creative


photo (2)When I was a little girl I used to write a story in my head.

It always had the same title, but characters and their experiences changed depending on my mood — and when I was older with more romantic notions of inspiration, everything depended on my Muse.

“The Night Stalker” held caverns of unexplored territory in my imagination. I built castles, long, winding corridors, and brilliantly shining universes within my mind. The story wasn’t particularly terrifying or dramatic as the name might suggest — but represented a person who literally chased the night.

And I did. The best time to write in my mind was during dark thunderstorms. I would grab my umbrella and wander the streets around my parents’ house for hours, retreating into my mind’s sanctuary. I created worlds with their own set of universal realities and rich characters that only existed in dreams and desires. Each one searching and yearning for discovery, self awareness, and adventure.

Retreating to these worlds was like coming home and having a warm cup of tea. And then, excited and inspired, I could make them live on a piece of paper.

Not writing is disquieting.

So when I became busy with the return to work and juggling life, I could no longer pour words onto paper. I couldn’t. There simply wasn’t the time. I still walked the streets at night, creating posts and plans and dreams. But the longer I wasn’t talking to you, the more awkward it was to even think about what I would say to explain my absence.

Because I know that you know, that I know I’m not currently writing. And it shocked me to see that a month (a month!!) has passed since I last updated. And I just wasn’t sure how I could start that conversation explaining my absence.

All I want to do is ignore the gap and just take you all out for a coffee and pick up where we left off. Can we do that?

Thank you for staying. I know you’re out there — I see the steady numbers. Thank you for checking back to see if I’ve updated. Thank you for your concerned emails and your comments. Thank you for being an important and wonderful part of my life.

And in so many ways! Because even though I haven’t been speaking to you through the blog, I’ve been able to connect with a few of you through the (un)official Pen Pal Project! We live in an amazing age where Eryn and Ivy can “write” a letter and send it through snail mail — and be rewarded with pictures, tweets, Instagram and Facebook tags of people holding their letters, Eryn’s finger-painting on fridges, and home-made thank you cards in return.

From Canada to South Africa via snail mail, back to Canada via Facebook.

Ladybugs from Canada to South Africa via snail mail, back to Canada via Facebook.

I’m overwhelmed. It’s been an amazing little project. Thank you for making it happen.

So all that to say, yes, I will be writing soon. It may not be with the same frequency as in previous months — we’ll have to take it week by week.

But I miss writing and there’s just so many fun things to talk about.

(new post coming soon!)

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With pouring rain since the early morning, today was a literal washout. So we all played hookey and stayed indoors watching movies, eating junk and crafting up a storm. Why not top the day off with some lazy photoblogging to boot?

Ivy is doing well masha’Allah. I’m over the moon that she’s in the 90th percentile for weight, and am humbly smug when people gape to hear she only drinks breastmilk. Eryn was on the lower end of the scale, and I quickly grew tired of hearing how small and hungry breastfed babies are. Bah, the baby contest is all in my mind anyway.

She’s such a chunky monkey, even her toes are hungry.

Eryn is going through an interesting transition at the moment. She’s terribly independent, but descends into spirals of despair each and every time she can’t do something by herself.

She now plays the role of “mama” to her own “Ivy” doll — and will nurse when I nurse, change when I change and speak to me as “the other mama.” It’s all very sweet until she can’t dress her baby the way she wants to. Why does no one ever mention that 3 year old tantrums are 500 times worse than the “terrible twos?”

I try not to laugh when she cries because the doll’s arm won’t move the “right way” or her baby-wearing comes in-between Eryn’s mouth and a tasty treat. I try anyway (not very hard though).

It’s tragic if she can’t get to her chips with the baby in the way.

This week millions of Muslims are performing the pilgrimage to Mecca — aiming to complete the Hajj rituals and fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam. The end of the Hajj will be marked with ‘Eid ul-Adha, or the “celebration of the sacrifice” commemorating Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.

So in gearing up for ‘Eid, we made a construction paper Ka’abah and a couple of sheep.

The one on the left isn’t so happy about the ritual slaughter — while the one on the right is totally saying, “Why so serious?”

I’ve taught Eryn the chant pilgrims say throughout the Hajj season and today we sang it while reenacting a couple of the Hajj rites — including circling around her new green paper Ka’abah. Green is totally the new black.

Here’s Eryn pretending that her purple monkey is Hagar and they’re running in-between the mountains, desperately searching for water.

Since Isma’il is being played by the brown monkey, I’m going to say that Ivy is the Angel. *awwww*

It’s nice that ‘Eid falls in such a special time this year. The leaves are changing colour, the air is crisper, Christmas decorations are showing up in stores and people are carving up perfectly good vegetables.

