You are looking at posts that were written in the month of January in the year 2008.
From colonial villages comes forth the call
Cross goldenrod meadows in breezes of fall
The stage has been cleared and the hour is set
We’ll toast to the thrasher, we’ll feast and we’ll fete
From his oceanside home the cardinal flies
By ribbons of scarlet he knows he’s arrived
And jolly the happenings there to be had
Hats off to the thresher, a fine young lad
When mention is made of her, contrast is stark
He’d long since lost touch with the faraway lark
But right here she is where she’s been all along
In the robin’s red breast and in homage, his song
The cardinal smiles at such earnest young love
And calls upon blessings to rain from above
He wings his way home through the blackest of skies
The moon his companion to witness his sighs
The raven’s call rings out on every side
Bids softly the angels close tight their black eyes
His mind tumbles back on her soft swirling dance
The heat and the flame of ill-fated romance
The song of the shepherd sufficient to hook
His black sheep’s heart in its cradling crook
His thoughts fly away to the lands never seen
Their history ancient and playas serene
For the quetzal’s resplendence his heart doth yearn
But she sings in a language he’s not yet learned
I am not making this up.
When you finish reading this, I want you to tell me, honestly, if these sorts of things ever happen to you. I want you to tell me if you think I’m reading into this, or conjuring something out of thin air. If you think it means something, tell me what it means. If you have a salient point to share or harbor some related knowledge or you discern something I’m missing, tell me. Even if you don’t normally comment. I need help deciphering these recent experiences.
I’m going to try to weave together a story for you that includes all the important threads, but considering that every one connects to some other event, it’s impossible for me to capture the totality of meaning in one short essay. I hope it’s still cohesive.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Most of you know my friend Sholeh. In fact, I’d be surprised if you didn’t, considering the fact that, at 83, we share the most friends in common of anyone I know. Sholeh has been serving at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa for over a year now, on an 18-month term. She recently moved to a new apartment there, and shares this flat with Maryam and Laily. Maryam grew up in the Baha’i community in Orlando with many of my friends here in central Florida. In fact, I have heard nothing but glowing reports about her from Fere, Shezel, Sarah, and many others. Maryam has been serving in Haifa for over a year, and will be there for at least 16 more months. She has also spent time in Texas, so not only does she know most of my Florida friends, but she knows the Kouroshes and my Texas peeps, and everyone that I know in Haifa. We may not have as many friends in common as Sholeh and I, but I’ve been eager to meet this girl for as long as I’ve known about her. Imagine my excitement when I learned she was in the United States for two weeks and was passing through Florida.
Sarah sent out an invite on Monday, January 7th, inviting us to Maryam’s Dad’s house for a get together that Friday so we could “have dance” and enjoy “poisonous snaks.” On Thursday, January 10th, I was driving back from the Hot Hot Heat concert in Orlando with Uncle Billy. We got out earlier than usual, and after only a few minutes in the car he remarked,
“Oh look, 11:11pm.”
“That’s funny,” I said, “Why would you point that out?”
“Oh, no reason, just that my family would freak out when they saw something like that. It doesn’t mean anything to me, though.”
For the record, before I go any further, up to this point 11:11 has had no special meaning to me, and I harbor no preconceived notions about its significance. Also for the record, Bill is an atheist, has zero superstitions, is skeptical of coincidences and omens, and has never pointed out anything remotely like that to me before.
Within 24 hours, though, on Friday, January 11th, I found myself standing at the door to Maryam’s father’s house, about to meet her for the first time. There, in big, bold brass numbers was his address on **** Drive:
You know that apprehension that comes from meeting someone the first time, especially if they’re someone you’ve heard a lot about? I never feel awkward, as a rule, but I’m always on high alert to pick up the subtle metalanguage someone gives off upon being introduced. I was fully prepared to shake Maryam’s hand when I met her, but hold onto it and make sure she knew how happy I was to finally meet her and how many amazing things I’d heard about her. Her uncle opened the door, I said Allah’u'Abha, and something just clicked between him and I. We hugged three times. Right there on the threshold. It was like meeting an old friend. Strangest thing. Perhaps that broke the ice for all the Persians in the household (and trust me, it was all Persians, every person, and I felt completely at home to the point of not noticing it…I even felt Persian). Maryam was sitting with her back to me, but turned around facing the door. As I strode toward her she stood up and met me halfway. I didn’t even have time to reach my hand out when she wrapped me in a giant bear hug and said, “That’s from Sholeh.”
