Sunday, June 11, 2017

Father's Day: The Impact of a Dad

  
  
My amazing dad, the title he loved best. To his daughters, he told them they were beautiful and deserved a partner worthy of them. When he and Mom had very little when I was born, he saved his money for my sister and I to have an Easter dress, hat, and gloves. He taught us to strive for an education, but to be able to converse with the poor, illiterate, and humble. The poor people of this world intrigued him more than the rich and famous.
        A father should be his son's first hero, and his daughter's                                                   first love.

This year will be my first Father's Day without my dear father. As it is with everything, you cannot know the rupture of that moment until it happens to you. My father, as great as he was in many areas of his life, always strived to be a wonderful husband and father. It was his lifelong aspiration. The last two weeks I have reflected on the gift a father gives a child by being their counselor, confidante, coach, teacher, cheerleader, protector, guide, mentor, and a hundred other things. I know many people have already traveled on this journey of losing their father, but this is new terrain for me. My sister said on the day he died two weeks ago, "A giant tree has fallen in the forest today." If that metaphor is true, I would say he was an olive tree. In the Mediterranean countries, the olive tree is known as an "eternal tree"--constantly regenerating itself to give shelter, shade, protection, and sustenance to those around it. The roots of an olive tree never really die.

A reunion four years ago... Not everyone was here, but I would say we were quite well represented. Nine kids, 54 grandkids. And everyone felt like they were the favorite.
Everyone said my father was larger than life, tremendously dynamic. He attacked anything with wholehearted fearlessness and grit. Much of his early character was built during the years of The Depression. He knew how to scrap for jobs as a young child, and constantly worried about losing the house they were living in at the time. As a young boy, he would listen to his parents talk through the paper-thin walls about impending bills. Dad later wrote, "My father was deeply scarred by the Depression. As children, there was no interaction with him of any kind. He was never physically abusive, but the only time I talked to him was when I was told to work or complete a task of some kind. Parenting was far more formal and distant in those days than it is today. There was absolutely no chatting or informal banter of any type. He said very little to us as children. I made major life changing decisions about work, leaving home, to going to strange and dangerous places, buying a car, and literally everything else without any help or comment from him. It was just the way he was and I accepted it, and went ahead and did whatever I thought was best."

With this sense of intense determination after many severe illnesses, Dad built a business with his brother. He was a good and respected businessman. But he really had the heart of a social worker. Since he had earned his way from childhood, he understand the plight of those who were trying to economically scrape by. He knew people from all walks of life, and even made friends with an inmate that was chained to his hospital bed while he shared a room with him briefly when they both recuperated in a hospital room. When my sister came to visit him, she was horrified. Our dad was sharing a room with a prisoner! There was a deputy sheriff guarding the room. In his typical way, Dad just whispered, "No, don't make me go to another room. I think maybe I can give him a little help, hon."

Dad was 100% Icelandic, and couldn't have too many conversations without talking about the land of the Northern Latitude. This picture was at a family reunion when he dressed up like an Icelandic fisherman to tell the stories of his ancestors.
The next day after Dad had given the patient/inmate a little talk about "making better decisions," my sister said they were jovially laughing and talking together. Dad had a boundless heart. Strangers, even if they didn't speak the same language, were his friends. He could speak about Shakespeare or economic theory with one person, and a few minutes later enjoy a conversation with a truck driver about his family. Besides his books, people were his hobby.

Dad absolutely loved ALL people. My mom and I were looking at some shops, and found my father with some new friends at a market in Qatar. Did he speak Arabic? No, but it didn't matter. They could feel his love and admiration for them. On the last few days in Qatar, several men asked him to go to the mosque with them. He came home, with a profound respect for his new friends.

