December 14, 2010
by Joy E. Stocke
Photo by Joy E. Stocke
(Editor’s Note: Istanbul was chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2010. The Galata Bridge separates the European Side iof istanbul from the Asian or Anatolian side.)
There you are and there it is: Sunset fast approaching.
You are outside Istanbul’s Egyptian Spice Bazaar, part of a crowd of people rearranging packages of Antep pepper, cumin, coffee; sipping glasses of tea, talking on cell phones as you pass through a swirl of more than a hundred pigeons who fight greedily for scraps of bread.
In front of you, Eminönü Station where the ferries line up and bellow a deep collective moan. Rust-covered chains lower gangplanks for the rush hour crowd heading up the Bosphorus past the Sea of Marmara to Üsküdar, Hydarpasa and Kadikoy on the Asian side.
Ahead, your destination, the Galata Bridge, the so-called Milky Way that spans the base of the Golden Horn from Eminonu to the suburb of Galata. Galaktos means milk in Greek and the word Bosphorus means cow ford, and you are about to watch the sun set aflame the estuary known as the cow’s Golden Horn.
The name Istanbul is also said to come from the Greek, “eis tin Polis”; simply, “to the City.” A city of hills surrounded by water intermingling in the Bosphorus Channel – the heavy saline Sea of Marmara, son of the Aegean; and the less salty Black Sea, daughter of the Caucasus.
Below the Golden Horn, at the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, construction is underway to build the world’s deepest underwater tunnel. There, engineers discovered a gravesite that pushes the city’s first inhabitants back to the 7th millennium when agriculture spread from Anatolia – as Turkey is also called – to the Balkans. The excavation has uncovered pottery fragments, shells, horse skulls, and human remains in fetal positions, poised for rebirth.
And the Golden Horn spanned by the Galata Bridge whose metal steps you are now climbing, gives definition to a city that seems to float on water. Formed by the sweet water of two underground springs flowing toward the Sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn has protected ships for the Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese, Ottomans; an estuary rich enough to provide nutrients for many species of fish including gray mullet sold in the markets along the its banks.
Water flowing in currents, people flowing in currents, boys selling rings of sesame-topped bread called simits. Along the bridge’s railed expanse, vendors grill mussels and chewy corn on the cob. Girls in peg-leg jeans, some in headscarves, and boys in black T-shirts flirt and tease and tap at the keyboards of their cell phones. Men, young and old in caps with their buckets of bait rest fishing poles against the railing and wait.
Flash of gold, flush of honey over the suburbs that fan out from the Golden Horn in a maze of streets and brick and stone and mortar: Fener, Balat, Galata.
Cries of sea gulls, rocking of pleasure boats, a reddening as if the horn is lit from within. You look up when the muezzin’s call to prayer rises from the minaret of the Süleymaniye Mosque, tinny, distorted, la il’allalh ilallalh – there is no god, but god.
The sun drops, flamingo-red, burning through the atmosphere. Fire meets water and the whole lot of you – commuters, sightseers, fishermen, lovers – breathe in the golden air, breathe in the scent of diesel, brine, muck, fruit blossoms, yeast.
A ferry pulls away from the dock and you think about a Phoenician maiden called Europe who fell in love with a bull; how, on his back he carried her and her culture across the water from Asia Minor to the continent that would bear her name.
There you are. And there it is: Impossible to grasp.
Darkness gathers and with your heart full of wonder you cross the bridge to Galata to a taverna where a beloved friend waits in candlelight at a table on the crescent edge of the Golden Horn.
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June 21, 2010
The Queen of Anatolia
by Joy Stocke and Angie Brenner (Excerpted from the Memoir, Anatolian Days & Nights)
“Everything we see in the world is the creative work of women.”
Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, Founder of the Republic of Turkey
Cybele – Mother Goddess of Anatolia (Turkey)
Courtesy of the Anatolian Civilizations Museum, Ankara, Turkey
The little girl’s voice vibrates in the chill morning air. In a navy-blue woolen dress and brown tights bunched at her ankles, she tentatively crosses the courtyard, tears shining on her cheeks. “An-neh!”
