Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ramadan Morning

Here is what I have been up to: waking at 12 with my kids still sleeping on their pull-out beds- stitched by hand, stuffed with wool, finished with heavy needlework covering the crimson cloth.

I have slept and woke at pre-dawn prayer, slept and woke with the call to pray as the sun rose, slept again and now it is time to push off the heaviness and roll out of bed.

Our balcony is huge, the sizeof my NYC living room and in the morning when I am the only one awake-though it is not morning, the same holds- Iturn on the faucet on our 'housh' and filland throw, fill and throw and with my long-handled squeegie, pull the water over the red tiles smooth and older than Algeria.
Morning begins like this. I wait a bit and watch the sea and the containers being unloaded in the port, far far below.

To the West is an old, Spanish castle, to the East new building rise up and shake their tan dust through all the city and we are caked in it: our feet from the streets, it pushes through window cracks with every call for prayer, every stirring on the city.

When it isn't Ramadan, but it is, I start the coffee like this: I fill the coffee kettle up to the spout with water not from the faucet but from the huge jugs we fill in the mountain spring that comes from a crack in the mountain. We go there to get our drinking water and to buy the mint and Swiss chard that grows with huge, gorgeously green leaves in the volcanic springs there.

But it is Ramadan and the smell of coffee would be maddening to L and to my brother-in-law who is always almost with us, spending the night in our spare bedroom, then slipping out silently to hang out in the mosque across from our building. B is a character and speaks his mind freely, to the point of blunt rudeness, but never with me.

For coffee, I will wait until L and B go to shop for the day's meal and then I will quickly re-heat last night's coffee and sit and gulp it down from a silver-rimmed cup.

I am lost in Ramadan here. I am on the outside looking in or rather, I am inside but shut out by my own hand, or my own mouth.

But I have a mini-panic attack whenever I consider fasting along with every one around me. L tells our son that the first day is always the hardest and after that it's not that hard and you get used to it. And, really, all around me 15, 16 year-olds are abstaining from food and water and even brushing teeth.
How could I do it? The most I have ever lasted is about an hour. Ok, more like 30 minutes.
I just can't. There is a part of me, a large part I guess, who wants to remain separate from everyone around me because maybe I will forget about pieces of me, like the girl who can fill her whole apartment with an aria. I am afraid parts of me will get covered up here and shuffled under foot and lost.

But in the interest if my own sanity, which I will lose entirely if we eat with his family, I have been cooking the Ramadan meal. My neighbor across the hall makes us the Harira soup and makiuda - like mashed potato mini pancakes fried- and I make the rest: slow-roasted lamb covered in wild honey and white cilantro blooms and purple garlic slivers; I cook prunes and raisins in cinnamon and vanilla and stew and stew forever.

There is more to write, but I have to leave the WiFi now so more later.

Love from Algeria


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Post Card from Espana

It's run and slipslide in your socks smooth. These tiles keep their color, their beauty and grace through years of blasting Mediterranean sun.
This year we took an apt and our fridge bursts with fat, black cherries, falls out donut peaches to roll. Ah! Creamy goat kefir.
The beauty of the earth here!

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Posted Card from Spain

In the Church's heavy stones I lay my head against it: all the lost swills gather like spit in my mouth when I hear the chant of mass from within.

But now, again, when I will be in Algeria and the call for prayer will start the bats into the sunset above the sea, it is there again, on my surface.

But in Spain I trace Jesus' fate through the stations of the cross tangled in carnations. I trace the old worn places in the stone and feel home for a moment.