Sunday, January 25, 2015

Um Qais Revisited

Some places call me back again and again, places whose beauty is ancient, familiar and at the same time always renewing itself. Um Qais, the ancient decapolis city of Gadara is one of those places. Our family has explored the site as a tourist would, such as during our first visit in 1992, but we've returned again and again, with no other purpose than to be in the place together as a family, soaking up it's beauty, letting it nourish our imaginations.

As we traveled to spend the day in the ruins of Um Qais last Sunday, I reminisced about previous visits: Oldest Daughter was two years old when we first visited Um Qais, and I carried Active Son in a bright red baby carrier. A snapshot from the day shows shows Oldest Daughter sitting on a carved basalt rock as if a princess on her throne. This was the beginning of our children growing up with ancient ruins and and rock piles as their playgrounds. 

The Cardo

Shortly after Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, the militarized area just beyond the ruins was opened to the public--though one must still leave one's identification card at the military checkpoint when entering this area. We visited the "Saha"(open area) on a hilltop where there are lookout towers, like this one, and a helicopter pad.


A local friend told us that the late King Hussein and the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yizhak Rabin would rendezvous in this place. 

From the hilltop one can look west to Lake Tiberius/Sea of Galilee (it was hazy so the sea is not clear in this picture)

and north to Syria, immediately beyond  the banks of the Yarmouk river.

Today one can also hear the mortar shells exploding just beyond the border.

Banks of the Yarmouk river, Jordan/Syrian border

Dirt roads winding down into the Jordan Valley toward the Sea of Galilee bring to life the story of Jesus casting the demons out of the Gadarene (man from Gadara) into a herd of swine, which Luke tells us, rushed down the steep bank and cast themselves into the sea.

This Saha is also the place were I first discovered the riotous variety of Jordanian flora: as a closed military zone, the flora was left undisturbed. When visiting in 1994 we waded through a field of wildflowers up to our waists. I'd never seen anything like it, even in the Alps of Swizerland. The same area is now grazed and/or cultivated.

Back at the ruins, we basked in the sun which had not long ago melted snow. I love living in a country where it can be winter and spring all at the same time. My eyes feasted on the bright green of newly sprouted foliage...

,,,and the soft grey green of olive trees and fig trees yet winter bare.

Artist Son, who is in the midst of an  illustration project, made reference sketches .

Dear Husband could be found where there were signs of excavation.

He found a little Roman glass along the way.

I went searching for the first signs of a new wildflower season. It has begun! I spotted my first anemone...

...and my first asphodel of the season.

Beauty in the olive groves

Saturday, January 17, 2015

20 Minute Book Notes~Brideshead Revisited

I've had so many good intentions to "write a little something" about the books I read. I've actually written about quite a few of them--in my head. When I read that my cyber-friend, J.T., planned to take a 20-minute a day writing challenge this year, I thought, "Yes! That's it. I think I can manage 20 minutes. It may not be eloquent and it certainly won't be exhaustive, but at least I will write something. So, here is my first 20 minute book review (written first with pen an paper--that's how I'm taking the challenge.)

I've wanted to read Evelyn Waugh's novel, Brideshead Revisted for some years now, and in my effort to read more fiction this year I picked BR for my first book of 2015. Besides seeing this book on "must reads" or "good reads" lists, the only impression I brought to this book was a reader's mention of Waugh's beautiful prose.

As soon as I finished reading the book, I turned back the pages--the Kindle pages, that is--to re-read particular scenes and conversations, which had become more meaningful, more poignant, now that the novel had concluded. I didn't feel this way reading the first half of the book. In fact, the thought of giving it up crossed my mind a couple times; the plot seemed indiscernible, and the lives of the skeptical characters, futile and unsympathetic. Shortly after the halfway point, the complex characters began to reveal their depth, albeit through Waugh's understated writing.

I waited to read any reviews or analyses of BR until after I finished the book. I'm glad that I did so that I could make at least some of the discoveries on my own. However, I wish I had read one statement by Waugh made about his book before reading it. He writes in a letter to his literary agent, A.D. Peters:

"The whole thing is steeped in theology, but I begin to agree that theologians won't recognize it."

God is always there, of course, even when it seems He isn't .

I enjoyed Thomas Howard's thoughts after reading the book.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cashmere Chronicles

Somehow, I found time to felt, cut, and sew cashmere during the wedding-summer. Tayta called it cashmere therapy and said it was the reason why I didn't get stressed-out before the wedding. Maybe. If I worked diligently, I could finish a blanket in one week, depending on how much time I had to devote to it.

The first two blankets/throws were completed while we were in the States (the green grass backround is a giveaway). The first one was a gift to Oldest Daughter and Music Man when the returned to Boise in August for a visit. No, I wasn't able to finish it before the wedding!

I made this baby blanket soon after we returned to Jordan in September and sent it with my friend who was traveling to Boise for the birth of her granddaughter.

I finished this blanket/throw last week--another belated wedding present for a June wedding of dear friends. As you can see from the way we are dressed, now is when my friends can use it! (66"x 67")

I will be putting aside the cashmere for a little while so as to get to work on a scrap/recycled fabric quilt for Tayta's college dorm room next fall.