When he was in Qatar, he went to the barber from Bangladesh. Could they communicate? No. But that made the encounter that more engaging to him.
My father was an endlessly fascinating man--someone who was constantly changing, improving, trying. His tenacious efforts to be better, apologize, create better habits for himself, and a safe, loving family culture is the stuff of a compelling movie or novel. Somehow as a young person, he decided he wanted to change the line in the family that he was tethered to. He raised nine children, and had 54 grandchildren. His insistence to whitewash the past and create a loving family, moves me. Carlfred Broderick, the late renown child psychologist describes my own father when he described the "transitional figure." You don't have to be your father:

"A person, who, in a single generation, changes the entire course of a lineage. The changes might be for good or ill, but the most noteworthy examples are those individuals who grow up in an abusive, emotionally destructive environment and how somehow find a way to metabolize the poison and reuse to pass it on to their children. They break the mold. They refuse the observation that abused children become abusive parents, that the children of alcoholics become alcoholic adults. . . .  Their contribution to humanity is to filter the destructiveness out of their own lineage so that the generations downstream will have a supportive foundation upon which to build productive lives."

Since Dad had a physically and emotionally absent father, he sought to change the tone of his own family. He was known for quickly saying he was sorry if he became frustrated. Anyone who knew him knew he was intense. Yet, I have to say, he learned to channel all that fervor and spirit. I remember once as a young 15 year old, he came into my room, and apologized for getting mad that I had left a juice that spilled in his new car. He sat down on my bed, and tearfully told me he was sorry for "'flying off the handle.'" "Please forgive me. I am trying. You are the oldest, and I guess you are the guinea pig. I am trying to be a good father."

My mom and dad last year at one of his grandchildren's weddings.

He would then tell you how great you were. It was personal and specific in the way he built people up. He was an elevator of people--a lifter. His praise was real, authentic, and obviously reflected upon. One of his quotes was, "Master the Compliment." Of course, Dad's tender emotion and constant efforts to be a better father endeared us to him even more. He would then take his fathering skills to those around him. Countless people thought of him as their surrogate father or grandfather. I hugged more than a few sobbing children at his recent funeral when they told me he was their grandfather. Many grown men and women tearfully told me he was like their father.

Dad loved the ocean and was fascinated by ships and boats. His favorite movie was "Master and Commander."

Mom and Dad celebrating their 58th anniversary on a dhow boat in Doha, Qatar. A few minutes after this picture was taken, his dream came true: he got to drive the boat.
We put him on a pedestal and loved him--not because he was perfect. But because in front of our eyes, we could see a new, better father constantly emerge before our eyes. He would tell us the talents that he perceived in us, and we would try to build upon what he saw. He was also known for giving second, third, fourth chances, and then another one with his employees and anyone else he worked with. We knew he had high expectations for himself, and he also had them for us. He had an unwearying belief that people could change, be better than they could even imagine themselves. Dad saw things in people what they could become. He not only saw it. He told them so.

Dad was a wordsmith, poet, teacher, a keeper of stories. He could intertwine truths seamlessly with ease and humor. Thousands of people loved his talks he so tediously worked over.  He loved to sit down and talk about a great book, poem, or scripture. A few of his own quotes are:

Do the Difficult

Master the Compliment 

Be a builder

Live with Awareness

Err on the side of mercy

Life can be hard. You never know what people are going through so be kind and love them.

All or nothing

He would say these two things with a twinkle in his eye, but you knew he meant it too:
"Don't be a Hollywood baby"--showing his aversion to people who want to complain and pout about the unfairness of life.

"Don't be hotsy totsy"--meaning to stay humble whatever you achieve in this life.

Since he was born with some health ailments, he always tried to be healthy. Decades ago he was teaching us how to exercise and eat healthy. He was way ahead of his time. He would say, "Eat rough. Be tough. Dine on fibrous stuff." He hailed the benefits of "the mighty bean" and lentils. He thought, "Who would want to eat a chocolate chip when you can have a date or raisin?"

