Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: July, 2016

When Women Owned Bathing Suits in Baghdad

Reading (2)

Six Detroit area-writers gathered Sunday to share their work (memoir, fiction, poetry) during the monthly reading series organized by Detroit Working Writers. The theme for July was water and I shared two passages from my new book, Healing Wisdom for a Wounded: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School (Book 2).  

The first passage was from Chapter 7, where I recount a story that took place in the 1970s. In our neighborhood in Baghdad, almost every home had some sort of bathing attire because the families had a membership to Al Zawraa Swim Club which had two pools outside, one for children and one for adults. This made it useful when an out-of-towner who did not possess a bathing suit was invited for a swim, as so happened with one of my cousins. My cousin spent the night over our house and the next day my siblings wanted to take her swimming. Because she did not have a bathing suit, they ended up borrowing one from a neighbor who was somewhat my cousin’s size.

 

As many know by now, Iraqi women who grew up in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s had much more liberty than the women who grew up during the 80s and the 90s. They enjoyed higher education, independence, and positions in the public work force. Many even dressed in miniskirts and bikinis. Men imitated the Western style of a shaggy moptop hairstyle, and dressed in bellbottoms and disco shirts. Women dressed miniskirts, cropped pants, and had fancy updos.

When Khairallah Talfah, Saddam’s paternal uncle and his father-in-law and the brother-in-law of then President Al-Bark, became the Mayor of Baghdad in the early 1970s, he ordered the security service and police force to spray paint the legs of any woman wearing short skirts and to tear the bellbottom trousers worn by any male or female. These actions against any westernized contemporary trends only lasted a few weeks and were terminated abruptly, when Vice President Saddam Hussein intervened. These trendy fashions subsequently spread all over the country and ironically had been worn even by Tulfa’s own sons and daughters.

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My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School

Front Cover (large)“The school helps you to be heard not just by others listening to you, but by you listening to yourself,” said Lynn Andrews during the second year of her four-year shamanic school. “You have to do that in order to create a mirror for yourself, for your act of power. We’re peeling away the clouds of ignorance that cloud your vision. Then you begin to see that you really do have something important and wonderful to say, and more and more you’re appreciating yourself. Patience and diligence are important in this.”

In the second year of the shamanic school, we focused on understanding how to bring form into the world; to experience holding energy and moving it out into the universe; to develop the ability to move energy into objects for healing and sacred work; to learn how to use sacred tools in a powerful way without manipulating ourselves or others; and to prepare for the building of dream bodies and develop the skills for lucid dreaming.

Lynn said to me, “You need to stay focused on one project and just get it done. You need to have faith in it and see it being strong and wonderful. I think you have a fabulous project. I wouldn’t blur it with other projects. And if you can, stop worrying about it. Just do it. If God wants to help you, He wouldn’t know what to do. You’re kind of all over the place.”

Her preciseness and honesty tasted like sugar cookies. They were sweet and light and yet extremely important. They helped me see why I kept hitting a slump.

“Stick with that, with the book,” she said. “Do it! Live it! You’re really onto something wonderful. If you were speaking to God, what would you tell him you want? Tell God what you want!”

I did.

 

Book 2 of my memoir series about this school was released today. It’s my 10th book to date and it’s available in paperback and eBook.

Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School (Book 2)

https://www.amazon.com/Healing-Wisdom-Wounded-World-Life-Changing/dp/1945371994/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469275283&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Healing+wisdom+for+a+wounded+world

A Lavenderly Writing Experience

 

IMG_7397 (2)The world news was infused with negative stories and my kitchen had dust galore as men tore down one of its walls. I could not be happier to leave this chaos and the news behind and transport myself to the Detroit Working Writers Boot Camp which was hosted at the home of author, gardener, educator, and my great mentor Iris Underwood. Her home being in an organic lavender farm, I knew I was in for a treat.

Within half-an-hour, I was out of the city noise, driving through unpaved roads of a small town that still has a post office that has been in operation since 1884. I found the home tucked amongst a thick silence, with the only sounds coming from the rustling tree leaves and the bees over the flowers. I walked around the house and down a hill of green pastures to where the writers gathered outside. They sat on large wooden bench tables under a large canopy and were surrounded by lavender plants.

Author Cynthia Harrison led the workshop, discussing Character, Conflict, and Setting in a most vivid, humorous, and loving way. She shared her experience of when one day, shortly after she got married, there was a storm in the 1970s that flooded her basement, where a box of her notebooks was stored. Needless to say, her poetry and other writings were drenched and, for the most part, disintegrated. While at that moment she reflected on her career, her then husband wanted to know, “What’s for dinner?”

She brought us much laughter and inspiration to write from the heart. We later enjoyed a delicious lunch of salad, lavender scones and lavender brownies. We took a tour of the farm. I visited the little building with a yellow door and sign that read “Girls Only” and found it was occupied by four pretty healthy hens. We were offered scissors to clip the lavender plants and take some home. We then sat beneath another canopy where two musicians sang country songs while playing the mandolin and guitar.

Iris started this farm because lavender had healed her in several ways. Lavender oil is known to reduce anxiety and emotional stress, heal burns and wounds, improve sleep, restore skin complexion and reduce acne, alleviate headaches, slow aging with powerful antioxidants, and has many other beneficial effects. No wonder I walked out of her property feeling like I’ve just walked out of a therapeutic, a magical, bath.