would like to continue to see my relatives, whether here or abroad, and travel to my homeland if and when I choose. Second class citizenship status with travel restrictions due to political agendas and the power of fear is spiraling upon on us once again, in a land largely inhabited by immigrants, refugees and the generations that follow.
Colonizers found forcibly restricting migration and movement to be an extremely effective means of subjugating the native peoples of this land, and I'm sure you don't need to be reminded of slavery and the subjugation mentality that still affects the lives of all those with brown or black skin. Subjugation through restricted traveling rights has been and continues to be a popular policy used many a time by many a ruling force. Even in my homeland, this policy was successfully used to subjugate independent tribal and nomadic peoples of the land towards settled citizens of a nation. The fencing of humanity needs to be disassembled, not reinforced.
I don't often say much, but these are flinching times, after many flinching years in the United flinching States, and this flinch fell out my mouth this morning. December 15, 2015
On the Shelf