Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gardening Woes

I ask you, do these lovely daisies look like weeds? Perhaps they appeared to be in the strict definition of the word 'weed', a plant growing in a place where it is not wanted, in that they were carpeting my front flower garden in a bit of a haphazard fashion, with a few empty patches here and there. They had re-seeded themselves from last year's annual flower. Unfortunately, due to the sporadic nature in which their seed was distributed, and thus growing, our gardener (no we aren't of the upper class; I am odd enough in that I work in my flower garden, but tilling the soil and spraying the trees would be completely unacceptable work for us to do ourselves.) determined these lovely African daisies were weeds, and hoed up the whole lot of them. Glad I had taken a picture first! Not only are they gone, they hadn't matured enough to disperse their seeds for next years bloom.

I am a little embarrassed to admit I had what amounts to a temper tantrum when my husband broke the news to me. I huffed and puffed, and I think I may have stomped my feet a few times. This lasted about three minutes and I recall hearing the kids chuckle as they observed my outburst. Then I settled into my coping-with-life-in-Jordan mindset of 'hayk il' haya', 'such is life', or 'illi fat, mat', 'what's done is done.' On with the day.

Another woeful tale: Pictured above is the last of my beloved foxgloves, and it met its demise last summer. I'm missing it this spring. Once upon at time I, amazingly, found six potted foxglove plants, foliage only, at a roadside garden stand. I had never seen a foxglove in Jordan before and I've never seen one since. I purchased all six and was thrilled when they bloomed the following spring. Five were planted in one spot but one, pictured above, found its way to another corner of the yard. When we returned to Jordan from the States at the end of the summer I found that the group of five foxgloves had disappeared. Not died, but completely disappeared. I'd never had anyone steal plants before! The following spring my lone foxglove bloomed like never before, almost as if it were making up for the others being stolen, sending up three beautiful stalks. That summer, our landlord hired painters to paint the stairwell. Can you guess where they dumped the paint thinner?

This beauty of a Ranunculus was blooming in my garden last week, the first to burst open this spring. Unfortunately an unidentified neighbor has decided they have a penchant for beautiful Ranunculus flowers; it was picked just hours after I took this picture. Three more yellow blooms were picked when they opened a couple of days later and the first white bloom, gone its first day in full bloom.

So, I'm feeling bit mopey about my flowers and, overall, unmotivated to plant this spring. I think I'll just enjoy what is already planted and growing as it will soon be to hot to do any planting anyway. Sigh.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Captain Abu Raed

I've mentioned before that I don't watch many movies. Even less frequently do I watch movies in the theater. Until Friday night, the last time I saw a movie in the theater was when our family went together to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But, Captain Abu Raed (pronounced Ra'ed), the much acclaimed first film by Jordanian producer and director, Amin Matalqa, was definitely a film worth seeing sooner rather than later.

I'm sure that much of the recognition that we, as a family, responded to in Matalqa's artistic endeavor has to do with the fact that we have have lived in Amman for many years; for Dear Husband and I, most of our adult lives, and for our children, their entire lives. Though the lives and struggles portrayed in the film were not ours, exactly, they were lives and struggles which belong to friends or other Jordanians we've lived among and observed--so I guess, in some second party way they have been our lives and struggles as well.

With few exceptions, Matalqa does a fine job of accurately portraying life in Amman, particularly the contrast between lower socio-economic East Amman and Western influenced upper socio-economic West Amman. No exaggerations here. The cinematography, though a bit dramatic in places, was wonderful, and we all enjoyed recognizing familiar places in the film (today when we went on our family run at the park, Younger Son and I marked the exact spot where Tareq had been selling biscuits/cookies).

Though I enjoyed seeing this movie in the theater, I have to admit it is the kind of movie, that when it is over, you wish you were instantly in the privacy of your own home, alone, or with others who had just seen the film. Once we had silently navigated the chaos that is City Mall on a Friday night and were secure in the privacy of our car we began a discussion of the themes of the movie: hope, sacrifice, redemption, which lasted until after we arrived at home. While the film had some sort of resolution and what one might call a happy ending, these were in no way complete.