Dad left a legacy that I will keep on trying to live up to until my last breath. As I look over the treasure trove of memories with my dad, I am grateful to be his daughter. I know the impact of a father reaches no bounds. A father who keeps loving, trying, giving is extraordinary. His gifts are received by future generations. No matter how old you get, a woman is always Daddy's little girl. We knew he held our hearts. Thanks for unfailingly lighting the way, Dad. We will keep walking in your shoes until we meet again. Obituary








Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ramadan 2017

Ramadan: The time to go on a spiritual journey
About one quarter of the earth's population is Muslim--with Muslims spread in most every country around the world. Although I am Christian and living in a Muslim country, I have had many spiritual experiences talking to my Muslim friends about their beliefs and yearnings. They have taught me what it really means to embrace and love a stranger in a wilderness. To see their devoutness and discipline as they pray five times a day inspires me--even when it means stopping on the side of the road and putting their prayer rug down in the sand to kneel on. My Muslim friends pray for me, sometimes every day, and always when they go to Mecca. I tell them I can feel their prayers, and I hope they can feel mine.

Ramadan happens in the ninth month of the Islam calendar when you see the first glimpse of the crescent moon--the emerging new light. This year in 2017 the crescent moon occurs on May 26, and then a few hours later at 3:09 am, the first call to prayer of Ramadan will start. Children and families look to the first moonlight on that night, the symbol of a new radiance and enlightenment. The month of fasting and prayer is meant to be a new beginning, not only in the sky, but in a Muslim's heart. Ramadan's purpose is to have an inner spiritual journey--shedding negative habits--letting new light infuse your soul.

It is required of Allah for all those who can fast to do so--of course not for small children, the elderly, or people with health conditions. Most of the time, children begin to fast with their parents when they begin puberty, but sometimes children voluntarily want to fast earlier. Water and food are abstained from for about 13 hours, from the first prayer early in the morning called suhar, which is before sunrise. Therefore, if the suhar prayer begins at 3:09 am, a small meal is eaten before the prayer. The children wake up and eat with their family, and then the first of the five prayers is offered for the day. It is still dark outside. But it is said to the children that when they can tell a difference between a white thread and a black thread, the fast has begun. The new daylight has dawned.

For example, on the first day of Ramadan, the prayer schedule will be at these times: 3:09 am, 1:05 pm, 5:23 pm, 9:15 pm, and then 10:28 pm. When the sun sets, people will reach for some dates, and maybe some soup before the iftar meal. Many will go to the mosque. After the last prayer, then a huge meal is spread out for family and friends to partake. It is called the iftar meal because the last prayer is the iftar prayer. People still go to work and school during the month of Ramadan when they fast.

Praying five times a day is part of my every day rhythm--hearing the imman call to prayer.
Fasting is intended to bring Muslims closer to Allah. It requires immense self-restraint, discipline, patience. But also it is a time to share blessings with those who are poor or living in difficult circumstances. Ramadan is to sharpen inner spiritual traits, but then show selflessness and compassion outwardly to those who have less. One of our friends from Turkey said he always gives many sheep to people for their Ramadan feasts who live in meager conditions. As he looks over the past year and recognizes his blessings when he fasts, he then naturally wants to give and share his abundance. As Muslims fast, it reminds them of others' suffering, They want to give to charities and those whom they know are less fortunate.

During the month of Ramadan, many people read the 6,000 verses of the Qur'an, preferably reciting them by heart (You would be surprised at the children in my compound who can recite page after page of the Qur'an. They prepare all year long). The Qur'an is studied more deeply this month, thus adding to the deeper spiritual experience.

Arguing, gossiping, swearing, and anger are reigned in. Forgiveness is sought after by those who may have wronged another. One Qatari friend in his 60's told me that his sister was upset at him for a year. She would not speak with him. But two weeks ago, to prepare for Ramadan, she called him on the phone. She apologized, and said she wanted to visit him at Ramadan and Eid. If she fasted for 30 days, and still did not have kind feelings for her brother, then her connection to Allah during Ramadan would be void. Her efforts would amount to nothing. She choose to reconcile her family relationships so she could have a light-filled Ramadan.

