Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Most Happy Birthday

Spring birthdays are best. I am biased, of course, but I've always enjoyed having an April birthday and now that I am older, I mean more mature, a spring birthday fits in nicely with my love of the outdoors, natural beauty, and wildflower spotting. And Sunday, my 46th birthday, was a perfect example of this convergence.

We didn't have many special plans for Sunday(church is on Saturday night and for us, Easter is celebrated next week, according to the Eastern church calendar.) : we headed to Hussein park in the morning for our regular run. The boys were already there, playing soccer with some other youth from church. After our run, one of the youth announced my birthday ("like" facebook!) and they all sang Happy Birthday to me. Very sweet.

Just before noon we poured tea into the thermos, picked up falafel sandwiches, and headed for the countryside, amazingly, just about 20 minutes from the edge of the city. It's hard to believe, as one drives through the dirty, gray, concrete and metal industrial area, that there are rolling green hillsides studded with rocks and wild oaks, and fields of green wheat intermingled with wildflowers of all colors just on the other side. Lizards sunned themselves on rocks, colorful jays swooped over the wheat fields and donkeys grazed along the side of the road.

We headed to the ruins of Iraq Al Amir to enjoy our modest picnic.

The ruins, located in the village, Iraq Al-Amir, were built during the Hellenistic period, circa 200 B.C. The most famous of the ruins (a small portion shown above) is the Qasr Al-Abid, or Palace of the Slave. Besides Qasar Al-Abid we visited some caves in the hills above and found the wall lined with small throne-like chairs, carved right into the side of the cave. We could imagine a council of dwarfs meeting in such a place!

The poppies and the henbane were looking particularly lovely.

Papaver Subpiriforme (Poppy)

Hyoscyamus aureus L. (Golden flowered Henbane)

So much beauty! But the serendipitous highlight of our little outing took place as we left the caves and headed back to Amman. We had just begun our journey back through the countryside when we rounded a small bend in the village. Directly to our left was a small rocky hillside dotted with Jordan's national flower, the rare and enigmatic Black Iris. In all my wildflower spotting adventures I had never been in the right place at the right time so as to see one and photograph it in its habitat. And here they were, right on the edge of the village!

I didn't even have to ask Dear Husband to pull over. There must have been a hundred or so irises, blooming in clumps on the rocky hillside. Their situation made it a little difficult to photograph them.

Iris Nigricans (Black Iris)

And, it just so happened that the elementary school across the road had just dismissed classes for the day so we soon had a group of friendly schoolgirls flocking around us, smiling, laughing, asking our names, and talking with Tayta.

They sang us a lovely little song about the small plants and when Dear Husband informed them that it was my birthday, they sang the Arabic version of Happy Birthday--same tune but the words translate: "A nice year to you, O beautiful one." Better than the English version, I think!

Later in the evening, friends came over, bringing pizza, cheesecake, and paper plates so that I wouldn't have any dishes to do on my birthday. A thoughtful touch, I thought. The icing on the cake was a nice long family chat, Oldest Daughter included, as we skyped with the web cam.

And as I look forward to my next year of life, it is the words of Moses, from Psalm 90, which comes to mind and heart:

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.

Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

Psalm 90: 12-17 ESV


MagistraCarminum said...

Happy Birthday, M!

kinzi said...

I'll be taking you out for a birthday treat soon. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY!

NasEr said...

nice post, happy birthday :D

macmahon7 said...

Happy LATE birthday my friend. It sounds like a most lovely day with family and flora and no dishes.

Sam said...

happy birthday...i love the flowers..im so upset that i did not stay in jordan until spring to see the spring in the mideast...:||MEN!!!