The Golden Rule of Belief

“Know how to rank beliefs not according to their plausibility but by the harm they may cause.”

-Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable


Balancing the Chariot

“The fact is that if one tries beyond one’s capacity to be perfect, the Shadow descends to hell and becomes the devil. For it is just as sinful from the standpoint of nature and of truth to be above oneself as to be below oneself.”

-Carl Jung in Visions: Notes on a Seminar given in 1930-1934, p 569

Two Dreys!

Squirrels have decided to build not one, but TWO nests (aka dreys) in the rotted out maple tree in our front yard.

squirrel Tree
Top of the tree, about 40 feet from the ground. Dreys look like clumped together leaves.
Squirrel Dreys
Drey close-up, look under the red arrows.
Squirrel Damocles
At least the squirrels built their home ABOVE the sword of Damocles dead branch.

With these dreys, I feel like I have been awarded the “organic garden of excellence award.”

It may actually be “these homeowners do not own a gun” house.

No gun, but we do put henna on our hands. We know how to live on the edge.

Overheard at Chand Raat Party

Amma: Do you want me to fry up some mini-samosas for your friends?

Mädchen: No Mom. We don’t need to be that authentic.

Amma: What’s wrong with mini-samosas?!

Mädchen: My friends can’t handle the spice.


Begum: I told my daughter that henna was natural and harmless. But then my husband grabbed his iPhone and told me the FDA has not approved henna for skin applications. Some of these pastes contain toxic chemicals such as silver nitrate and chromium.

Admi: You mean to say that in this country it is perfectly legal for me to purchase a semi-automatic rifle but it is illegal to put henna on my hands?

Begmu: Yes.     Try explaining that one to your European family members.


Amma: Ok, I’ve finished the henna for your one hand but I’m not going to do your other hand. Call me later and I can come down to your house and do the other hand.

Admi: Why not the other hand?

Amma: You have to drive home. And you have a history of smooshing your henna. You’re a Smoosher.


Amma: I love the silver boxes you brought for the girls. They are so cute! So blingy! And you filled them with candy.

Begum: Er, yes. About that candy. I actually re-gifted that. Sirin brought by a huge basket of Syrian treats, and there are way too many cookies and baklava, and these candies were in there and I just….

Amma: You did the right thing. You can’t eat all that stuff. It’s not healthy.

Begum: Er, yes. But you see, the candy is actually sugar-coated chole.

Amma: Garbanzo beans?!

Begum: Yes. And there is no way my sons are going to eat that. Not even during Ramadan.

Amma: The girls might be up for it. But I can see the Syrians doing that. I mean, if they do those Jordan almonds, they probably have this whole sugar-dipping thing figured out.

Begum: Yes! Like the Swiss with their fondue!

Amma: Sugar coated chick-peas. That is a first.



Apple Cake Recipe

4 medium cooking apples (sliced thin)

2 C. regular flour

2 C. sugar

2 eggs

1/2 C. oil

2 tsp vanilla

1 C. chopped nuts (optional)

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

Mix all together until gooey! Throw into pan- thoroughly grease 9″ square or round. Bake 1 hour at 350.


This was our family’s favorite Ramadan dish this year. Extremely easy to make. My husband theorized as to the popularity of apple cake, “It looks like such a mess. It is a very humble dessert, and in that humbleness lies its beauty.”

I suppose that messiness also contributes to everyone’s lack of hesitation in ‘digging in’.

Ramadan Gallery 4

Ok, let’s face it, this week was rough. Feeling the energy depletion and the mental resolution that ‘this is the final stretch’.

pearl floodplain
Pearl Floodplain                                mixed media                                    11 x 14
Coastal 2                        mixed media                                                  12 x 16
allium and echinecea
Echinacea and Allium                                           oil                              6 x 6
branch triptych
Branch Triptych                                           oil                                         5 x 7 each

Berlin and my Family

I’ve been talking to my long-distance family members and I’m telling them how excited I am about my upcoming trip to Berlin. We’ve been watching Matt Frei’s BBC documentary “Berlin” to get into the spirit of things. I am ready to go.

My octogenarian father tells me, “I saw Berlin. It was in ruins. Cologne, too.”

“What?! When did you see Berlin? When were you even in Europe?”

“Let’s see, it was for the World’s Fair in Brussels. Must have been, 1954?”

“I can’t believe you saw Berlin.”

Dad chuckles, “Yes, and I saw East Berlin, too. Nothing was happening over there.”

“You went into East Berlin! How? Didn’t you need a special visa?”

“Well, the better question is how did I get out of East Berlin. It was before the wall. I just hopped on a bus and went over. Then when I wanted to come back, I got back on the bus. But it was dead over there, nothing was happening.”

(The Berlin wall went up in 1961)

“You could see a difference between east and west back then? Even with no wall, no checkpoints.”

“Oh yeah, in the west people were hustling, selling stuff, rebuilding. There were still ruins, but there was lots of activity on the Kurferstendam Street. People were selling shirts. In the east nothing was happening. Everything was in ruins and no one was doing anything about it.”

Dad and I then get into an argument about the Cologne cathedral. He says the Allied pilots let it stay up because they wanted the people to have at least one church to worship in. I have been to Cologne, walked up that cathedral. I tell him that the Allied pilots didn’t bomb the cathedral because they needed it for navigational purposes on their bombing runs. Think about all the other churches and cathedrals that were bombed! We sign off with each of us convinced we are right.

A few hours later I speak with my younger brother.

Turns out, he also went to Berlin in 1988. He spent the summer with his friend in Bremen. His friend had a cousin (who was a cop) and they stayed with them for most of the summer, but they did make a trip out to Berlin. At this time, the wall was up, Checkpoint Charlie was enforced, and everyone thought this was how it would always be. He never saw East Berlin

(The Berlin wall came down in 1989)

Now it is my turn to check out Berlin. I will be the first family member to see it in the 21st century!



Quest for Guidance

Note: I badgered my son to write a poem for the last of our Ramadan Salons. I told him it needed to be inspired by Attar’s “Conference of the Birds”. Even though he grumbled and said, “Inspiration can’t be on-demand!”, he did write the following poem! Nothing like a deadline to inspire inspiration.


Quest for Guidance

by H. Rehman

Despair, anger and pains

These hardships, battles we fight

As faith and hope wane

still we search for the light.

We seek out leaders and kings

to tell us how to live.

We run in endless loops and rings

to this cycle we are captive.

Our quests are fruitless

Our guide; an illusion.

We stumble blindly in darkness

stranded in a bleak ocean.

But some rise above,

They need not search any longer.

They have no hate,

instead love.

Their hearts are stronger.

They need no king because

they are the king.

They are their own

leader and mentor.

Their own songs they sing

for one’s guide is one’s center.

When you look for direction

Don’t look to others, try