A woman breaks from a group of mothers standing at the ticket booth. In a storm-grey headscarf and black, double-breasted, ankle-length coat, she hurries toward her daughter scolding her indulgently before scooping her into her arms to kiss away the tears.
The call of a lost child seeking her an-neh, her mother, seems a fitting welcome to Ankara, home of the Anatolian Civilizations Museum, which holds one of the world’s greatest collections of sculpture and art dedicated to the mother goddess. Long before the rise of Judaism, Christianity and Islam people worshipped the Great Mother who had many names: Artemis, Aphrodite, Cybele, Diana. The Greeks named the land now called Turkey, Anatolia, in honor of her incarnation as Anat, goddess of the rising sun. And from that goddess, the word Anne – Mother – entered the Turkish vocabulary.
I have loved the goddess in her incarnation as the Virgin Mary since I was a child and credit my Catholic upbringing for my affection. At Sunday Mass, I often sat in a pew near a niche that contained her statue, her marble body robed in a sea-blue cloak, her rosy-cheeked son Jesus sitting on her lap. While the priest went through the rituals of the Mass, I smiled back at her, because surely the kind and compassionate smile on her face was put there for me.
“I’m so sorry about your son,” I would whisper, trying to imagine what it was like to be told you will bear the son of God and that one day you would watch him nailed to a cross and tortured to death. On the first of May, with the other girls of the parish, I would dressed in white to celebrate her, laying roses on the altar and singing, “Salve Regina, Hail to the Queen.”
Angie’s interest in the mother goddess followed a different path. Raised Protestant by a Catholic mother and Dutch Reform father, Angie asked questions that were never fully answered. For instance, outside of the birth story of Jesus, why was Mary ignored?
When we began traveling to the Mediterranean region, we discovered that Mary has a long line of ancestresses, goddesses who, for good and ill, held sway over the mortals in their midst.
Byzantine Icon, Virgin Mary
And so, on a morning in May, far from Ankara in Central Turkey, we find ourselves on a shaded hill near the town of Ephesus in front of a Byzantine house made of stone. Tradition says that Meryemanna, Mother Mary, the Blessed Virgin, spent the final years of her life here.
To thousands of pilgrims, it makes no difference that the house was built three centuries after Mary’s death. Or that it wasn’t discovered until the nineteenth century when a bedridden German woman, who had never visited Turkey, saw it in a vision.
Inspired by the German woman’s description of a house constructed of stone blocks with rounded arches, a priest from the nearby port city of Izmir traveled to Ephesus and found an abandoned house nestled in a pine grove overlooking the Aegean Sea. In 1967, Pope John Paul VI canonized the house as the official residence of Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, and as her final resting place.
Does it really matter whether the house belonged to the Virgin Mary or not? Muslims as well as Christians make pilgrimages there to honor her. Inside her house, inscriptions from the Q’uran flow across the walls in Arabic calligraphy. Following a tradition stretching back to their nomadic and shamanistic past, Muslim worshippers tie white strips of cloth to a tree near her house so their prayers may be answered.
In 451 CE, the Council of Chalcedon awarded Mary Christianity’s highest honor, the title of Airoparthenos, Ever-Virgin, one who never had intercourse in order to conceive her son.
Her foremothers would have been shocked. In their time, procreation was held as a mystery of greatest importance in the endless cycle of renewal and birth. A goddess could mother hundreds of children and still be called a virgin.
Modernity, however, can be deceptive; and in this case even comforting. In a secular Muslim Republic, Turkish children evoke her name hundreds of thousands of times a day whenever they call for their anne.
House of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus, Turkey, ephesusguide.com
Joy E. Stocke is Editor in Chief of Wild River Review. The essay above is an excerpt from the memoir, Anatolian Days & Nights, A Love Affair with Turkey, co-written with Angie Brenner to be published in 2011.