So. I thought that was it. Some really awesome coincidences and on the following Saturday night, one of the most intense dreams of my life. I even shared the 11:11 story with a couple of friends. Then I stopped thinking about it. Until I got stopped in my tracks today.
In an interesting overlap, I happened to be perusing Maryam’s Facebook profile on the day I was going to meet her. I noticed that one of the most recent comments on her wall was from someone named Setareh. You may remember me blogging about that name, which in Persian means “star.” I wrote her a quick note to say I liked her name, and that she was the first Setareh I’d ever heard of. We started a conversation. That was on January 11th.
Our topics ranged far and wide over the next few days, from astrophysics to animation, and all was well. I forget if I mentioned Setareh to Maryam the night I met her (I think I did) but at any rate it turns out she’s the sister of one of Maryam’s friends in Haifa. Once again, I didn’t give it another thought.
On January 17th, Setareh mentioned that she had some animations from her university studies posted online if I wanted to check them out. I didn’t immediately have the chance to look at them, but I made a mental note to go back.
As I write this, I was actually just counting the days between January 11th and today, when this new coincidence happened, just to make sure it was eleven. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me, but at the exact moment I confirmed that indeed eleven days have passed, I looked at the clock.
It was 11:11pm.
Today, January 22nd, on the way into work I was listening to a mix CD I just got in the mail from my friend Timmy. It is a compilation of 23 songs unrelated to each other except that each contains hand claps as part of the rhythm. It’s a brilliant concept, and a great mix. On the record he included the Iron & Wine song “Boy with a Coin” from the new album “The Shepherd’s Dog.” I just received my copy of “The Shepherd’s Dog” in the mail this week after ordering it on Amazon. “Boy with a Coin” is a song recommended to me by Sholeh last year on 7/11/07 when the album first came out. I remember her saying she’d had it on repeat all day. This morning I pulled out Timmy’s liner notes to make sure of the song name and something caught my eye: he had also included a song called “Love and War” by Rilo Kiley.
The subtitle to that song is 11/11/46.
I got a message from Setareh this evening about the Messenger probe’s recent flyby of planet Mercury on January 14th. I hadn’t heard about it, so I was glad she took the time to write me. We discussed the awe and wonder of discovery over the course of the next few hours. (Incidentally, in doing my research for this entry, I ran across a discussion on the theme of the unity of science and religion that specifically mentions the planet Mercury). Then, since we’d opened the thread, I saw the link to her animations and decided to take a look.
I stopped cold.
I hadn’t seen the title when I clicked on it, so I won’t tell you until you watch it. But just try to imagine my shock as this one-minute clip rolled.
It’s called Eleven Minutes Past Eleven.
Before I sat down to write this, (and I still haven’t told her anything about these experiences) I asked Setareh if there was any special meaning to the film.
Well 11:11…that would be telling wouldn’t it? Heh, seriously though, it was an idea that came from the fact that I often always spy the clock at 11:11…nearly every day which is so strange. So that alone inspired me to make an animation storyline. For that particular project I had to make a trailer for a potential film that had the theme of an ‘investigative quest’…so the quest this girl goes on takes place after she gets sucked into her cupboard and (leading on from the trailer) is taken to an alternate universe…and that is as far as I got! I am hoping to carry on and make it into a complete animation, but 3D can be tricky for me, so it may take some time!
She later added:
Sorry I forgot to add that in the animation, 11:11 is meant to signify a change, and something strange happening, almost spooky-like. So in the story ’something’ enters the little girl’s dimension and causes her to get up and take a look…
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Something strange is happening. Something spooky. Perhaps there is a change on the horizon. Perhaps I should get up and take a look.
To get a cone in this town?
