Something I Dreamed Once

“How was Turkey?” kind friends and family have been asking.

After being home for a couple of days, the only way I can think to describe it is as Lakshman says of his life in the Ramayana,  “It’s like something I dreamed once, long ago, far away.”

The trip had many magical qualities to it.  And the honest to goodness truth is, I didn’t think too much about my Year to Live project while we were away.  (Other than noticing how much I cling to the idea that my life will be a long one when I inadvertently say things like:  “We’ll have to come back here someday!”)

Here are just a few of the memories.  But if you promise to come over, we’ll serve tea in clear glasses, show you the whole album, and send you away with a cobalt blue charm to ward off the evil eye…


Speaking of eyes, we heard that many stray cats in Istanbul have one blue eye and one amber eye.  It was our mission to find one!  Trouble is, most just wouldn’t give us the time of day.  (There’s a pic of one on this site.)

Hiking the Pigeon Valley in Cappadocia, Central Turkey. Normally I’m not a fan of buying native garb. But, it was snowing that morning, and — having foolishly believed — had only packed light jackets.

One morning in Göreme we woke at sunrise to the strangest sound that went something like this: Fffwwwuuup, Fffwwwuuup.  In the field across the road, 40 hot-air balloons were taking off.  (The noises were the torches inflating the balloons.)

Dave had this crazy idea that we’d take an 18-hour train ride from Central Turkey to Istanbul (rather than the 1.5 hour flight or the 10-hour bus that cost the same amount).   It didn’t sound like fun to me.

I was totally wrong.  It ranks as the boys’ top memory of the trip.  And we got to arrive in Istanbul as the sun rose, just as the Orient Express did in years long gone.

People in Turkey absolutely adore children.  On a crowded tram, a 70-year old man rearranged Evan’s hair repeatedly for 5 minutes.  (There wasn’t even a hint of creepiness.)  Strangers walked up to them and pinched their cheeks.

Here, on an elevator, some soccer fans grabbed the kids into a friendly team embrace while their friends took pics on their cell phones.

It was like traveling with mini rock stars.  Wow, did they love the attention.

Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s famed Nobel Prize winning author, writes often about hüzün – a state of melancholy.  He opened his book “Istanbul” with a quote by Ahmet Rasim, “The beauty of a landscape resides in its melancholy.”

Indeed, Istanbul – the crossroads of Asia and Europe – is a city of neglected villas, ancient Byzantine and Ottoman glories, and the ever-changing waters of the Bosphorus, where we saw nearly fifty dolphins swimming at dusk.

There is a certain kind of yearning here, even as the city becomes “modern” at a dizzying speed.

I got to fulfill my long-time dream of seeing the Whirling Dervishes of Mevlevi!

The “turn” originated with the Sufi mystic Rumi, who (according to the fascinating poet/translator Coleman Barks) while walking through the gold-smithing section of Konya heard beautiful music in their hammering:

“He began turning in harmony with it, an ecstatic dance of surrender and yet with great centered discipline.   He arrived at a place where ego dissolves and a resonance with universal soul comes in.”

The boys fidgeted endlessly and then at least one of them fell asleep.  But I was in heaven.  And, so, I leave you for now with my favorite passage from Rumi about the Turn:

Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.

Don’t try to see through the distances.

That’s not for human beings.  Move within,

but don’t move the way fear makes you move.

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16 responses to “Something I Dreamed Once”

  1. chana frydman says:

    Sounds like you guys had a great time! So happy for you.
    All the best,

  2. Sven says:

    Sweet! Sounds like you had an amazing trip. Love the cat pic, the critters in Istanbul are characters for sure. I couldn’t resist taking a bunch of critter pics when I was there…

  3. Michelle Palladino says:

    Hi Barbara,
    You have inspired me! I usually write looong emails to all when I travel, but this is great way to put pics and stories up.
    It sounds as though you had a wonderful trip. I was in Turkey 20 years ago and would love to go back. You are right. There is a sense of melancholy infused in the energy of life there. Perhaps we will make it one day. So many places, so little time!
    I will admit, I am jealous… I would love to see the Whirling Dervishes. Rumi is my favorite poet. I’m sure it was beautiful and amazing. When I see you, I want to hear all about it.
    Say hello’s to the family for me. Welcome back and happy, happy spring!

    • Barbara says:

      Michelle, this is wonderful! I volunteer to sit down with you and help figure out how to set up your very own blog, which I’m really looking forward to reading. Your trips totally inspire me. Warm hugs to you guys!

  4. Leslie says:


    This is so gorgeous. I feel like I was there, or at least that I can feel the magic that you experienced. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m going to keep reading it and taking in the magic!


  5. Debra Baida says:

    You dreamed it, and then you lived it.

  6. Jill Molloy says:

    Barbara–This is a wonderful window into your life! I’m so glad you’re happy and having amazing adventures with your family. I recently went to a memorial service for a woman who was taken too young. Her husband made a point to say that they never put anything off, and they lived their lives to the fullest in the time they had together. It was a reminder, just like your blog, to live fully and courageously. Love, Jill

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks so much for sharing that story, Jill. Someone once told me that the best gift we can give loved ones is the example of having lived our lives well. That sounds so much like the woman you described. I’m so glad to be back in touch!


  7. Noel Abbott says:

    Dear Barbara,

    Your journey sounds wonderful. I was thinking this morning about living and what the elements of “making a difference” in this world entail. It comes down to how much each of us develops our capacity to affect the lives of others and how deeply. Something like this can not be put down in a formula, but one comes to mind anyway: The value we produce in our lives = how many people we move and how deeply we move them.

    That said, if we “do nothing but simply be still” that stillness also affects others in a very deep way.

    The only thing I would take exception to in this beautiful Rumi poem is:
    “Don’t try to see through the distances.
    That’s not for human beings.”
    I would suggest that it’s our right and an element of our journey towards enlightenment to see through the distances. In that process we refine, and perhaps one element of enlightenment is that the “reality/illusion” of space-time (distance and sequence-in-space) dissolves. Also the illusion of death and separateness. Yes, it is for human beings and perhaps the core reason that we incarnate.

    Keep making a difference as you so beautifully do.

    • Barbara says:

      Thank you for that thoughtful response, Noel! And for you, I put out another Rumi poem about the Turn:

      I stand up, and this one of me
      turns into a hundred of me.
      They say I circle around you.
      Nonsense. I circle around me.

  8. Noel Abbott says:

    Dear Barbara, It’s such a joy to call you a friend. Playing a little further with Rumi:

    I stand up
    in wonder.

    Who stands?
    Who wonders?
    Who speaks?
    Who is asking these questions?

    Simply an expression
    of the thousand fold wonder-filled
    empty presence.

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