Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


A month between I had such high hopes of keeping up the writing, but my job, which I simultaneously love and curse, has become increasingly more hectic and this has consistently taken a back burner.

But not today. The list of things to do that is approximately as long as my arm (and I have long arms) can wait. Today is one of those heartbreakingly beautiful spring days that you have to write about, sing about, dance to...

This morning I awoke to that unique Izmir sunshine streaming through my window. Why is it unique? I have tried and tried, but honestly I cannot pinpoint it. I just know that it is different from any sunlight anywhere in the world. Fascinating to contemplate: how just as every place has its own sights and smells, it also has its own light. I remember the blue-grey light of Paris the year I lived there. The sun rarely shone, and I was depressed most of the time. But the light was fascinating -- gray, but a unique kind of gray, tinged with purple and blue and lavender. With all the other gray European skies I've seen, I've never seen light the same as that in Paris.

And so it is here. We surely all are acquainted with that rush of joy that comes when winter finally looses its grip, the air turns soft, the breezes gentler. Today is such a day; not the promise of Spring, the tease, the dangling carrot -- but Spring itself. I fling open my window that faces to the East, and offer my face to the mid-morning sun. Its warmth fills me with a deep sense of well-being, from my hair follicles to my toes. Below me, the old man with the bicycle/display cart pedals slowly by. His pedals need oiling -- they squeak with every turn. He calls out 'Gevrek! Boyoz!' again and again, his voice echoing in the narrow streets. The woman on the balcony across from us sees him and swiftly lowers her basket on a rope, gesturing for him to place some of the fresh baked goods inside.

The birds are mad with joy. It is a riot of song in every tree, music that drifts in my window. And now, as I write this, the distant, dreamy call to prayer floats in, fluttering like my white gauze curtain in the breeze. It is a calm, meditative sound, contrasting neatly with the giddy birdsong and the bellowing of the gevrek vendor. My whole being feels unbelievably light. I turn from the window and race down the marble corridor to the living room, throw open the balcony door. Jaw-drop. The air is magnificently clear; I can see every detail of the mountains across the bay. Dozens of tiny handkerchief-sailed boats criss-cross the waters before me, narrowly avoiding an enormous cargo ship just arriving from China. The palm trees have fully regenerated since their brutal winter pruning (I had my doubts), and they now sway in the breeze. Are they, too, joyful at the arrival of spring? I think I see them dancing...

I settle into a chair on the balcony and unwrap a small paper bag I bought from a tiny shop last night. Inside are plump 'dried' figs -- although they are far from dry. They are heavy, pear-shaped and moist -- not at all like the squashed-flat, hard, dry ones one sometimes encounters. The first bite. Mmm. Luscious. They are so filled with sugar that a tiny trickle of clear syrup has run out of the fig and congealed. Figs, ancient fruit. Figs and olives, the fruits of time and myth, here in this land of myths and layer upon layer of history. I am happy here. I am happy in the way modernization hasn't taken over everything; happy in the way that life here is still simple in many ways. I find a profound pleasure in strolling the streets, taking in all the tiny shops, all the wares that the street vendors have to offer -- here, a cart with çağla, soft green almonds eaten with salt; there, a pickup truck with the tailgate down, selling artichokes on their long, torchlike stems and spinach that is the epitome of green. The streets are full of life, full of food and flowers and sounds -- chants of vendors, calls to prayer, honks and the putt-putt of old engines and the tinkle of spoons in tea glasses. The cheerful chatter of the birds; the scolding cries of seagulls. Scents of roasting meat, a hint of seaweed, the amazingly powerful aroma of the nergis, the narcissus, a regional beauty that is on every streetcorner these days. There are things to write about -- serious things, important things, like the EU issue, and the encroach of conservative Islam, and what's going to happen to Turkey...all those things are there, and probably I should write about them. But today is not that day. It is too perfect, too utterly joyful, and the only thing I can do is try to communicate that joy. I only regret that for all the amazing advances in technology we've made, there is still no way to take a perfect day, with all its sights, smells, sounds and tastes, and post it online. Now that would be a revolution.