Controlling one's emotions and thoughts-- connecting with Allah--is of paramount importance. With fasting and devout prayers, there are new resolutions and reflections to be better--to change inwardly, and then to give with new compassion. When I asked my neighbor children what Ramadan means to them, they said, "For ten of the days of Ramadan, there is one single night when the water is smooth on the ocean. That is the night when any of our bad deeds we might have done during the year disappear.. That is the most important night." I guess all the light is gathered in that night.

I am so grateful to live in a Muslim country at this time in my life. I hope I am growing some light too--next to my Muslim brothers and sisters.

                                         Some books to teach children about Ramadan:




                                                 A calendar for Ramadan, just like an advent calendar:










Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Qatar: A Rising Tide With Art

Elias being introduced to the Minister of Art and Culture here in Doha. Adel, Elias's friend and mentor wanted him to meet the minister who visited the exhibit. 
Qatar is not only aiming to become a sports hub in the world, but it is also eager to bring more art to the Gulf Region. That means supporting not only local artists, but those who are here from different countries. This week we attended an exhibit of about two dozen artists who are trying to make it in the art scene here in Doha--several from different countries. Large paintings, and a few sculptures were being sold. Elias, our son with autism, was invited to show his paintings too. In the last few years, creativity is weaving into this culture in Qatar. It is an exciting time to be an artist in Qatar.
Creativity is prized and sought after.

The exhibit was a rich experience in various cultures being represented---Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, Qatar, and Elias, the token artist from the U.S.

This is a children's story by one of my favorite children artists, Leo Leonni. He tells of some mice who are gathering food for the winter, but Frederick is writing poetry and making pictures. The theme: that in the winter the mice not only need some food, but they need some culture--like art, a riveting storytelling session, and poetry. This is the message of Qatar's message right now to everyone: You are invited to create. To build a sculpture, paint, sketch, and draw is important to celebrate life and humanity. And then to share it. Somehow forming color onto pages, paper, wall, canvas make us more alive--definitely more happy. There should be a little Frederick in all of us.

Artist Elias with four of his paintings. Another one is hanging on a wall .The winter scene was sought after by a Qatari policeman/art who misses snow, and spent some time with his mother at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN

An artist painting a mural to advertise for the show.



A Qatari artist who paints portraits with his hands
I go to see Miriam, a Qatari artist exhibit some of her paintings at the show. She has not been able to walk for seven years, but continues to create. If you talk to her, she never stops smiling. It makes me think how much joy and fulfillment art has brought to her. I met her at the Picasso exhibit. You know how it is. We artists run in the same circles.....

An artist from Saudi Arabia wood burning portraits. He is stunningly accurate with his wood burner.

The night we went to bring the paintings, Hamad, a Qatari policeman and artist spotted Elias's painting--begging to buy it.  He misses the snow when he brought his mother to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, USA.

Hamad, the policiman/artist and Elias. Hamad never stops smiling. He laughed when I told him he didn't look like a policeman.

An artist from Pakistan who has just been here in Doha a few months--trying out his hand in a new country to show his art.


Some traditional Qatari music in the background. Adel, Elias's friend, a fellow artist, who has done so much to help him.

Some Qatari brothers buying some ice cream in a stall out in the parking lot--part of the show.

Of course, there is always decadent candy at exhibits in Qatar. The candy even was highly decorated for the occasion.

Elias with one of his art classes at an exhibit at the Fire Station. It has been thrilling for him to have his art displayed now three times since we moved here two and a half years ago. I am so grateful to those teachers and mentors who have helped my son be more alive and happy because of art. I appreciate Qatar for supporting him and all other artists.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Qatar: Sailing, Sailing Away....

