Suroosh and Daena By Marjan Samie

They are locked, dark reminders of the past. In time the past will return, there will be less blurriness, far more clarity. We will be able to look inside, be less out of touch with reality. But that is the future, for now a toxic cloud has settled over southern Iran–and its doors. Laughter is now silenced. Exploring is limited, thwarted by fears, the threat of war, and the irrationalities of Covid-19.The grayness has left only a surreal sense of uncertainty. What awaits behind those weighty, padlocked doors in the streets of Rasht. Until the locks are opened, mysteries abound. All is abstract, much like ourselves. We have inner dialogues, reflections. But life is in shaky upheaval during this ZOOM interruption. Lives are distorted, fragmented by the lack of face to face messaging.

Even amid that other storm cloud–the threat of war, there is still hope. We will find completeness once these cruel scenarios play out. Once so many doors are opened. But I have grown impatient. I needed to walk, to grab my camera. To paint new pictures.The challenge was how. The answer came in the Kabala, the number 9, the tree of all knowledge. That pointed to the path found by the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, Persian kings, mystics, all wise men, and holies pushing carts laden with fruits from gardens of love. I would sit under bougainvillea, and dream.

The Cape of Good Hope

A land of no soldiers, no armaments, no restricting passports and border controls. I discovered this strange land walking past a yellow door that led to a lavender-scented path. There were no markers, no signs, only people waving gaily-colored flags, celebrating peace. It had arrived, finally and forever.

Eden

Approaching the door, I heard a voice, and to my surprise, it was a supernatural creature with only a long tongue. Suspended in the early morning mist, this phantasm was hanging close to my ear. Whispering, it asked, “What do you want to be, a scholar or a princess?” Before I could answer, a hand appeared, offering me a seed, which instantly grew into a dazzling green flower. I caught a whiff of its sweet fragrance, and then it too disappeared. In its place, a fountain popped out of the ground. Another voice urged me to sip its waters, and I hurriedly obeyed. As birds hovered over me, I waited for the next miracle. I am still waiting, hoping to find even more fascinations.

The Voice

Desperate to find inspiration, I walked down a Dusty street, and found a door marked, “Leave the past behind.” Could it be? A sanctum without toxic political rantings, and false prophets? I entered, and a voice asked, “what are you seeking?” “Knowledge,” I quickly ventured. “To be like Aaron, Moses’ brother. Can you help?” “That is a lot. Anything else?” “Yes. A heart without prejudice towards immigrants, gays, Black people, people of other religions than my own.” “You can have one, heart or knowledge. I am not Amazon, or some supermarket.What will it be?” I thought for a moment, and to my surprise, I first felt a gust of wind. Then a door slammed shut. But a door opened for me. I knew how I would go forward.

Sanctions

I stood at the door leading to the West, across the great ocean, and towards the mythic cities of liberty, golden streets, and glamorous movie stars. “Open up, please open up,” I pleaded. “Let me in. I need your blessings.“I kept begging for mercy. Some acknowledgement of humanity. No one listened. Not even the white doves. The disease was that terrific, that cruel. It kept spreading to all the generals and decision-makers. The sanctions persisted.

Golden Shoes

“What is it child? What troubles you?” came the eerie voice once I climbed over a fence, and came into the shuttered house.“Sit, try on these shoes with silvery sequins and rhinestones. They come from the great Kublai Khan.” “I have no need of shoes. Can’t you see, I am wearing red shoes,” I laughed, wondering where this voice was coming from. A gray-haired woman entered the room. To my great surprise, instead of having arms, she had wings. “Please take these shoes. I have no more use of them. My days of flying over mountains are over.”The house shook. I trembled.The old woman was gone. My old self had also disappeared. Now I had wings, and on my feet were those sequined shoes. I was ready to fly back into time, and to be with the exalted ones.

Nothingness

His lips kept moving, but no words came out of his mouth. Just air, a void in this house of many mirrors filled with distortions. He was just there, a blonde-haired man with a fierce look, always scowling, always saying nothing. I tried to escape, to flee his waving arms, and exaggerations. Why was I being punished, forced to look at his silly, puffed-up hair? I hoped for substance, some words of peace. His lips moved and moved. Nothingness.The Paradox The vast chamber was lined with old books, tapestries, and tiles from Arabia. Suddenly another beautiful delight appeared, a powerfully-built man with flowing black hair.“How did you get in?” he asked. “Only scholars and lovers are allowed into this sealed chamber. Are you a lover or a wise woman? I blushed. I didn’t know how to answer. “Don’t be afraid. Answer.” His voice was so gentle, so different from what I usually heard from his countrymen. It was peace, love, its music enveloped me.“My name is Israel. I am from beyond the hills, the place you have only read about.”“Could it be true?” I wondered. “Could this presence be from that forbidden land? If so, I wanted to fly there with him. Give him everything I had, including my body. Then the room grew hazy, and he was gone. Surrounded now by only a pile of tattered newspapers, all blaring the same message, I was alone, left stranded–in this riddle called Israel.

The Bottle

She died unexpectedly. This beautiful woman I did not know. I wept and wept, and also kept pounding at the door. I hoped if I entered this large house with a magnificent garden my tears would be replaced with joy. But no one answered. They were too afraid of me, and the dreaded virus. I had to sit there, cradling this strange-shaped bottle. It wasn’t my bottle. I had found it lying next to this padlocked door, and all the cobwebs that had grown over time. I was about to leave when this tiny sprite appeared, and whispered to me, “cry, little one, cry, my bottle will receive your tears, and turn them into joy. You will visit death, but do not be afraid. She will be kind and very gentle.” I was too afraid to die. But I still have that glass bottle. It sits next to my bed, and gives me comfort. I know I faced death, and chose life. Whatever it brings.

Persian Carpets

A man with a naked, white-haired chest opened the door, and escorted me into a room filled with Iranian silk carpets made in Kashan. Each one was woven with elaborate colors, and intricate designs, treasures sought by Marco Polo himself. Their beauty was so overpowering, I was weak, powerless, and soon obeyed his urgings, “Stand on my chest, and feel its magic.” It was so muscular, I felt like I was standing on an unfamiliar road between two snow-capped mountains. It was cold, and when I started to look for shelter, a voice called out to me, “Grab my hand. It is under that carpet lying in the snow.”Once again, fearing the freezing winds, I obeyed.“Have no fear, woman,” the voice commanded. “We are at the start of a journey. We are going to visit your great-great-great-great grandmother far away in the hills outside Kashan. You will learn all about her hands, and the carpets that have bewitched the immortals for thousands of years.

Mythology

It was the most special of doors, one inlaid with precious jewels from China, also one with burning embers. I didn’t knock, this door to life and death just opened. I was too afraid I would be greeted by a lion, much like the one Dante met on his fabled subterranean journey. But my curiosity got the best of me. I walked into this room the size of an ocean, and there she was, Daena, the Holy Maiden, together with Suroosh, another “reader” of the Holy Book. A volume filled with stories of how we passed through life. I smiled at Daena. She gave me a knowing wink, acknowledging that fate was still unwinding for me. That I could still take my camera, and open more doors.

 

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