Photo by JOHN VATER
Mountains do not meet ... but people do!
The relationship with a place is a source of human weakness, and at the same time a source of strength. When you are connected to a place, you cannot just get up to look for other places that are awaiting you. When Laila al-Ameriya refused to marry her beloved, the classical Arab Poet Qais Ibn al-Mulawwah, because of her parents' pressure and objection, he refused to be a slave to the place and said:
"Leave me! God's lands are wide!
Tomorrow I'll replace lovers and homelands!"
"قيس ابن الملوح:"اتركيني بلاد الله واسعة غدا أبدل أحبابا وأوطانا
On the other hand, a relationship with a place is a source of strength, because getting used to it makes the person feel familiar and safe, which enables him to express himself confidently.
During my three months' stay in Iowa, a relationship with the place and its inhabitants has been established with friends from Iowa and with colleagues from all over the world. These days, as we are getting ready to bid farewell and leave, I feel some sort of loss. It is a loss of something dear and beautiful, which will surely remain in my memory.
A part of my memory has been crystallized during these three months of intensive interactive events and communication. Now I feel the moment of farewell from these wonderful events and friends is approaching, and it is most likely that I will not see them again. This feeling arouses deep sadness in my heart. 'Farewell'[JJ1] is a small declaration of an end, but despite that, I'm sure it will turn into a new source of enrichment for the same!
The Iraqi poet Muzaffar Al-Nawab said in one of his poems:
"Oh stranger, who comes from afar!
These are just fates.
Everything in the universe has its quantity and its days,
Its day is not a day,
And its quantity is not a quantity!
يا غريب الدار.. إنها أقدار
كل ما في الكون مقدار وأيام له
..إلا الهوى. ما يومه يوم
ولا مقداره مقدار
When the relationship between you and a place and its residents is well-established, another life is born and grows in your chest because "its day is not a day, And its quantity is not a quantity!"
I live now in two contradictory situations. The first is the longing to return home - to my wife, children, family and friends; to the sun and the golden beaches; to the enormous number of conflicts that I’ve missed; to the small things--the smell of Arabic coffee, the empty chatter, the family gatherings on weekends. I miss even the lovely boring times!
I want to sit in my small space, go back to the beautiful routine where everything has its time and place. I want to collect my pieces, which had been scattered in airports, in exotic faraway cities, green forests and wide rivers. It is nice when everything returns to its natural place.
On other hand, I have another cause. I feel sad because I'll miss something as vast as a mountain, and as deep as a sea. Here I am on the last days of my stay, feeling like I need more days to meet more people and to see more places. Suddenly, a feeling attacks me and says: "You did not do all that you wanted to do!" The feeling of having wasted the opportunity is attacking me.
But now, like at any parting moment, you remember only the beautiful moments of your wonderful stay here. Other things have been lost in the mysteries of memory.
However, everyone has his own fingerprint, which makes him a distinct, unique, human being among the seven billion human beings on Earth, but we all share also the humane qualities in every one of us. These common beautiful human qualities in our amazing life arose and appeared here in Iowa in the fall of 2016.
I want to say to those who are coming next year: be assured that your stay here in Iowa will give rise to another beautiful piece of life in the fall of 2017. Trust my words!
Thank you, dear friends from IWP for providing me with this golden opportunity to be here. To all of you, I would like to repeat the Arabic proverb: "Mountains do not meet….but people do!"
Who would have believed four months ago that we will meet such wonderful friends, and such a wonderful relationship will be established between us?
Finally, I want to tell you what the Palestinian poet Shakib Jahshan said in one of his poems:
"I love you .. I wish you knew how much!"
"شكيب جهشان: "أحبكم.. لو تعرفون كم؟
"I love you .. I wish you knew how much!"