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship.                                                               --Louisa May Alcott


Elias, being my shipmate. We make a good team!
In the hilarious comedy What about Bob? Bill Murray is tied to a mast as his sailboat glides across Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, USA. He elatedly screams out for all those on shore to hear, "I'm sailing. I'm sailing. Look at me, I'm a sailor." Last week we took a spring sailing camp here in Qatar from Regatta Academy. This is my third year in Qatar, and my third spring break being a "sailor." You can start as young as six years old at the academy. My 15 year old son with autism can steer a dingy around the harbor. So no excuses for me when I thought I might get blown around or tangled in rope. On the last day you get to sail to an island off the coast of Doha. Feeling the wind of the sails above you, pulling you to your Ithaca, with the salty sea spraying in your face is exhilarating. I promise. It's addicting.

Graduating from our sailing course

Whenever I get out on the water in a sailboat, I begin to notice the direction and strength of the wind or zephyr. On land, the breeze or the lack thereof, is never much on my mind. But out on the smooth or tempest water, I am constantly looking at the flag, telling me which way the wind is gusting by.  Our instructor said to face where you think the wind is blowing, and if both ears feel the gust, you know where she blows. One needs to be wind-aware--always alert to the direction and strength of the wind. It's your invisible fuel to move in the direction you desire--your passage.

As Mark Twain said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Sailing takes teamwork; it is not just a solo journey. Some of the kids bringing up the boats from the shore.
                                               

                                                     Lessons of a Sailing Week


1. KNOW YOUR NO GO ZONE
There is a "no go zone" that is 45 degrees wherever the wind is blowing--meaning you cannot force yourself forward into the wind. You have to zigzag to your destination. Trying to push yourself directly into the wind will flap the sail. You will stop, and even go backwards. This is where the old sailing term, "in irons" comes from. You are stuck, almost like in chains. Just as in life, you have to be alert to the various angles and options available to avert the "irons." Understand where the "no go zone" is located, and steer yourself away. Know your wind, and eventually it will become more instinctive. You can maneuver your way around the "no go zone" to your Promised Land.

Know your winds

2. KNOW YOUR COURSE
Know the points of sail that can bring you to your goal or destination. The point of sail lets the boat travel diagonally to the wind direction. You must turn into the wind, in a "close haul" or "beam reach," and then gain a lift as the sails are brought in tight. On a sailing journey, there is no way that you are going to go from Point A to Point B in one straight line course. The boat will have to follow the direction of the wind, and that means zigzaging. Just as in life, we need to be constantly vigilant of the motions surrounding us. Wind can pull us off course or be our surging power to reach our destination. It's your decision where the wind will take you. Keep your hands on the rudder, looking forward. But be aware: the wind is changing all the time.

Karin holding onto the tiller the whole time
3. ENJOY THE JOURNEY
Sometimes there is no wind in the sail. You just sit and drift for awhile--patiently waiting for a gust to push you along. Other times the waves are rocking, swaying the boat with water splashing in. Being in the small boat with my son, sometimes I had  to remember to stay calm. He was looking to my response if the rope got tangled or the mast suddenly blew across. I knew his reactions to the journey would mirror mine. Every day is a new journey--sometimes gliding swiftly along with no storms. And the next hour a wave can capsize you. But as long as your hand is steering the course and you are looking around for the wind to give you the direction, you will reach your Ithaca--the place you are looking for in the wide, expansive sea. The secret is to relish every moment of the journey.



Finding company along the journey....


Again, enjoying the moment of the journey. 



Monday, April 24, 2017

Qatar: Creating Bonds With Art

Blessed are they, who see beautiful things in humble places, where other people see nothing.
                                                                           --Camille Pissarro


Adel and Elias--working in a magical physical and imaginative place together
I could never have supposed the power of art to create bonds with people--people who speak different languages or those with disabilities. Somehow it takes me by surprise every time. It makes me realize the untapped reservoir we have in all of us to create. When you work together doing art, there need not be spoken words. To sit and watch colors merge and mix, transforming into splendor, gives sparks to our brain. To see colors manifested in a glorious creation changes you; it makes you see beyond the horizon. There emerges a growing inner excitement to shape textures, colors, lights, and shadows that surround us. At first, our attempt to create is perhaps unsteady or dim, but then the light starts to shine through. We see before our eyes what we pictured in our head.

