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The beginning of Mehr
Taking a break from motherhood to read letters

November 9, 2004

Today, September 22, begins the month Mehr, the month of kindness, and so to seek solace like all Fridays, I head for the mule paths of Ahar, just South of the Shemshak slopes.

And every year as I grow, I realize the nobility of donkeys, adorned with multi-colored beads, eye lashes long and shy, their ankles trembling under the weight of butane capsules, bricks, or like today, green apples that fall in autumn.

My companions are Shadi the tailor, who makes the best skirts in Tehran, and Nader, her son. These days I am Uncle Kambiz to many. The laundry man thinks Nader is my son, and frankly, us perennial bachelors do not deny a son when one drops from the sky.

The other who was supposed to fall from the Hollywood skies was Ahura, the Mazda, along with his six women. Despondent youth were even pacing the corridors of Mehrabad Airport and Tehran University, hoping to greet the savior.

But, no show. Ahura says, it is not quite time yet. Up on the twentieth floor of Tehran Towers, the wrinkled dame d' honeure of the Empress, silences BBC, and tunes into Tel Aviv for another candidate.

The sky overlooking these peaks is liquid cool and fades into gray toward Tehran. My old Rabbit coasts into Ahar Square where light shows and neon celebrate Mehdi, the vanished saint's birthday.

A television anchor woman asks a female sobbing under a veil, if Mehdi would be welcome today.

Yes, yes. Mister Mehdi, please show yourself in whatever form, whoever you are.

The poplars stand proud along the mule path. There is wisdom amongst that tribe; how they bend with the wind, wait for the fuss to pass, and stand erect again, forever reaching for the light.

We approach the mad woman with the mango yellow sweater. Nader is afraid of her eyes -- one looks East, and the other, sometimes South. I say salam to her on each trek; she cannot speak, just a guttural moan, that of a child in a well. Then, she smiles and all is well as we fade into the boulevard of fallen fruit.

If you want to be a woman or a man of the Persian mountains, you must exercise mountaineering etiquette. Wish the Afghan mule drivers Ya Ali so that the prophet will safely deport them back to a homeland many have never seen. Say Khasteh Nabasheed to the bent colonels of the Shah so they may never tire of their tales -- Coronation Day, gliding on their Harleys, escorting the eight princesses.

And then, there is Ali Agha, the Olympic weight lifter who has lived in Venice and D.C. If you visit his sandwich shop, you will see a portrait of him flexing his muscles at Capitol Hill. Ali is the one who broils Romanian sausages made of Islamic chicken. Today he is on his way down as we climb past him and wish him joy on the vanished saint's birthday. O.K, he responds as he unlocks his brand new Pride (Ford Fiesta bought out by the Koreans, later bought out by the clergy's men). The champion's wife has smeared the blood of a young lamb on the license plates to bless the compact.

We pass a hut with an aged walnut tree mushrooming above it. Through its branches I seek the sun, and my eyes fall upon a white dove on a tin roof. Beneath her, a finch with no roof chides the placid peacekeeper. Way above those two, a black crow burps into oblivion, his fat belly bending the poplar tip.

.........Still, the poplar stands



....................................Forever, seeking the sun.

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