“What should I wear when I visit you?” my friend from New York asked.
Temperature sits at 115 degrees. Culture calls for covered legs, covered arms, but away from the public eye, survival calls for something less strict. Light sweaters to be shrugged off. Scarves to be undone. Long pants exchanged for bliss… I mean shorts.
Here, she noticed, while somewhat stifling in moments, the layers shield us from the sun’s intensity.
A few nights ago, a friend’s family had me join them for their “breaking fast” meal. It was the first day of Ramadan. They made a local favorite from a recipe so good the mom refuses to share it; they ate quickly, in silence, having tasted no food or water since before sunrise (14 hours, temp of 115). Feeling slightly awkward, I ate my lamb, and wondered about leaving. Then someone said, “Spoons.”
It’s a card game that mirrors musical chairs, in that the loser is the one with the slowest reflexes. The unfortunate player holding no spoon at the end of the round is”punished” by the winner, with a mild dare. For two hours, we crowded around a deck of cards and battered silverware. Their parents sat on the couch, enjoying watching us enjoy ourselves.
Somewhere within the laughter of that night, I remembered the last time I had played this game. It was New Year’s Eve, in New York, days before I would leave the country. Playing games sometimes shows new sides of personalities. But I leave that to your imagination. I remembered playing with neighbor kids and teenagers on my front porch in Southeast Asia, when we couldn’t speak much of their language, but Spoons let us laugh together. Vague memories of games in high school, on retreats or all-nighters or with the spoons in restaurants (shaking head).
That memory took on a new layer this week, as Ramadan opened, amidst a silent meal and a rambunctious game of Spoons, among friends who I am still growing to understand, little by little.
Sometimes I just want to shed the layers, return to what is comfortable. I fear losing something important. But then I forget that layers can add depth, add richness, not stifle. So in the heat, I am letting the layers pile on:
- singing songs that were the anthems of my home fellowship, here with smaller groups of voices
- celebrating life events & holidays with new friends who are here
- pulling favorite coffee mugs from the shelf, to be sipped by other, thirsty throats
A couple of months ago, a crafty friend showed me how to make prints, layering levels of paint and stamps– processes that I, in my craftlessness, don’t find straightforward. I tried a layer or two and protested, “This is a mess. Can I start again?”
“It looks like a mess,” she agreed, perfectly calm. “But the best prints often start out like that…. You have no idea what it’ll look like ten or twelve layers from now.”