Two artists, Tresa and a woman from Yemen,--from different parts of the world--creating together. No words. There doesn't have to be.
Recently Elias, my son with autism, met a remarkable Qatari artist and master teacher, Adel. We met him at the Fire Station gallery and museum here in Doha, Qatar. We wandered into his workshop, a sprawling, rambling space with two floors of wonder and awe--a toyshop for any emerging artist or anyone who wants to create. It is a laboratory of brimming creativity, waiting to experiment with and discover. You become just a little more alive when you enter his studio. You walk out feeling like someone has just injected you with reborn energy. More than anything, you feel enlivened and happy. It makes me think everyone should make a little space to create. As Pissarro, a favorite French Impressionist said about his workplace, "I am installed in a fairylike place. I don't know where to poke my head. Everything is superb, and I would like to do everything so I use up and squander lots of color.... "

Watching the colors whirl
If you roam around Adel's studio, you can see different objects from nature dragged in like logs, branches, and rocks. Wires and clay are ready to make a sculpture. Paintings, sketches, and large canvases cover the cement walls. There are areas where you can do printmaking, cut styrofoam into whimsical shapes, tarps with spray paints turned over on their side that just have a little more color in them. There are other areas where Adel works with many mediums--even mixing finger nail polish on glass. Upon entering, it might seem like clay, paint, paper, canvases, and boards are strewn around like a storm of chaos blew in. But as you wander, you begin to marvel. Your interest is piqued. You want to create the images that are floating around in your head.

Creative Chaos

Elias learning how to cut shapes with the hot wire cutter

In the middle of another project

A few words about the next step in the project
As we came in the workspace, Elias just wandered around the workshop saying, "Wow." Adel took him aside, and they began to make paint a large canvas with spray paint and markers. Few words were said--only the words, "slowly," "watch," "imagine," and "Can you see it?" Adel has been teaching art for many years, and is fascinated with teaching people with disabilities. As Elias slowly wandered around the spacious studio, Adel commented, "You see, he already knows how to create. He is not blocked like other people. For 24 years I have been trying to close my eyes to see the picture I want to create--to see it in my mind, and then capture it. He knows how to enter a zone that is special without me telling him how to go there." He then pointed to him, "You see he is thinking. Let him think."

In another recent session together as Adel worked with Elias, he said with much adamance, 'We are family now because we do art together. Art is soft--not hard and clashing. There is no need for fighting and war with art. All peoples can come together. There need not be many words. We know what each other is saying."

God gives us all the capacity to create. To view the enfolding creations of those around us, no matter how humble or different, opens our eyes to things as they really are. Our souls open up to each other. Creating unlocks the hidden crevices and pockets that are waiting to come out in all of us.


You see. Creating makes everyone a little more happy.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Egypt: Finding treasures in your backyard


Meet Hannah, who lives in "my backyard"--about eight villas down in the compound. Hannah's family comes from Egypt, a place of endless intrigue and fascination. How grateful and astonished we both were when we met one another last week. Hannah is an aspiring physician who is also an artist, She wants to combine art and medicine together with therapy and healing. I am passionate about how art can unravel and enfold creativity in people--especially people with special needs, in refugee camps, hospitals....  I am launching a non profit foundation called #art4every1. Hannah and I could not cease talking about our passion of how art can heal and bond. And to think we had been living just down the street from one another for two and a half years. #miraclefind
This month in a nondescript slum neighborhood in Cairo, Egypt a colossal eight meter, three ton statue was found sticking out of some water and mud. I am not sure if it was an ear or elbow that was seen first. But a huge precious Egyptian antiquity was found--deep in a murky puddle. When I heard this announcement, it confirmed to me what I have always known: there are so many treasures, invaluable gems, right under our feet. Sometimes the sought after treasure is buried so close to the surface where we ordinarily walk every day. Our footprints do not detect the trove of riches underneath us. Abundant treasure chests are so near, even beckoning, but we do not always see the possibilities in our own backyard and neighborhood. We just rush by.

