on Turkey & children

On this day, National Sovereignty & Children’s Day in Turkey, as I sit listening to CSNY Teach Your Children, I think about this country I now live in and the way children are honored here. My mind has many pictures stored away of examples of that. On the metro, for instance, returning Sunday from the airport, I watched as complete strangers showered attention on one child after another, the smiles, the rubbing of hair, the laughter and delight and even participation into the world of a child that united all these people from station to station on the long ride back to Aliağa. It filled me with so many mixed emotions at their communal love and of my own solitary existence. And there I was, reminded in practice by those people on the train, what this holiday is all about.

I remember a time in America growing up when there was an innocence in children’s eyes, when the world was not a hostile, fearful place with potential predators lurking around any corner, behind trees, slipping razor blades into apples on Halloween, poisoning over the counter drugs at pharmacies, luring children to basements and isolated houses to perform their dark, tormented fantasies. So much of what is written now in the US is about abuse in all its forms: sexual, substance, bullying in schoolyards, harassment in the workplace, in schools, racial and ethnic prejudice, diseased minds working their damage on women, the elderly, people of color, and children, especially children, the most vulnerable of all society.

That is not to say this society is perfect, nor is any society perfect for that matter, but there is a difference here in regards to children that I see on a daily basis. Parents who devote so much attention toward their children which is often neglected by their American counterparts who favor TV as a babysitter and substitute parent too often. And it’s not just parents, but people in general, at parks, cafes, on the street, playgrounds, where adults of all ages and varying circumstances are attentive toward children, and not just Turkish children, but this generosity of spirit extends to the many Syrian children of refugees here, and other foreign nationalities. It is a joy to behold and now, on this holiday, I, too, will venture out on this chilly but sunny day to the park in town, to the seaside, and watch as children are once again the center of attention in this, my Turkish life.

untitled poem by T’ao Ch’ien about the passage of time

Days and months never take their time.
The four seasons keep bustling each other

away. Cold winds churn lifeless branches.
Fallen leaves cover long paths. We’re frail,

crumbling more with each turning year.
Our temples turn white early, and once

your hair flaunts that bleached streamer,
the road ahead starts closing steadily in.

This house is an inn awaiting travelers,
and I yet another guest leaving. All this

leaving and leaving–where will I ever
end up? My old home’s on South Mountain.

translated by David Hinton

Written One Morning in the 5th Moon, After Tai Chu-pu’s Poem by T’ao Ch’ien

It’s all an empty boat, oars dangling free,
but return goes on without end. The year

begins, and suddenly, in a moment’s glance,
midyear stars come back around, bright

sun and moon bringing all things to such
abundance. North woods lush, blossoming,

rain falls in season from hallowed depths.
Dawn opens. Summer breezes rise. No one

comes into this world without leaving soon.
It’s our inner pattern, which never falters.

At home here in what lasts, I wait out life.
A bent arm my pillow, I keep empty whole.

Follow change through rough and smooth,
and life’s never up or down. If you can see

how much height fills whatever you do, why
climb Hua or Sung, peaks of immortality?

translated by David Hinton

In Reply to Chia P’eng of the Mountains, Sent Upon Seeing That the Pine He Planted Outside My Office Has Begun to Prosper by Liu Tsung-yüan

Flourish and ruin keep leaving each other,
but no-mind stays, dark-enigma’s fruition.

The bloom of youth scatters steadily away
and grandeur crumbles to its tranquil end,

but mountain streams continue here in this
green pine you brought to this courtyard,

deep snows showing off its radiant beauty
and cold blossoms its kingfisher-greens.

At dawn, even a pure recluse must yearn:
now, I just invite clear wind for company.

translated by David Hinton