A strange, (spinning) journey to pink paradise with the Karagöz


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I awaken to find the world still swirling and spinning, but pink - much to the shock and delight of the little shadow puppets in my brain - it must be Provincetown in the holiday season!

Rocketing through the night air, our little engine that could (after 11 years on the road) made its best possible way out to our retreat spot, in Provincetown.  Hacivad Bey annoints the trip with his words: “Rise up nimbly and go on your strange journey to the ocean of meanings. The stream knows it can’t stay on the mountain.  Leave and don’t look away from the sun as you go, in whose light you’re sometimes crescent, sometimes full.”

While the puppets have been there before, they have never driven out there with us at night.  So, they are excited about “America at night.”  It’s been a long week full of trying to stay on the job, trying to get the work done, trying to get some sleep, trying to feel at least for a moment as if I do not need to have sleep immediately – and of peeling the puppets off of the ceiling after discovering that they are not the first Ottoman Americans.  This is what the puppets say now, they have re-identified themselves as Ottoman Americans.  I remind them that M. is from Turkey and that he is also from Turkey – and they are quick to remind me “that’s no Ottoman empire!”

Always keen to get on the road and see a bit more of America even before their Ottoman American discovery, the puppets were first to load their bags (it’s a good thing my brain has extra space in the overhead compartments) and hop onto the top of the back seat – facing backwards, watching the world go by.  “You can learn a lot, m’lady,” Hacivad Bey said knowingly, “from watching what you leave behind.” I don’t disagree with the little puppet man, this is certainly true.

Ever since the puppets found out about the musical treasury of Ottoman American immigrants from the turn of the previous century, they have been talking a lot about what they left behind – namely – the sublime service in the Sultan’s court where they used to reside, the clean fresh air of Anatolia, the sounds and smells of their homeland.  They relate just about everything back to the homeland here in 2011 in America…it is a constant point of vexing reference for them – but they embrace the vex and show lots of curiosity about how this world over here works.

Zenne has spotted the golden arches, illuminated in the night sky

“We are going to learn even more about Amer-ica!” Zenne cries, excited and open to learning.  “What are those golden arches over there, m’lady? Is that the entrance to some modern-day Sultan’s kitchen?”  I hope not, I think, glum at the vision of obese American children shoving french fries in their mouths. Sighing, I whisper to Zenne “well, you know, we may treat it like a Sultan’s kitchen, but we shouldn’t – we need to learn from looking backwards and forwards since the before and after of that place.” “Yes that’s right, m’lady, you can learn a lot from looking backwards with one eye and forwards with another, but it makes for what the Mevlana Rumi says is a strange, strange journey, golden arches or not.”  I reflect on the fact that my life appears to be one strange journey.  Hacivad Bey winks at me and nods his head.  “Just go with the flow, the way will become clear.”

All of the puppets respect Hacivad Bey, and they all nod their heads with respect and agreement.  Then the chatter returns – wondering about where all of those Ottoman Turks landed around America.  I tell them about the Armenians in Watertown where we buy our groceries and in Los Angeles where the Kardashian brand abounds, the Greeks all over the country who opened diners, et alia, and the Turks – who are silently present as well – but much less so if you look at annual immigration statistics as an indicator.  These puppets are on a quest.  “Maybe,” Zenne says, “just maybe we will find some other Turks in this place you call Provincetown.  Do you think we will, m’lady?”  It is hard to say, and I am highly doubtful, but on ne sait jamais (one never knows).

Speeding across turnpikes and tunnels, I am fighting ever-present sleep, and notice the moondrops of dewey condensation that appear on the ceiling of the curled, Nautilus-like, illuminated with fluorescent orange-y pink light cement tunnels we are winding through.  I realize that I am seeing frosted glass-domed lights, not massive drops of condensation.  The lights blur as if sparks on the tip of a marshmallow roasting stick that is then swung through the air – many at a time – orange-ish, blue, white-green light and yellow in the deep blue.  The smell of the ocean gives way to the smell of the cranberry bogs as I snooze deeper and deeper.  I can feel the vibration of the car around me, M.’s hand occasionally placed lovingly on mine as if to check that I am still there until I descend into spinning in what I will later realize is a dream.

I have always wanted to spin and twirl and fly around in a swing, on a Ferris wheel, a carousel or anything else exciting such as it might be to a young child, and since I was a child, I have always suffered from being easily dizzy. This is why I am surprised that I am slowly spinning – one hand up to the sky, one hand down to the ground as in the Sufi tradition – slow deliberate circles being made by my feet.  I remember Hacivad Bey’s softly-spoken dictate – “go with the flow, let the way become clear,” and I let go of my nascent dizziness.

Once, M. took me to see the Whirling Dervishes, and I spent most of the evening with my head in my hands, dizzy from just watching, although their spinning was marvelous.  And here I am now, spinning, much to my surprise that it does not feel like the bed spinning after just a tad too much wine.

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I realize that I am a slow spinner.  I have never spun before, or tried to spin, as an experimenter with Sufism or not.  But now, I am spinning in the dark with flashes of light grounding me and holding me up along the way so that I don’t fall.  I hear the crunch of wickety branches under my feet, the smell of cranberry bog near me and the smoothness of a driftwood tree-stick to right me when I spin a bit out of balance.  “Look ma, she’s spinning!” Karagöz hollers from his unseen perch.  I let Karagöz fly off of me as the spinning increases ever so slightly.

One by one, the little shadow puppets are flying off of me – softly, gently and falling to the ground more slowly and gracefully than an oak leaf past its colored-prime in northern New Hampshire.  The puppets can be flown off – but will always come back, I have learned.  I have learned to live with them, but I am liking the peace and quiet that comes with their absence, with this spinning thing. Soon it is just Hacivad Bey holding on and talking me through the spinning – “spin to let go, spin to re-center, spin to clear your mind.”  Karagöz can’t help himself “and when you are done, spin the bottle!” Even Hacivad Bey, peaceful as he is, loses it a bit- but sacrifices his spin-mentoring to fly off me as well – confident I can do it on my own now – and grabs Karagöz to take him down into the bog with him.  I am spinning and free of voices in my head and this is a first.  I am relaxed.  I spin, not spindizzy, until I enter deep sleep.

My mind awakes before my eyes do, and the puppets rumble and grumble in their place on the back window. “Look – it is all pink, this place!” Opening my eyes to a blur, I see spinning pink lights as we creep, slowly now, down the familiar streets near our retreat spot.  Pink lights, must be in Provincetown at Christmastime, I realize.  Where else would you see a preponderance of pink floodlights?  “You are in for a treat, little puppets,” I say sleepily, “wait until you see Provincetown in the morning. A pink paradise awaits you, I promise.”

M. stops the car, and I emerge to press the garage code that will let us in to our place.  Hacivad Bey, once again, finds the perfect Rumi quote for all to hear as we bathe in the pink light before pulling into the garage, ready for a weekend of rest, away from the madding crowd:

“Rise up nimbly and go on your strange journey to the ocean of meanings. The stream knows it can’t stay on the mountain.  Leave and don’t look away from the sun as you go, in whose light you’re sometimes crescent, sometimes full.”