So we spent the rest of the afternoon making tissue paper ghosts.

boo.

There are moments when I crave connection to God through recitation of the Qur’an.

Sometimes these moments are marked with struggle. During prayer when both babies demand my attention. When I read, and read, and read and still can’t memorize a simple verse. Or when I approach a difficult passage and I’m not happy with how the interpreter has rendered his understanding of the text. In these attempts to engage with the Qur’an, I’m discouraged and distant from sacred words that should easily be written upon my soul.

And so I turn to the creative act of writing — and become lost in the smooth lines and flourishes that make the visual Qur’an so beautiful.

A close friend recently commissioned a “calligraphy” from me. It’s something I haven’t done in years — And I’m thankful she reminded me just how much I love engaging with the Qur’an in this way.

For me, there’s something grounding, satisfying and nourishing in the creative act of drawing God’s word.

Have you not considered how God presents an example, making a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches high in the sky?

It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And God presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. (14:24-25)

I’m with Ivy on a quick jaunt to Montreal this week — so for your reading pleasure (and mine), here’s one more guest post by the amazing Rawiya. A beautiful little poem that struck me on so many levels. Enjoy!

(new posts coming soon!)



Right Upon Left

I was taught to pray with my hands folded on my chest, Though I missed out on the ‘why.’
I got why we bowed, I got why we bent,
A physical display of what submission meant.
But I never gave much thought to my right and my left,
Resting gently on my curves of my breasts.

Sometimes I’d watch brothers in lines and rows,
Hands on their bellies, wrists grasped, or sometimes slack,
Or even sometimes clasped like mine smack dab
In the middle of their chest.
But you’d never see a lady
with her hands across her belly.
And I guess I started to believe, unconsciously,
That this posture must be
A posture based on modesty.

There must be something about my chest,
The undulation of my breasts
That offends, upsets the Greatest.

And so I hid myself.
(Just as much as some brothers did),
Out of sight, out of mind.
Let’s keep my temptations out of everyone’s
line of sight.

But good gracious, I got it wrong.
Those folded hands
Aren’t meant to hide my shame
From The Shaper, Al-Musawwir.

He knows All
about my curves, after All.

That folded right-upon-left,
Resting on my shapely breasts
(I’m pretty sure) is meant
to keep my heart from flying out of my chest
In Ecstasy!
In direct communion with
The Beginningless,
The Endless.

One of my favourite posts to date is a story I wrote to commemorate Hagar’s struggle to find water in the desert.

I made the argument that under the pomp and circumstance associated with Abraham, the importance of the sacrifice and the religious weight of the Hajj season, she is often overlooked despite the fact that she is one of the most important women in Islamic history. She found the very well that allowed Mecca to flourish and become the centre of the Muslim world. Through her keen management sense and power she established a thriving community. She is the only woman to have a religious rite attributed to her life story. And it’s her womb to which Muslims trace their lineage.

She deserves more than passing acknowledgments. It’s rare to find just one piece out of the dozens of gawking, interfaith, revering, Islam 101 or cultural curiosity media coverage published at this time, that will actually mention her. Rarer still to hear her life mentioned at the mosque outside of the Hajj season, or without being overshadowed by her prophetic and revered husband.

Since writing that piece, I’ve heard wonderful sermons extolling the virtues of her patience and faith and personal accounts of friends — men and women — returning from Hajj 2010 who were told to truly reflect on Hagar and what she symbolises as they made their jog, completing the ancient rite by reenacting her search for water.

Now that Hajj is starting this week Friday insha’Allah, I’d love to hear more. Leave your thoughts, suggestions or finds in the comments.

Here’s an exert from my original piece:

The only sounds breaking the silence were of their feet grinding against the rough sand, an occasional gurgle from the baby at her breast, and the faint tinkling of her leisso. As her husband led them deep into the Paran wilderness, she removed her girdle — a colourful, woven cloth secured tightly to support her core as she recovered from the birth of her son. But tied loosely around her waist, dragging behind her, the leisso’s decorative beads bounced and chimed against the ground, covering their footprints. “If that barren woman wants me out of her home, then I’m surely not showing her where we’ve gone.”

After some time crossing a plain between two rocky hills, her husband stopped near a gathering of shrubbery and a lonely sarha tree. He unloaded a sack of dates from his back and untied her leather skin water jug from his waist. He set them down neatly at the tree’s base and turned to kiss her forehead. Before she could say anything he walked away.

