Waking up in Istanbul ©photo westcoastwoman
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost,
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
-William Stafford, “THE WAY IT IS”
WAKING UP IN ISTANBUL
I am ‘Waking Up’ in Istanbul, the early morning call to prayer just ended. Mixed in with the usual haunting singing and chanting that echoes five times a day, this morning I clearly heard in English, “Wake Up” as each round was sung. Lying in bed in the Turkoman Hotel a four story walk up in the heart of the old city, the sounds of others also ‘waking up’ can be heard.
The Blue Mosque is visible from my window so there is little chance of sleeping through the ‘Morning Call’ that is projected through microphones on strategically placed minarets. My entire visit has been contained within the month of Ramadan.
This is my first time travelling in a Muslim majority country. The warmth and respect I experienced from the men and women who practice the Muslim faith will follow me back home. I personally claim no affiliation to any organized Religion, my beliefs are at this point ineffable, they probably embrace what is at the core of most religious philosophy but I chafe at dogma or man made rules.
Turkoman Hotel, Istanbul © photo westcoastwoman
This is the last day of my stay, a visit that started as a suggestion on the steps of a yurt on a remote island in British Columbia the previous summer. I was attending a Dance workshop and as we sat on those steps, someone suggested we all continue our dance together the next year at an annual Spring gathering in a small Turkish town. That was a journey that seemed like a remote possibility at the time. It has been an interesting road both emotionally and physically from those steps to my arrival in this ancient city.
The Call to Prayer punctuated my days, both in Istanbul and in the smaller
village of Gokcedere. The Calls are heard five times a day and are determined by the position of the sun, starting just before sunrise and ending after sunset. In Istanbul the Mosques are scattered fairly closely throughout the city and when one prayer is being called the caller at another Mosque waits and it becomes a call and response. It is mystical and reverent giving everyone no matter what your beliefs, time during the day to stop and really be present to the moment.
The group of thirty women from all over the world that had gathered were housed in a very luxurious hotel built on thermal springs in the valley village of Gokcedere. I was awakened one night at 2:00 a.m by loud drumming and chanting, a sound that made its way from quite a distance up the hill to our residence. The whole village was no doubt roused from their sleep. It continued, getting louder and then the lone drummer and singer was joined by another. They started playing to each other (and their captive audience), one would call, the other respond. The warm Spring night was filled with the sounds of drumming and singing when I heard another call join in. I was not sure at first what the sound was…..a child crying? I slowly realized it was the howling of a dog. He was joined by another, then another and we now had a symphony of drum and chant and howl that echoed up and down the valley. Turkey has many wild dogs that live in the towns and cities and they are cared for by people in the area. It was fitting that they also should give voice to this impromptu concert.
No one was getting any sleep tonight. I lay in bed listening to this musical celebration and thought of the sleepy island town I call home. At home, people would have contacted the police over this early morning wake up call. I realized as I lay there that I liked having my peace disturbed in this way. It was part of a moment in time that would never be repeated and as I drifted in and out of sleep the human/canine jam session continued on into the early morning light. I was brought out of my sleepy trance by the 4:00 a.m. ‘Call to Prayer’ that followed this rare ‘opening act’.
So many stories to tell, the betrayed carpet salesman (that played out over days), the wild taxi ride through the narrow back streets of Istanbul, learning proper and respectful scarf etiquette, lost at night in the maze of cobbled streets… but the one I tell most often besides the ‘Turkish Bath‘ is this one, because it was a constant…a constant reminder of whatever you want it to be.
The Call to Prayer.
inside the Blue Mosque © photo westcoastwoman