Indian Summer Reading Notes

San Francisco Bay Area has been scorched by a heat wave for the past two weeks. Forecast predicted it is to continue for another week. San Francisco is lovely on a sunny day.

The apartment was warm in the sunlight. I drew all the curtains but kept the French doors open to enjoy the cool breeze. Orchids were quietly nurturing a new round of flower bulbs, and the ferns seemed to thrive in the late afternoon sunlight. I sat in the comfy sofa chair, read Robert Kaplan.

“Eastward to Tartary”

“The essence of travel was to slow the passage of time”

“Flying from place to place encourages abstractions, whereas land travel brings one face-to-face with basic, sometimes unpleasant truths.”

“The Ends of the Earth”

“I stood on a promontory, ‘Seraglio Point,’ the eastern extremity of the Balkan Peninsula and the former headquarters of the Ottoman sultan. On the opposite shore commenced the Asian plateau. The mood on this charged spot, as always, is one of sanctuary. The seagulls flutter, the weeds grow between the flagstones, the wind blows in from three converging bodies of water: the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus Straits, and the Sea of Marmara. Here in T. S. Eliot’s words, is ‘the still point of the turning world.’

“Suna is twenty-five, from northeastern Anatolia, with black eyes and black hair: a harsh, handsome face, seething with grit and determination, a face Steinbeck would understand.”

“Nomads are makers of history. Refugees are its victims.”

“The word Turk first makes its appearance in the sixth century A.D., in the Chinese form Tu-Kiu, to denote a nomadic group that founded an empire stretching from Mongolia to the Black Sea…It was the Chinese, a mortal enemy of the Turks, who gave definition to this nomadic organism that spread like water over the bleak tabletop of inner Asia.”

“On the black earth he pitched his white pavilion; his many-coloured tents reared up to the face of the sky. In a thousand places silken rugs were spread.”

“I was in the heart of Asia Minor-Anatolia, the ‘mother lode.’ Here rise the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates, which sustained the earliest civilizations. Hittites, Assyrians, Phrygians, Lydians, and other ancient peoples made Anatolia their base. Abraham is said to have dwelt in southern Anatolia; Noah, in eastern Anatolia. The Trojan War was fought in western Anatolia and along its northern coast roamed Jason and the Argonauts. Herodotus was born in southwestern Anatolia. So was St. Paul. Xenophon, in 401 B.C., led his defeated army of ‘Ten Thousand’ Greek mercenaries back through the bitter snows of Anatolia from Persia. The Persian armies of Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes marched west through here; the army of Alexander the Great marched east. A branch of Marco Polo’s Silk Route passed through Anatolia. So did Mongols and Crusaders. If the earth’s dry land has one principal crossing point, Anatolia is it.”

“The Seljuks were fixated on the color that the French call turquoise, which they may have seen first in the cratered lakes that punctuated the desert plateau on their journey to Anatolia from Central Asia. In Konya, the fluted, rocket-shaped dome covered in luscious turquoise tiles above the tomb of Cellaledin Rumi, the preeminent religious mystic of the Seljuk era, represents the ultimate in Seljuk architecture. The fourteenth-century dome seems to levitate above the surrounding cupolas and walls, like a hallucination with height and width but no physical depth. This dome supplies the sense of mystical awe that religions desperately require yet rarely attain.”

“Sumi helped define Sufism, a word that comes from the Arabic suf, or wool. According to Koranic hadith, a man who wears wool lacks an ego.”