To support our mission and passion for good storytelling, please make a tax-deductible donation by clicking here: Wild River Donation.
February 11, 2010
by Joy E. Stocke
“…and there was snow in the sky now, setting in for a regular nor’easter.” Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
There’s something about the word Nor’easter that gets the blood going – ominous, dangerous, and there’s nothing you can do about it. According to the National Weather Service, Nor’easters begin when a low-pressure system forms in the Gulf of Mexico and air is drawn toward the Northeast by the Jet Stream.
Those of us who live in the Northeast Corridor that extends from Washington to Boston, are, in fact, water babies, although we often forget the power of the Atlantic Ocean until we head “down the shore” for our weekly summer vacations.Or, until the counterclockwise flow of air around a low pressure system carries warm moist air to meet cold in a cosmic pas de deux .
We mere mortals can do nothing about it. The storm has its own logic and follows the topography of the East Coast. Enter the weathermen and women who reach into their dictionaries for superlatives – in this case, Snowmageddon – coined when Washington DC was forced to shut its doors. Then Balitmore, Philly, Trenton, New York, Boston. The sky becomes eggshell white, Twitter and Facebook pages light up with messages. And then even those slow down as the wind blows and the snow drifts and drifts and, in spite of ourselves, we slip into a giddy reverie.
In 24 hours, the storm will have reached the Canadian Coast and its peak intensity, swirling toward the Arctic where cold air pushes it south again. It is said that the storm can meander for weeks, and even gather its forces for a second round. (There are reports that the East Coast could have more snow on Monday.)
We East Coast folks are an intense bunch as evidenced by the many emails and Facebook messages I’ve received about macho men and macha women out on the streets with shovels – yes, shovels – snowblowers don’t count. But, underneath it all we tough captains and queens of industry have become sentimental as children. We gather for suppers with friends and begin to create the tall tales we’ll surely share with our grandchildren, we initiate snowball fights and claim bragging rights about who has managed to complete the most amount of work without going to the office.
And secretly, or maybe not so secretly, as long as we are safe and warm, (and there have been reports from friends that they are without power) we wish that this feeling of timelessness might last a little longer.
I surely do, but on that note, I must be going because I have a meeting in Princeton. I’ve also got a little shoveling to do so I can get out of my driveway and claim my own bragging rights: Neither rain, nor sleet, nor slow will keep me from driving straight into a snowbank.
Joy E. Stocke is Editor in Chief of Wild River Review. To support the magazine’s work and its mission please click here: Donate.
January 3, 2010
by Joy Stocke
New Year’s Day in Lambertville, New Jersey at the home of Kevin Wentworth and Aba Boehm downriver from Liz Gilbert and her husband Jose Nunes’s home in Frenchtown. Friends are gathered in the dining room and kitchen eating Aba’s vegetarian chili and corn chowder in celebration of the group’s annual dunk into the mist-covered Delaware River.
Nunes arrives into this mix of artists, writers, business folk and yoga practitioners, bearing wine and apologizing for his wife who is sitting in the car finishing a phone call related to the much-anticipated follow up to her wildly successful memoir, Eat, Pray, Love.
Gilbert’s new book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, arrives in bookstores on January 5th and chronicles how she and Nunes (Brazilian-born with an Australian passport), both divorced, vowed to remain committed to one another without a marriage license. That is until Homeland Security refused Nunez an re-entry visa into the States.
Because the pair wished to settle in the States - yes, all you comedians, they chose New Jersey, the Garden State – Gilbert and Nunes married. And so begins Gilbert’s tale, a meditation on the meaning of and what it takes to create a marriage.
On New Year’s Eve after a busy week of sales, she and Nunes closed the store they set up and run together, Two Buttons Imports, for a two month hiatus and were in bed by 9:30 pm in anticipation of a very busy January and February.