It was the incompleteness of resolution, among other things that caused me to consider this a good film and a film worth watching. My kids rarely appreciate me applying my analytical judgment to the films they/we watch and my philosophical awareness was only heightened as I had, just last week, read Dorothy Sayer's excellent essay, Toward a Christian Esthetic, published in Letters to a Diminished Church, Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine. In this wonderful essay, which deserves several blogs posts of its own Sayers explains the marks of a true poet or artist:

"A poet is a man who not only suffers the impact of external events but also experiences them (You only experience a thing when you can express it--however haltingly--to your own mind--also Sayers) He puts the experience into words in his own mind, and in so doing recognizes the experience for what it is. To the extent that we can do that, we are all poets. A poet so-called is simply a man like ourselves with an exceptional power of revealing his experience by expressing it, so that not only he, but we ourselves, recognize that experience as our own."

About the recognition of truth that we get from the artist's work she writes:

"I mean the recognition of truth that tells us something about ourselves that we had not been always saying, something that puts a new knowledge of ourselves withing our grasp. It is a new, startling, and perhaps shattering, and yet it comes to us with a sense of familiarity. We did not know it before, but the moment the poet/artist has shown it to us, we know that, somehow or other, we had always really known it."

Matalqa is a poet so-called and his film touches, in some ways, on this recognition of truth as Sayer's defines it. Captain Abu Raed is not a film which merely entertains, provoking the experience of emotion that usually accompanies experience without our having had the experience, nor is it a film of pseudoart, which "seeks to produce the behavior without the experience," but rather it is a film which provokes recognition and thought anew about Jordanian society and the challenges its citizens face.

As Captain Abu Raed recently won the World Cinema Audience Award at the recent prestigious Sundance Film Festival, I'm pretty sure it will be showing in theaters of some sort in the U.S. sometime in the near future.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Mind the Gaps

Last weekend, Dear Husband and I enjoyed the privilege and blessing of overseeing the Youth Retreat of our International Fellowship. Over 60 youth from 12 countries, six helpers, Dear Husband, myself, and one other parent traveled to the beautiful northern Jordanian town of Ajloun, retreating to a hilltop surrounded by pine forests, with a view of of the Crusader period castle which sits a top an olive tree covered hill.

The theme of the weekend was "Mind the Gaps", a play on the recorded reminder broadcasted in the British Underground, and all the talks and small group discussions were concerned with the topic of relationships. Dear Husband laid the foundation for all relationships by teaching from Psalm 103 about our relationship with God.

College student and high school student (Oldest Daughter) leaders helped the youth consider what the Bible has to say about our relationship with Adults, Peers, and Sinners (recognizing that referring to unbelievers as sinners was a slightly inaccurate as we are all sinners, but it helped to complete the acronymn).

After each talk, small groups, led by a student leader, meet together to discuss the principles and truths presented in the talks, and to pray for one another.

On Friday morning we journeyed over to the castle, a fortress built during the Crusades by Azz ad-Din Usama, relative of Salah ad-Din in an effort to limit the expansion of the Crusader Kingdom. The castle was part of the chain of beacons which could transmit news by pigeon post from the Euphrates frontier to Cairo headquarters in twelve hours. (The Rough Guide to Jordan)

The Youth participated in a castle activity developed and carried out by the student leaders. It reminded me of a sort of Pilgrim's Progress mini-journey: Proceeding in groups of three, two youth helped guide one blindfolded youth through the castle, stopping at various points to hear student leaders read various passages which explained the gospel.

The youth had to answer questions about the gospel before proceeding on their journey and they had to discern truth from error as a couple of leaders where positioned along the way, tempting them to go astray.

Whenever there was free-time, these youth played and played hard. It was such a blessing to watch all these city kids set loose in the country as they ran freely in the fresh spring air.

Presentation of Team Chants

I think that Dear Husband and I were both surprised to discover how much we enjoyed spending the weekend with all these great young people. I really have not had so much fun in a long time. May God bless this next generation as they grow in their knowledge of Him!

An Ajloun Sunset