19th Ave New York, NY 95822, USA
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My town is a monochromatic palette of brown dusty ground, dry arroyos, tumbleweeds, leafless branches and adobe buildings, but the trees soften each day with leaf buds after a gentle afternoon rain and glisten in the sun gleaming through a cloud packed sky.  We’re getting ready for Navruz, Persian New Year.   Sunday, I took the plastic cover off the tiled table Ebrahim built last year and we sat out on the deck on rickety orange painted wooden stools and drank cold steins of beer, the sun so luscious and the planks so warm that we napped there afterwards, vitamin D soaking into my thin very white skin for an hour until the sun began its arc down behind the plum trees by the brick patio.

This afternoon, I’ll uncover the two-person tahkt Ebrahim made from two recycled single beds, put a Turkish kilim on the wooden platform and pile it with embroidered pillows I brought back from India.  I’m finding choices for a haft-seen table: sekkeh (gold coins);  sabzeh (grass); serkeh (vinegar);    senjed (Persian olive); seeb (apple); seer (garlic) and somaq (sumac).  I’ll place these on the half circle ledge above the kiva in tiny riffled-edged turquoise enamel dishes I bought in Esfahan.  

This morning, Ebrahim and I went hiking, thought it was quite an effort for me to climb a short two miles—the hip still unable to support me and painful with each step–but it was lovely walking in the low mountains outside of Santa Fe, with snow-encircled cactus and New Mexico sky so blue I want to dive into it.   Walking and thinking about the trip we’re planning to Iran in September and remembering the time we traveled to the north…

Ebrahim, his brother Mehdi and I check into a modern whitewashed hotel on the edge of an artificial lake in the North of Iran.  Sweltering from the long drive, I climb out of the back seat, my tunic dress and long-sleeved white tee a clinging cotton second skin.  In the lobby of the Espinas Astara Hotel, a pianist plays pop Persian music at a baby grand in the corner of the modern open space dominated by a massive bronze-like frieze of a winged lion, symbol of ancient Persia.  Gilims of traditional design–bold geometrics in blacks, reds, browns, and whites–hang on the white walls. In a circular glass case in the center of the room flags are displayed for every country in the world–the red, white and blue is there, too–a most international welcome.    A modest gold-on-black enamel of the Imam offers a seemingly benign gaze from a central pillar. Two Arabs in white dishdashas and keffiyehs sit talking on leather couches. A female newscaster in a silk headscarf and elegant makeup broadcasts the news with accented English from a TV mounted on a wall.  The modernity and international flavor comforts me.

 After we check in, I take two chairs from our third-floor room onto the cement balcony outside, on a ledge so narrow I can sit only diagonally, tilted back on the chair’s two legs, my feet stretched out on the other. A blue sky with puffy cartoon clouds and below a paddleboat concession. My husband and his brother fasten themselves orange life preservers around their chests and climb into a large duck-shaped boat to peddle across the glittering water.   On the far side of the lake, a yellow tractor moves down the road, the distant motor a hum.  Beyond are wet green rice fields, shimmering silver and farter the wooded foothills of the Elburz Mountains. 

I sip strong sweet Turkish coffee.  Quite alone, I feel invisible on my balcony perch and drape my headscarf hejab around my neck.  Warm rays on my shoulders, a long kiss from this most benevolent afternoon.