June 25, 2019


I stepped out of hiding, stepped away from working. I stepped into Istanbul, a happy Istanbul that just celebrated an important political victory; unseating the party that had controlled the city for 24 years.

It’s brilliantly sunny, 30 degrees, the skies are deep blue, coming out of the metro, I head for the trees at Gezi park, I am going to meet a friend, something I don’t do often. For one, I don’t have that many friends, secondly the ones I have are impossibly busy usually, and thirdly I also have been working so much , since March I have shunned any distraction that would take me away from the work I was doing and from the 7 days a week 8 hour plus days, there was a deadline to meet, insecurity regarding my ability to meet that deadline and sub-stressors such as the possible demise of my laptop, it is showing signs of wanting to give up its duties and the fact that own personal life is being highly unpredictable these days. Plus, with meeting the deadline, it means that the job is ending and with it so is the income, which means that I will have to hit the road, want it or not.

But today, these thoughts are not really crowding my neurons. I am taken by the poetry of the moments and they succeeded one another at a high rate of speed. There are few trees in this city. Fascists don’t like trees, they cut them, I was thinking about how thankful I am for the Gezi Park protests, which despite all the ugliness that followed, permitted the park to survive  (the plan had been to tear it down and to build yet another shopping mall and the people said no.) On my way over the pedestrian walkway, there is lavender, a lot of it, and guiltily I cut a couple of twigs with my nails, I don’t like cutting plants… hurting them for my own selfish desires.  I am going to give my friend a Reiki session and I thought that the scent of lavender would be appropriate, and for that maybe the plants would forgive my crime.

The pathway continues between Old Money properties that are surrounded by big trees, almost a forest there. Istanbul at one time was so incredibly lush, these hills that are now Taksim were home to the wealthy and some last remnants of that era can still be found in rare forgotten corners. My mind travels… back in time, Oh Istanbul, why do I love you so?

I connect with my friend and we sit on a park bench, a blue spruce sprinkles us with it’s old needles, it’s almost like a gentle snow fall of light blue sparkles, a cat in the distance furls and unfurls his tail in a question mark, people of all stripes walk by with kids, with dogs… it’s so relaxing, parks are so important in the city… a dog walker with a minimum of 8 dogs masterfully controls the herd, they run free, they are of all colors and breeds, 2 street kids come offering us packages of kleenex, a business model common here for the poor, the kids think we are yabanci, (tourists) they ask for 5 euros for a small pack,

“Abla… Lutfen… alin” Sister, please, buy, he pleads,“Where are you from” my friend asks in Turkish
“Adana” he answers

“why are you here in Istanbul?” she asks

“It’s too hot there…”
The two of them must be around 10 years old, so street smart, so alive, so tuned in. They are incredibly beautiful, their dark eyes like pools of shiny ink.

Later we walk into another park, we are now in Nisantasi, a posh neighborhood. I call the park Kedi park (cat park) as there are hundreds of strays in there. A tiny kitten is stuck in a tree and cries to all of us for help. Someone mentions the firemen, everyone is standing there craning their necks empathizing with this little white and red kitten.

We decided to go try a new cafe, the brew is magnificent. After that we part ways. I now walk by myself, my eyes catching all sorts of small moments of extreme beauty. A cat a the door of a fancy boutique, a smile on a face, the flowers in the gypsies stalls. I feel at home, I love this place, I know it’s too crowded, dirty, the air is too polluted and the water quality more often than not pretty iffy… but Istanbul… its hills, its freedom, it’s absence of constant control and rules and must dos. You can just be you. Poor or posh. It will let itself be admired and loved.

as I cross the park the most beautiful cat appears in front of me, his color is a rare type of tabby, he is a few months old and just so beautiful.  we spend some time together.  I fall in love constantly with these strays… he purrs, climbs on and off and on again, what a gift, the love and trust of a city cat.

In the park, I find a pine cone that just fell, sticky with pine honey, opening it’s arms to let go of its seeds. I have a cone fetish… I collect them all, especially if they appear before me like this. Walking by a children’s play ground, a little girl comes running, oblivious to my presence, so focused on her play, she is so beautiful. The kids laugh, slide, run, play and all seems so well in this very moment. A man on a blanket takes a nap in the shade, as I get back on the walkway, I can see the Bosphorus in the distance, and I start to cry. Oh Istanbul…. Why am I here? What is this pull? I’ve been in love since the moment I arrived. There has been ups and downs, even hate at times. But now I see you at your best and with this electoral victory a new hope has infused the very oxygen.

As I get to Taksim, two street musicians are playing, I stop, listen, they are Syrians, a crowd has formed, they are Arabic people, singing in their language… Music… I watch the faces and the smiles on those faces and it moves me to my bones. Then a couple of blind people stop. One is very tall, he has a white cane, his friend, is obviously severely visually impaired but he seems to be able to see a bit more as he stares at his phone for a moment with the phone practically stuck to his eyes. Their faces light up, they start to sing along, tears again run down my face, the beauty fo the moment is so profound. I am a human with my brothers and sisters, flags float in the wind above us, dancing such a graceful dance, a butterfly comes to me and stops… then I cry.. and at that moment a black gigantic street dog comes to me, lets me touch him, comforts me, then walk away.

I reel of joy and gratefulness and wonder for this life, this life we forget to really see most of the time, as we drown in worries that are pointless. Almost as if we make the most effort to not see, to be unaware, disconnected from this amazing life, bond, conduit,

magic. Just magic.