Thursday, February 19, 2009

THOUGHTS EVOKED BY VETCH


Yesterday, I went outdoors to inspect the raking job the leaf man had done in the yard and found patches of vetch, its tendrils clinging to the ground everywhere. For me, the conspicuous green foliage with purple flowers always announces Spring. It’s early yet to declare Spring, but there it was, a gracious plenty of vetch growing in my backyard.

For some reason, I suddenly recalled a Spring in the desert of Iran where I experienced my first “Nowruz,” the traditional New Year holiday celebrated there, a celebration marking the first day of Spring and signifying the beginning of the Iranian New Year.

During the last month of winter in the Persian calendar, preparations called “Khoune Takouni” take place. Iranians initiate an extensive house cleaning, buy new clothes to wear for the New Year and purchase flowers to celebrate the rebirth of vegetation in the natural world. I remember that my houseboy, Jabar, requested a new set of clothes which I provided for the 13-day celebration of Spring. He asked for American-made pants and shirt, the pants of which I had re-tailored in Karun from my spouse’s larger ones. In fact, I provided five sets of clothing and a pair of new shoes!

During my first celebration of the New Year in Iran, I didn’t prepare a “Haft Sin” table that includes various items of food and which is more of a display of items corresponding to seven creations and the holy immortals (like our saints) protecting them. If you’re interested in reading about the “Nowruz” traditions, you can find a description in my young adult book, SOPHIE’S SOJOURN IN PERSIA (buy at Amazon.com).

Here in south Louisiana, it’s difficult for us to visualize a desert in southern Iran coming alive like the vetch in my backyard, but the red poppy that abounds on the plains of Khuzestan in Spring creates a miraculous show on the “desert’s dusty face.”

Below is a bit of free verse from one of my unpublished poetry manuscripts entitled FARDA, which is about my sojourn in this fascinating mid-eastern country:

KHUZESTAN COLOR

Touching down on flat Iranian plain,
the aircraft enters another West Texas,

a stark landscape of sand and stone.
“Where did all the flowers go?”

the tune replays in my mind,
but it is a fleeting thought,

this question about landscape,
some weeks later, I have seen

Lale’, the wild tulip
growing spiritedly at Masjid-I-Suleiman,

blooms of beauty taken to Europe
during the Crusades,

and wild garlic with its red and green flowers
clustering in flower stalls, not vegetable bazaars.

Goats have stripped the stark plateau,
leaving only globe and artichoke thistle,

a few anemones and yellow daisies,
they have bypassed the caper plant,

spicy night bloomer,
its large white flowers wilting in sunlight,

at night its pickled buds
enhancing salads at dinner parties.

Plants within our reach,
wild marigolds at Andimeshk near Choga Mish

and further into the Zagros Mountains
at Hamadan, Iran’s red poppy,

closer home, cultivated gardens
of Persian cyclamen

showing off its heart-shaped base.
In my own garden,

the yellow rose of Texas struggles,
is the household joke

that I was lured to Iran by a spouse
who sang at my arrival,

“I didn’t promise you a rose garden,”
then grew a neat row of yellow and pink blooms.

We dare not neglect the almond and pistachio,
or the tall Lombard poplars favoring Isfahan,

nor do we forget the poisonous oleander,
nemesis of Ahwaz gardeners

that gave me a case of hayfever,
a plant endemic to more tropical climes,

reminding me of home…
Teche country, lush enclosures.
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