At first she thought he was going to go meditate and wanted her to rest. So she removed the baby from his sling and held him while she sat down on the rough ground, took a sip of water and surveyed her surroundings. A tree. The two rocky hills. No people. No settlements. Nothing. There was nothing here.

The nothing stretched out in every direction meeting the horizon wherever she looked. In the distance two dust devils danced in a light wind — their dance made languid by shimmering heat waves rising from the ground. The oppressive silence surrounded her. Panic settled in when she glanced back at her husband disappearing in the distance and realized he was walking home. She untied the leisso and made a quick nest for the baby.

Running after her husband she shouted frantically, “where are you going? There is nothing in this forsaken valley! Stop!” Then, as realization of her situation set in, “To whom are you leaving us?” He slowed, and then stopped. His shoulders were slumped as if in pain. When he turned his head to reply, she thought she heard his voice break. “To God.”

You can read the rest here.

Maryam couldn’t remember how long she had felt the pains. All she knew was that they were coming more frequently, growing in intensity and there was no one around to help her.

In a moment’s respite, she squatted and leaned her forehead against a boulder. Firm and cool, the rock allowed her to rest as she stretched her back and released some of the pressure in her pelvis. When she lifted her head, she was surprised at the drops of sweat darkening the boulder’s dusty face. Maryam looked around. The valley was eclectic, with patches of firm, tan-coloured sand pans outlined by sharp gravel and bordered by the rocky hills. A solitary palm tree stood dead before her — it’s weeping leaves collapsed downward, forbidding shade to the rock-bed below. Dried thistle peppered the hill outcroppings, adding a splash of vibrant purple colour to a landscape that should only hold browns and grays. The sun was low overhead, casting long, cool shadows across the valley floor. For that she was thankful.

A few days prior, Maryam had set out to the East, away from her community. She had felt her swollen belly becoming tight more frequently and the baby’s movements slowed. Something within her told her it was time to move. Hiding the pregnancy had been easier than she expected — especially within the confines of the covenant. Flowing robes took care of her small, swollen belly and she took strips of pleated wool to bind her breasts as they grew larger. Zacharias never questioned her. He wouldn’t have. He just made sure she was well taken care of — that she completed her studies and had enough to eat and drink.

Remembering his absentmindedness over the past few months Maryam had to laugh. As an old man, he was an unexpected new father, and often forgot his place as he gushed over the wonders of his infant and finding joy in every sleepless hour, cry and gurgle.  Everyone spoke of the miraculousness of how his barren wife had given birth to a healthy son. Maryam smiled, recalling baby Yahya’s shock of curly, black hair and wondered if her baby would have the same.

The pressure started to build and she winced, fearing she would be unable to stop the urge to push again. Breathing rapidly, she tried to ignore the workings of her body — but her mind was overruled and her muscles contracted, forcing the baby down. This time the pressure lasted longer and she felt fire cutting between her legs. Fear overwhelmed her, and Maryam stood up suddenly to run away from it all.

Lightheaded and disoriented with pain she stumbled into the palm tree. Her body shook uncontrollably and she thought she heard a voice screaming in the distance. But as suddenly as it came, the pain subsided. She shivered and covered her mouth, realizing the scream came from her.  Maryam longed for water, for a cool, caring touch to wipe her forehead. She needed to hold her mother’s strong hand, not the rough calluses of a dead tree. She started to cry.

(more…)

I don’t really have an inner geek. I am a geek.

  • Not only can I drop contextually appropriate quotes from the Dune Universe into random conversations, but Eryn’s middle name is from one of my favourite characters.
  • I get excited thinking about the upcoming Marvel blockbuster films.
  • A romantic night out for me is kicking my Hubby’s ass at Street Fighter or staying home and watching aforementioned Marvel movies, Batman, V for Vendetta, anything with Johnny Depp etc. Last Valentine’s he rented out our condo’s movie theatre to show me District 9. It came with caramel cheesecake.
  • My girlfriends know not to call me when it’s Chick Flick night (unless it’s an annual Pride and Prejudice BBC version movieathon… hello Mr. Darcy).
  • I spent the morning composing Dr. Who inspired nursery rhymes (ba, ba, blacksheep and row, row, row your boat):

Run, run Doctor, can you save the world?
Yes sir, yes sir, with one word.
Here comes the Master along with his Dame,
They’ll conquer Britain with the Toclafane
Run, run Doctor, can you save the world?
Yes sir, yes sir, with one word.

Fly, fly, fly the TARDIS
Gently through the time vortex
Hurry, hurry, hurry Doctor
Here come the Daleks!

What’s your inner geek doing?

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