Wherever you go in Egypt, you sense there is a chance you could discover something under some blowing sand too. Statues, Obelisks, tombs, hieroglyphics, and buildings beckon to other worlds and long gone dynasties. In 391 AD the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I closed the "pagan temples", and for 1500 years hieroglyphics became undecipherable. It wasn't until 1820 when Jean-Francois Champollion, with the help of the Rosetta stone, opened the door to the long-lost Egyptian culture. Hieroglyphics were known in ancient times as "the words of God" and were mainly assessable to the priests. But Champollion finally unearthed hidden knowledge that had been swirling in mystery for many centuries.

When I went to the Valley of the Kings (where all the tombs have been discovered), in my mind's eye, I imagined Howard Carter camping out intermittently on that sandy hill from 1891 to about 1925. Howard, the archeologist who discovered the intact tomb of King Tutankhamun on November 4, 1922, had been searching, digging, and scraping sand away for several decades before he finally found the treasure of King Tut's tomb. When he found it, he exclaimed, "...as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold--everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment--an eternity must have seemed to the others standing by, I was struck with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon (who was with him) was unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, 'Can you see anything?' it was all I could do to get out the words, "Yes, wonderful things." Sometimes treasures are excavated after much painstaking work. Other times the treasure chests are just spontaneously found. Undoubtedly in our lives, we usually experience both.

One of my big take away lessons from Egypt was that under seemingly typical, even in repugnant or unpleasant conditions, marvelous beauty can be unearthed--sublime treasures. The lesson can be most applied to people. People who are wrinkled and old--maybe they don't see, hear, or walk as well anymore. People who look different from what our sensitivities are accustomed to. Children who may seem wild, loud, uncontrollable. Sick people who show scars from diseases that have ravaged their bodies. People who speak, pray, or eat differently than you or I are used to. Often times I wonder now, do I dig deep enough to unearth the goodness and talents of people? Or is there maybe a little more excavation needed?

I love the rejoicing words of Howard Carter on the incredible day when he found King Tut's tomb--the moment he had been aspiring to for decades, "We were astonished by the beauty, and refinement of the art displayed by the objects--surpassing all we could have imagined. The impression was overwhelming." However,  I have found the same elation when, under my own feet, I meet people who astound me--sometimes so very close I could touch them. Often I am surprised by the happenstance of intersecting paths, but mostly the treasure is found because I took the time to dig a little more.

Joseph meeting the bishop of Luxor of the Coptic church at the airport

Trying to become amateur Egyptologists--unearthing and understanding the messages behind the messages from long ago.

Enjoying the seeming infinite number of statues and carvings in Luxor.... When there is a continuous flow of treasures, it is important to not become sensitive, jaded, or disinterested around you. Not to just walk by because of the all the surrounding treasures.

There is always another spice or herb to discover in the Old Bazaar in Cairo.

The excavated tombs that required so much digging.

My boys in a mosque, looking on as others read their Qurans. It is always good to pause, and drink a little deeper.

Enjoying a few moments of friendship in the Old Bazaar.

The Cairo Museum--an endless array of treasures that were found by excavators....

One of my favorite minarets in the Old Bazaar--about 600 years old. Whenever we leave the Middle East, I always miss the punctuated rhythms of hearing the call to prayer five times a day. 

Always the fascination of looking a little deeper, trying to understand a little more, brings joy in the seemingly ordinary.
The entrance to the Sphnix, a portal where people prepared for death.
Other blogposts on Egypt:
Time and Immortality: http://www.openingthesky.com/…/egypt-time-and-immortality.h…
Enchanting Egypt  http://www.openingthesky.com/2014/11/enchanting-egypt.html
Experiencing Eid in Qatar and Egypt http://www.openingthesky.com/2014/11/experiencing-eid-al-adha-2014-in-qatar.html
Embracing the Dates: http://www.openingthesky.com/2014/10/embracing-dates.html