Thursday, September 15, 2016

In Bed with Claudine

The French are not like you and I – if there was ever any doubt. The French are so much better at so many things – wine, sophistication, the art of love. We have underwear, they have lingerie. If, in fact you needed a specific example by way of proof. It's been a long time since I've read any fiction – and a long time since I've read a French writer. (I've been writing and I haven’t wanted the intrusion – however delightful – of another authorial voice in my head.) But I've been wanting to read – and I'm taking a working vacation by the sea. At night here in my little studio, I wanted something to read and as Providence would have it, The Complete Claudine fell into my hands. I had a copy in Brooklyn – in my storage unit – because my life, like my bookcase, was too full (and not full of pleasure, by way of explanation.)

So now, I am on the north Aegean – on a breezy but marvelous morning, drinking tea in a tea glass shaped even more like a woman's body in a strapless gown than usual. What's all this allusion, Alba? Is it because during the day, you've been trying to settle into a ‘ vacation way of life’ – swimming, tanning, enjoying your absolute freedom from schedules? Yet, all the while, you’re obsessively organizing, cleaning the sand off the floor and the sea out of your swimsuits with the red shower gel whose smell – if you’re to go by the package, is the smell of red diamonds?At night, you’re living in fin de siècle Paris and it's somehow rubbing off?

Ah, yes, the French, the Claudines and mostly, my adored Colette. How I love Colette! Another day I'll write and tell you about how we met and how deeply I love her and why. This morning, though, I'll tell you a bit about the Claudine novels. Written between 1900 and 1907 when Colette was 27 to 34 years old, they form, as a series, one of France's greatest bestsellers. It's not hard to see why – Claudine as a character is marvelous – full of contradictions and desires – so full of life. It's easy to see how scandalous these novels were – heck, they’re scandalous now! Colette's touch is so light – for me who has some familiarity with her work, I can see and sense Colette becoming Colette and this is a delight on par with being in Claudine's head. The series begins with Claudine at School and after graduating, it’s Claudine in Paris, where she meets and falls in love with her (soon-to-be husband) Renaud. The third novel, Claudine Married, details her early married life in Paris and the lesbian affair she has with the irresistible Rézi. All of this happens (please refer to the first line of my post) with the approval (if not outright encouragement) of Renaud.

I've always been a very slow reader, but in the last 10 days, I've inhaled the first three novels. I've only slowed down because I am actually having an aversion to Rézi, even though she's described so sensually, so attractively and so something else that I want to slap her face. I have several weeks left – but only Claudine and Annie left to read. The final Claudine novel, Retreat from Love, isn’t included in my book. How will I fill my nights after Claudine goes off? Where will I find my delight in the sights and smells of Montigny,s countryside? The buttered bread? The corsets and the silks? The colors and the consciousness that is Claudine?

(P. S. A man with Renaud’s moustache lives in my building. He may believe I'm looking at him, but it's that moustache come to life that I'm admiring!)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Today: A Photo Essay

I was feeling a bit sad about my writing this morning and where I want it to go. So to shake off my blues, I got up and went on a walkabout. I knew I wanted to go to a bookstore and I also knew which bookstore. I began walking in Gayrettepe and was deep in my thoughts, asking for signs. I was thinking to myself, I just need to know where I want to go and think positively. Sure enough. (Graffiti translation: Ok. God willing.)
And when I got to the bookstore, Oscar Wilde and Orhan Pamuk. Two great tastes that taste great together.
In I went.
Bookety book books.
Contrary to my recent experience, I got this.
But this is the one meant for me.
People, lemon meringue pie!!
And coffee wisdom.
Turkish books, but really it was the look in his eye.
Dior, Avedon, Alba
My essay, Suited. (Pardon, I need a saucer that matches my file folder and can the tea match the table? Thanks so much!)
The check came in One Hundred Years of Solitude.
I was entertained everywhere.
And more tiles. (Actually, this is going to be the cover of my book, In Another Norway.)
I'm way too lazy to line these up, so there you go.

Going down...Coming up.
John Fante!
Oh, Istanbul!
Beşiktaş, just kidding.
Say it with me, everybody, Gümüşsuyu. (Silverwater)
My hill, my tree.
My love of tomatoes, picnic style.
Feeding the Divine
The End

Friday, February 26, 2016

Bring a Book to Bed Day! 2016

Guess what?

Tomorrow's the big day! It's time to unplug, relax, and curl up with a good book. It's Bring a Book to Bed Day! 2016.

Get ready with a cozy cuppa something and a book that you love. What will you be reading?

This year, I'll be diving into Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl - special big thanks to my dear friend Sally K for suggesting I read it and for lending it to me as well. She loved it, I love it and maybe you will too.

If you love reading and books, then join our Facebook group here for year-round fun.

And read about this year's special mission on Yabangee.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bring a Book to Bed Day! Celebrate with Us on Saturday!

It's that time of the year again! It's time to curl up with a good book. I've picked my top ten reasons why you should come celebrate with us.

10. It's grey, it's raining (snowing, yucky, fill in the blank) AND it's cold.

9. You've already stocked up for Snowmageddon Part 17.

8. Pajamas are much more comfortable than regular clothes.

7. You retain more info when you are lying down (yeah, I made that up just now.)

6. That book, Kindle, reading device is full of interesting stories and life is all about stories.

5. The kids have something quiet to do.

4. You've always wanted to read Fifty Shades of Grey Twilight War and Peace.

3. Because you can! (You're a grown up and this is what being a grown up is all about.)

2. Everything is better when you do it in bed.

1. You don't have to read alone.

Consider yourself invited to Bring a Book to Bed Day! on Saturday, February 28th. You can join us for the event here on Facebook.