When Gilbert’s book tour begins on Tuesday in New York City at the Barnes & Noble on Union Square, Nunes will already be in the Dominican Republic with his daughter who is visiting from Australia; and then on to a buying trip for Two Buttons, which will take him to Bali where Gilbert met him.
And Gilbert? She rushes into the dining room her cheeks flushed from the cold, apologizing for her tardiness, then asks, “Did anyone actually jump in the river?”
When a number of folks, including the youngest swimmer, all of eleven years old, nod in the affirmative, she shivers. “I hate being cold,” she says. “See, I have goosebumps on my arm,” and then reaches for a chocolate covered cherry.
After she graciously receives congratulations about the release of her new book, I ask whether she’s nervous. She looks up from her half-eaten cherry and says, ”You know, the expectations are so high for this book that I can’t possibly meet them. So, yes, I’m nervous to the point where I’ve had a few sleepless nights.”
Nunes eyes her protectively, “I tell her not to read a single review. I will read them first. And she is NOT to read anything on Amazon because sometimes there are crazy people who write unkind things.”
Now, I have to admit I’m having an almost out of body experience during our conversation. Can one of the best selling authors of the 21st Century really be that nervous?
Well, the answer is absolutely, yes. Even with positive early reviews, the immensely gifted Gilbert – her book, The Last American Man was a National Book Award Finalist – is waiting to hear from her readers.
She does have a wish though, one that has a good chance of coming true: “I’ve never asked people to buy my books before,” she says. “But this time I’m urging my readers to buy Committed. I really want to knock Sarah Palin from the number one nonfiction spot on the New York Times bestseller list.”
Joy Stocke is editor in chief of Wild River Review. Her memoir Anatolian Days and Nights based on her travels in Turkey will be published in 2010.
November 30, 2009
Post-Thanksgiving Plane Ride
with a Soldier on His Way to Iraq
by Joy E. Stocke
Thanksgiving in the Midwest. On my way from Milwaukee to Cleveland to Philadelphia. Cleveland flight: Husband and daughter in front of me. Settled into my aisle seat when a man in his mid-thirties carrying a large camouflage backpack (I’d seen a number of these in the Philadelphia/Cleveland/Philadelphia Airports) hoists it into the overhead bin and says, “I hope you haven’t gotten too comfortable.”
He says this in such a confident friendly way that I reply, “No, I was waiting for you,” and get up. And when we settle in, we talk all the way to Philadelphia.
He is headed to Fort Dix in New Jersey, headed to his fourth deployment in Iraq, a career soldier serving 20 years with “6 years and 3 months” left before he returns to the family farm “1300 acres of cash crop soy beans, wheat and corn – none of that GMO stuff,” where he will “fish and fish and fish.” His father and father-in-law were soldiers and farmers. He has a wife and a seven-year-old son.
A Marine, he refers to himself in the slang term Marines use, a Jarhead who was part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, part of the troops that trained for what they thought would be a prolonged war, and then surprised themselves when two months later they rolled into Baghdad and the “war was over.”
“At least the fighting part,” he says.
We talk about more troops in Afghanistan, we talk about his fourth deployment. “Look,” he says. “I think we made a mistake invading Iraq in the first place. I don’t see how we’re going to get out of there. But I can tell you this: The press hasn’t shown the whole picture. I wish there would be more positive stories and more stories about how our military interacts with the tribes and the sheykhs and the village elders. But, a soldier signs up to serve no matter what his or her opinion.”
“Plus,” he says. “Combat isn’t for everyone because you have to learn to separate your emotions from what you are asked to do. Can you look a man or woman in the eye and know when to shoot and when not to shoot? Because, if you are in combat you are going to be asked to shoot.”
He says he wishes that U.S. Presidents would listen better to the military commanders and not advisors who have never served in the military. His sentiment rests equally with Democrats and Republicans.
He assures me that the U.S. has the best-trained, best-equipped military in the world, that a war is good for soldiers in that soldiers like him have a steady a job with a salary for life – for which he is grateful.
