Where did the light go? I feel I’m always chasing the fading light and it is becoming harder to find it.
But first I have been wondering how to explain my long silence. My vacation was a bit later this year but this only explains part of the story. Life has weighed heavily too. Sometimes you are just swamped with new challenges and family, although you keep promising yourself that tomorrow you will find the time. And here I am finally, better late than never as the saying goes.
When Autumn arrived in Tehran, colours changed. Leaves have been falling, leaving carpets of all sizes and shapes covering the paths. Temperatures gradually dropped as well and vary during the day. We start with a morning cold that forcibly wakes us up from the lethargy and warmth of our home. Then temperatures get warmer and trick us into thinking we don’t really need that extra jacket. Finally at around three o’clock in the afternoon, a freezing wave comes and leaves our poor bones in shock. Our bodies work hard to adjust, sometimes falling prey to colds and flus that spread around the city.
Light has also changed. It gets darker earlier and as Winter slowly approaches, light will be fading more and more.
Iranians mark the winter solstice on December 21st with the festival Shab e-yalda. In the longest day and night of the year, families and friends get together and celebrate. They gather around the Korsi, a short square table where they share food. Pomegranates and water melons in particular, the last fruits of the summer. Their red color represents the crimson colors of dawn and the radiance of life. Nuts are also present, believed to chase away your problems.
Nowadays, an electric heater is often placed under the table to keep everybody warm. In villages in Iran, families would gather around a fire where they would spend most of the night together to keep warm and keep evil away.
During the celebration, a member of the family, usually the oldest, will randomly open the book of Hafez, the famous 14th century Iranian poet. He reads the verse to the whole family as a positive message for new beginnings. Family members or friends that have lost loved ones are never left alone and are often invited to celebrate. It is a wonderful celebration that allows family and friends to spend time in each other’s company sharing food, poetry, stories and be merry together.
Coming from one of the sunniest countries in Europe, Portugal, light is never scarce. Even in Winter there can be this bright shine that reflects in the Tagus river and spreads to the shores of my city, Lisbon. It warms your soul, puts you in a good mood and gives you energy.
In Austria, my husband’s country, light can be unique too. During our vacation this year there was a very special day in Carinthia’s Greifenburg village.
A few walking minutes away from our apartment, we had a forest. It was late afternoon and we decided to go for a walk. It was one of those perfect moments when everything looks magical and the light is just perfect.
Following the paths in the forest, the light served as a flashlight, illuminating as we went along and also emphasizing the surrounding nature.
Along with the light, there was also a silent tranquility, something very rare in the world we live in today. How often do we get to have that in our daily lives, in particular in big cities?
So where to go in a city of millions when the light is starting to fade? What I love about Tehran is that there are always hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Little oasis in a city known for its traffic jams and high levels of pollution.
Gems like Masoudieh Palace. Built in 1879 for the residence of the then governor of Isfahan. The sun was hiding under a cover of gray sky that day, but the colors of its architecture and surroundings more than compensated.
The scarce number of visitors allowed for a romantic, peaceful atmosphere that I could wholly enjoy. Masoudieh is not as famous as other palaces in Tehran and it is now under restoration, so we can enjoy the quiet
The red color of the salvias reminded me that there are different ways to brighten your day even when the light is dull and melancholic.
Parks abound in Tehran fortunately and not far from Masoudieh is the Park-e Shahr, literally the city park. It is a huge beautiful park where you can stroll, visit some flamingos and other birds or just sit on a bench and observe how Teheran’s population enjoys their weekend.
Light was starting to fade but Autumn colors warmed the park’s atmosphere. There was a relaxed mood all around, you could hear laughter, children at play and the harmony of the bird’s cacophony.
My last stop chasing the fading light ended in the Armenian Sarkis Cathedral. A beautiful place of worship where there is another kind of light. A more spiritual one, where we sat for a few minutes of reflection. And where my daughter lit a candle for her wonderful Italian/Mexican “grandfather” who left us but for whom we still keep a special light in our hearts.
In view of the soon arriving Christmas holidays, I hope that you can find a special light to brighten your life, help you celebrate and spend quality time with your families. Remember, even if the light is fading outside, you can always find ways of getting hold of it.