Don't forget to sign up for our Bring a Book to Bed Day! Facebook group as well. This is where we chat about books and other fun, book-related things all year long.

If you want to share your love of reading, please consider funding a book project, if you feel so moved at It's one of my favorite organizations and helps students across America have access to needed books and other school supplies.

Last but not least, don't forget to tell us what you'll be reading in bed this year!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Honor Thy Body

I saw again what I had been taught to ignore, the power in the body. The cultural power of the body is its beauty, but power in the body is rare, for most have chased it away with their torture of or embarrassment by the flesh.

It is in this light that the wildish woman can inquire into the numinosity of her own body and understand it not as a dumbbell that we are sentenced to carry for life, not as a beast of burden, pampered or otherwise, who carries us around for life, but a series of doors

and dreams
and poems
through which we can learn and know all manner of things. In the wild psyche, the body is understood as a being in its own right, one who loves us, depends on us, one to whom we are sometimes mother, and who sometimes is mother to us. -

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

I've been so busy with to do's and projects and writing and work that my body has been aching for attention. What better day than a day celebrating love? Honor thy body by loving it. Honor thy body by using it. Honor thy body by being grateful for being you. I'd gotten a bit lost - today I saw the way. Honor thy body.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Trip to Meryem Ana Kilisei

When I first returned to Istanbul I had read about a church in Vefa – Meryem Ana Kilisesi (or Ayın Biri Kilisesi – meaning the Church of the First of the Month) – that had a sacred, healing spring or ayazma. On the first of every month, people came to make a wish and that wish was symbolized by a key. I had wanted to visit this church for a very long time. More often than not, when the first of the month came I had work or something else to do, but usually it just slipped my mind. The last two weeks of August of this year had had more than their usual share of Istanbul drama and I knew I needed a break – and also, a blessing.

I searched online for info about the church in English and about what the rituals were for the first of the month. Oddly, I came up empty. I found a few articles in Turkish, but even with Google translate they weren't very helpful. I posted on a Facebook group for foreign women living in Istanbul and got some helpful info that set me on my way. I'll share with you what I experienced, but since there was no literature available and the priest that did speak English asked me to make an appointment another time to speak with him, I'll just let you know what my friend and I experienced and hope that I intuited and understood everything correctly.

My friend Sayora and I took a bus from Harbiye to Taksim and then on to Unkapanı. You should get off at the Unkapanı bus stop and backtrack a bit to cross Atatürk Boulevard. You will find an underpass filled with shops and when you come out on the other side of the boulevard there is an ICM mall. Go straight on through the mall to the other side – you'll see the tiniest of mosques on your left and just proceed straight up the main street, Atlamataşı Cd. You'll walk a few blocks until you see an A – 101 supermarket and then, turn right (you will see a Turkcell across from the A – 101 supermarket - and you should proceed down this street.) You'll feel like you've stepped into an Ara Güler photograph of Istanbul in days gone by. It's charming, filled with vendors and old stores, but I was glad my friend was with me because there weren't very many women on the street. At the end of this cobblestone street, we came to a fork in the road and a kind man pointed out the church to us – a little up ahead on a slope across from another ICM market. Outside the church people were selling Turkish good luck charms, but I knew that inside the church they would be selling the keys needed for the ritual.

As soon as we passed the entrance, a woman came up to us offering us candy – we declined, but later we learned that if your wish had come true you were to come back to the church on the first of the next month and offer either cubes of sugar or some kind of sweets to the people who were visiting. Had we known, we would have accepted the offering and participated in celebrating the desire that had been fulfilled. We did later – even sucking on cubes of sugar as we waited for the tea man to bring us tea from the nearby shop.

The church offers blessings from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm. Though when we were leaving, there were still people coming (though much less than earlier in the morning – we had arrived about 11 am or so and left at about 12:30.) We bought keys in the church. Each key was 1.50 TL and symbolized a desire. I bought six keys – three for me and one each for three of my friends. Next, we waited in line to visit the icons both on the first floor and on the lower level where the sacred spring (ayazma) is located. We followed the people in front of us and circled the glass-covered icons counterclockwise with each key. Then, we pretended to open the case with our keys. We stopped to fill our water bottle (I bought mine for 5 TL but you can also bring an empty water bottle from home) at the holy spring. Next, we went upstairs and lit our candles. I had bought a smaller candle for 1 TL, but there were also larger ones for what I am assuming sold for 2 TL (but please check, since I am assuming.) Then, we lined up for a blessing by the priest – he asked us our names and covered our heads and said a blessing over us. I replied 'Amen' at the right time and the priest, assuming I was a Christian, gave me the wooden cross to kiss.

The energy in the church was very powerful and Sayora and I rested with the other visitors in the garden/plaza area. We ordered tea from the local tea man (1 TL) and partook of the sweets and candies from the people whose wishes had been granted. I found out you're also supposed to return the key to the church when your wish has been fulfilled.

It was beautiful to see how many people offered us sweets and had returned to give thanks and to share their happiness. It was a lovely beginning to a new month and a new way of being. I hope to return soon with sweet thanks giving of my own.

Directions: Unkapanı Atatürk Bulvarı Vefa Katip Çelebi Caddesi
Google maps has it at: 41°01'06.8"N 28°57'33.2"E

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Only the Sky Was Grey

I needed a day away from the computer, so off I went. Then I came home and tried to make a slideshow. It didn't work. Just click on the picture below, then click slideshow to take a photojourney with me.