He adds that the only thing we as a nation have to worry about in the area of combat is that we don’t have a enough troops – about 500,000. He believes in the draft and that all American kids should serve a year for their country – “And it doesn’t have to be in combat,” he says.
He said much more about weapons and how with the use of GPS you can hit a target with a 150 pound bomb 18 miles away. About how there is usually “collateral damage” a term he dislikes. That he has had the opportunity to play soccer/football with members of the Iraqi Olympic team and how neither side let the other win as a show of comeraderie. How we as a nation underestimated the bonds of religion, tribe, family and culture in Iraq and the Middle East. How he believes we should have more troops in Afghanistan, less in Iraq, and that most success he’s seen is not through force but through education. “When schools are set up and kids can go to school and people can be trained to work, now you have something positive,” he says.
He reaches his arms up and pretends to cast a fishing rod. ”Yes, six years and three months left,” he says. “And then I’m going to catch a lot of striped bass.”
Joy E. Stocke is editor in chief of Wild River Review. Her memoir Anatolian Days and Nights based on her travels in Turkey will be published in 2010.
November 6, 2009
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On and Off the Road in Turkey: Fort Hood, A Soldier’s Story
By Angie Brenner and Joy Stocke
Photo by Angie Brenner
We wake just before sunrise in the heart of Anatolia to hear the morning call to prayer from the village’s small mosque. While our internet connection waxes and wanes, we’ve connected long enough to learn the news from Foot Hood, Texas about Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an army psychiatrist born in Virginia who was about to deploy to Iraq. While the details and motive are still being determined, the news that he shot and killed twelve soldiers brings to mind a conversation we had two nights ago with Apo, young man we met here.
Apo spoke of his life, friends and family who live in the Adana region further south on the Mediterranean Sea where his father raises cows, and grows crops of beets, carrots, potatoes beside orchards of lemon and oranges. ”I will return in two years to help him. From our house you only see fields,” he says and smiles.
He mentions a friend whom he met during his mandatory two-year military service and who will join him later that night, which leads us to ask more questions. Other Turkish friends and acquaintances have had military jobs from baklava baker to pigeon keeper (one friend boasted of having his men build a swimming pool for him on the base), so we never know what career opportunity the Turkish army might create.
But Apo’s army work was not what we would have expected from such a gentle person.
“My eyesight was very, very good,” he says. “So, they gave me the job of look-out person and gun operator in the turret of a tank.”
Apo says that he was stationed in the far eastern city of Van, which we know from previous travels to be a hot bed for the PKK (a Kurdish separatist group considered a terrorist organization). In Van, the government and army are very heavy-handed with any suspects. Then Apo tells us a story:
Near Hakkri along the border with Iran, his troop encountered a village known to have sheltered PKK insurgents. One man ran out of a house with a gun and was told to stop or be shot. Apo was directed by his captain to shoot the man if he didn’t stop running.
“He said that if this man lived and killed one of our men, it would be my fault,” says Apo. “I was so scared, and kept yelling for the man to stop. I pulled up my gun to shoot and just then he put up his arms in the air like this.” Apo held up his own arms in the surrender position.
“You can not imagine how I felt. I asked him, ‘Why did you not stop? I would have killed you, and how do you think I would feel?’ I even hit him because I was so mad that he made me come so close to killing him. And can you believe it, he apologized to me.”
Apo spent several weeks after this incident talking with army psychiatrists and had nightmares that lasted for the following six months. But it was his last remark that seemed to sum up what happens to soldiers stressed by having to witness or engage in acts we find impossible to understand.
Apo stood on our doorstep and smiled softly. “When my last day in the army came, I woke up and said, “Today, the sun rises only for me.”
Angie Brenner is the West Coast Editor of Wild River Review. Joy Stocke is editor in chief of Wild River Review. You can follow their travels and musings about Turkey at: Anatolian Days and Nights.com
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