There are no less than four McDonald’s within five miles of my house. Much like Wal-Mart, it is my express endeavour never to travel there. But once in a while, a guy gets a hankerin’ for something unhealthy to eat. I while I will never again eat any of their beef, there’s nothing quite like the soft serve they…serve.
So over the past week (since New Year’s Eve, actually, when the craving first hit) I have been trying to get my grubby little paws on an ice cream cone from Mickey D’s. The 24-hour establishment in Cape Canaveral claimed their machine is down (I’ve since checked back and it’s still down). Something about the only guy who knows how to service it being on vacation.
That same night I figured I’d try the McDonald’s down the street in Cocoa Beach, but they were closed. Added bonus: I got an erroneous speeding ticket on the way back home. In the long and sordid history of me and Johnny Law, this will be the first citation I show up in court to protest. It was New Year’s Eve, people. There were cops everywhere. I categorically deny even flirting with the speed limit. I honestly think the cop pulled over the wrong guy, or was just fishing. My radar detector didn’t go off. Not to mention she pulled up behind me with her lights on while I was at a red light. Stopped. And she claims I was doing 50 in a 35. Um, no.
Anyway, the ice cream! So two nights ago I figured I’d try my luck with the Mickey D’s on Merritt Island, also a 24-hour joint.
“Welcome to McDonald’s, can I help you?”
“Yes, I’d like a cone please.”
Ten seconds of silence.
“I’m sorry, our machine is down.”
“That’s funny, so’s the one in Cape Canaveral. What’s going on here?”
“Um, I don’t know?”
“Well when are you gonna have it fixed?”
“I’m sorry sir, I don’t know.”
Fine. Thanks for nothin’.
All this brings us to this evening. As I mentioned earlier, I avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. But my new roommate Antonio (a co-op student from Puerto Rico) needed new flourescent lights and a shower curtain for his bathroom. What are ya gonna do? On the way there it dawned on me. Aha! This Wal-Mart has an in-house McDonald’s, for maximum this-is-the-depressing-state-of-America effect! My cone! I could almost taste sweet, creamy victory.
I should have taken a picture of the plaque with the photo of the manager. There are few more dispiriting things I have seen in this town. I waited ten minutes for the people in front of me (one guy was running the show, register, iced coffee, grill, fries and all), only to find out…
“I’m sorry, we don’t have an ice cream machine.”
“Well then what are the Oreo and M&M hoppers for?”
“We sell McFlurries here, but they arrive frozen and we have to blend them. They’re not like soft serve. We’re not like…a…real McDonald’s.”
It must not be in the stars for me to get this ice cream cone. Perhaps a few days from now the headlines will read:
Salmonella Outbreak in Merritt Island
CDC Sends Specialists to Pinpoint Origin
Dairy products suspected
the mist of dreams lifts
with the morning sun
and the rules snap
back into place
fire is hot
sunset brings on
a night of low clouds
and as vivid as the moment
the dream replays again
with a simple paper napkin
like the kind you see in diners
in shiny silver boxes
last night I could fly
I would simply unfold the paper
on the short edge
and grip either end in my hands
like two wings connected
in the center
I held it flat
six inches in front of my belly button
and thought, “fly”
if I tipped the leading edge up
I would ascend
my body floated vertically
face into the wind
and though I know it was impossible
in this world
in that world of islands
connected by bridges
beholden to the wind
and a new version of inertia
there were rules of flight
be they different than the ones
I flew between islands
alongside the bridges
filled to their edges
who looked on in awe
if the napkin were to tear
as it did once
I would fall out of the sky
but over water it was fine
and after splashdown
I’d just find another
stolen from the galley
of some passing ship
and retake wing
I learned to hold the paper
and vary its pitch
with the wandering wind
quite quickly I was adept
and put on a show
for the people marveling
at the man who could fly
on paper wings
when days are short
when the sun departs
just as you greet him
when the long forgotten cold
and drives warmth underground
away from the cracked surface
when forty million kilometers
is two light minutes
what does it mean that your galaxy
is three million light years distant?
the very fiber of language and thought
a thousand miles is far
but across the reaches of space?
long falls short
I cannot conceive of our separation
if fondness is a function of distance
try to fathom my love for you