Somewhere in Turkey, thirty years ago…

We spent the morning gradually motoring up the rounded walls of a steep rocky valley, immense in scope. Somewhere nameless deep in rural central Anatolia. No towns, hardly a mountain village. Forget about a restaurant. But the landscape kept us going, enchanted us from turning back. At frequent pauses we could look out over a ten mile vista, at least. Of empty wildness. An hour might pass between meeting another vehicle. Finally, a few hours into the afteroon, the light inside our stony bowl darkening with blue shadows, a tiniest of stone cottages protruded from the cliffs with a sign in foreign words indicating refreshments for sale. We stopped and a woman with one of the most ancient and weather-beaten faces I’d ever seen appeared offering a basket covered in a colored cloth. Her skin was dark and her eyes too, her hands and face possessed wrinkles as deeply featured and craggly as the surroundings. She pulled aside the cloth revealing a number of hard-boiled eggs, varying shades of eggshell. We smiled a “yes, thanks” and A. tried out her favorite Turkish word “su”. Meaning: water? The woman interpreted this as a request for tea and smiled a smile from a distant world and got busy.

Soon enough we three were seated at an outdoor makeshift table, stools of stone, enjoying the simplest of meals overlooking an impossible panorama. For the woman, who admitted to the name Gรถzde (uttered something like gerzh-duh), it was her workaday front porch. For the two of us, something out of Marco Polo. You could not entirely describe it as a conversation which we were having, the language barrier being formidable, but the communication was somehow edifying. Especially between the two ladies, one not even half the other’s age, as I gazed on happily. The woman asked about children… family… little ones. Rural Turkish people find it unthinkable not to inquire as to the familial status and generations of just met guests. And lo: we were without offspring. A guilty mystery we had to admit to sheepishly several times per week on this journey. The old woman had plenty of relatives to pantomime us about, however, and she easily consumed fifteen minutes while we finished the boiled eggs.

Though some money changed hands I knew that all involved had the sense that currency was not at the core of our chance beautiful little human exchange that day. Fixing to depart, A. clasped Gรถzde’s hands and asked to look at them a moment. She held them delicately, like something precious in need of skillful healing. A. always had amazing skin, everywhere on her body. Her complexion was like olive oil. Women ten years her junior in the U.S. would ask about her skin. I could tell A. was deciding about something. The old woman watched as A. reached into her shoulder bag for something. She pulled out an exclusive high quality jar of hand cream. Pricey stuff, she only selected the best natural products for her skin. Then she demonstrated it softly on her palms and invited the woman to smell it. Her eyes grew. Her smile too. A. took some cream and rubbed it gently but thoroughly into the woman’s hands, both palm and backside. After this little treatment A. then took the jar, placed it in the old lady’s hands, and gently closed her fingers around it, gesturing a gift. A personal gift. What passed between these two women’s eyes was something precious for a male to witness. The grateful recognition that a younger woman had thought about the femininity of the older woman, and considered them equals. It was more than that too. I will always remember the look.

Taking our long leave, tracing our path back towards a more populated region before nightfall, it was no longer the spectacular scenery which was astounding me. The rest of that day I thought about the act of kindness. It made a deep mark on me somehow. And here am I recounting it still. To you, many years after.


Notes: I used to have a less precise concept for what Goodness was and how it related to Truth and Beauty, but now I think of them more deliberately. Truth is the ultimate virtue connected with the capacity of thinking. Beauty with feeling. And Goodness with that of the will — with active doing! All three are facets of the same unity perceived via different tools. But Goodness is the rarest, the most difficult to embody. The area we are least conscious about. It can leave a haunting impression.

[ Image : from an interesting article on tent-making techniques of indigenous mountain tribes in central Turkey. (link) ]

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    1. I think you could say there is some Truth in that. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Thanks for reading, Steph, and glad you liked it.
      I always love to see your name pop up within comments.


  1. Beautiful writing. Consider if one is actually capable of attesting to any one of the three facets mentioned – Goodness in this case – as being the rarest, or most difficult to manifest. Assumes a somewhat omniscient point of view, no? —CC


    1. Thanks CC. Appreciate it. As to your omniscience question, no I do not look at it that way. Of course it is poetic license opinionating, but it is completely in keeping with my own experience and observations over the years. It seems much easier for people to get further in pursuit Beauty or Truth than Goodness in my memory banks. ๐Ÿ™‚


      1. It is a very interesting setup for discussion, simple and thought provoking. Perhaps goodness needs to manifest in action more than beauty or truth, needs to work on or within some thing. Requires an Absolute reference for Good. Truth and beauty need not be good. We can infer the discussion that ensues from there.

      2. Yes I agree these three things form an intricate mystery, sometimes seeming to take on the qualities and aspects of one another. A close parallel idea is the esoteric Christian idea of the Trinity godhead. There is even a relation. The Father – willing – goodness. The Son – feeling – beauty. Holy Spirit – thinking – truth. And I agree that goodness is more activity centered, it carries the impulse to do.

        But in each of the three, you can find the other two reflecting. Beauty has a truth in it. Goodness has a beauty. And so on. I guess I would also say that I believe all three have an absolute reference, not just goodness. But our human perceptivity and intuition is still eveolving towards the capacity to grasp these, and so we imperfectly cognize them at present. But the intuitions are there, and deepening.

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