Spring mornings in East Texas are just made for taking walks, planting flowers, and then snapping pictures of said flowers. All too soon it will be blistering hot, so I am taking full advantage of the lovely weather.
Here’s a close up of the flowers that shows the colors a bit better. I guess if I want really good pictures I should use my good 35mm camera instead of a phone camera.
I’ve been listening to the audio version of House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family and a Lost Middle East by Anthony Shadid. a reporter for the New York Times, based at times in Beirut and Baghdad, who won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2004 and 2010. I was drawn to the book for a couple of reasons. First, since I have been working on two different memoirs in recent years, I have been reading a number of them to get a sense of how a memoir is handled with different approaches.
Secondly, with all the unrest in the Middle East for so long, and the current heightened antagonism toward people from the Middle East, especially Muslims, I wanted to learn more about the people from that part of the world. And I remember when Shadid was arrested with three other journalists in Libya in 2011. He was later released, but then died from an apparent asthma attack.
Here is the book description from Amazon:
In the summer of 2006, racing through Lebanon to report on the Israeli invasion, Anthony Shadid found himself in his family’s ancestral hometown of Marjayoun. There, he discovered his great-grandfather’s once magnificent estate in near ruins, devastated by war. One year later, Shadid returned to Marjayoun, not to chronicle the violence, but to rebuild in its wake.
So begins the story of a battle-scarred home and a journalist’s wounded spirit, and of how reconstructing the one came to fortify the other. In this bittersweet and resonant memoir, Shadid creates a mosaic of past and present, tracing the house’s renewal alongside the history of his family’s flight from Lebanon and resettlement in America around the turn of the twentieth century. In the process, he memorializes a lost world and provides profound insights into a shifting Middle East.
I have long believed that we can cross that great divide between “us” and “them” by getting to know the people of a culture or a country. And even here in the United States we can cross that racial barrier by cultivating relationships with the “them.”
If you want to understand the people from the Middle East, reading House of Stone is a good beginning. One of the things that surprised me early on in the story is how many Christians there are in Lebanon and how deep into past history Christianity goes. Shadid relates anecdotes of rituals that the people performed to honor places where Jesus stopped in his travels through the Middle East, and many people there are still devout Christians.
It was also interesting to learn about the conflicts that arise in families because of property and possessions. It is easy to see how those conflicts spill out from families and encompass governments and countries, fighting over ownership of land. Because that is so deeply ingrained in the culture of the people, they cannot easily let go of the way it has been for centuries. We cannot expect them to suddenly start behaving with our Western reasoning.
Now, here’s a little humor to get the week off to a good start:
One day a man calls his minister, “Pastor, something terrible is happening and I have to talk to you about it.”
The Pastor asks, “What’s wrong?”
The man replies, “My wife is going to poison me.”
The pastor is very surprised by this.”How can that be?”
“I’m telling you, I’m certain she’s going to poison me. What should I do?”
The Pastor then offers, “Tell you what. Let me talk to her, I’ll see what I can find out and I’ll let you know.”
A couple of days later the Pastor calls the man and says, “I spoke to your wife on the phone for three hours. You want my advice?”
“Take the poison.”
That’s it for me folks. Have a great start to your week.