Judy Light Ayyildiz has taught creative writing to all education levels and presented to literary workshops and international conferences on poetry, writing and women’s studies. Internationally published, she was an editor of Artemis, Artists and Writers from the Blue Ridge for 13 years and was a Blue Ridge Writers Conference founder.
Her books are First Recital, Smuggled Seeds, Mud River (poetry), Skyhooks and Grasshopper Traps, Creative Writing across the Curriculum, Easy Ideas for Busy Teachers, The Writers’ Express (writing texts), Nothing but Time (cross-cultural and triumph over trauma memoir) and Some of My Ancestors are Ottomans and Turks (illustrated children’s) and her new novel, Forty Thorns (or Kirk Diken in the Turkish translation).
Literary publications include New York Quarterly, Mickle Street Review, the new renaissance, Sow’s Ear, mediterranean.nu, Pig Iron Press, Hawaii Pacific Review, Black Water Review, Northeast Journal and Kalliope. Honors such as “Woman of Achievement in Education 2010”, Va. Com. Of Arts, various poetry and short story prizes, Daughters of Ataturk, Turkish Forum, College Bookstores Best Book Finalist, Gusto Poet Discovery Winner, VCCA Fellow.
Please visit her web site: http://www.judylightayyildiz.com
This is the story of Adalet: an innovative woman caught in a war-torn love story set among the values, ethnic myths and legends of Turkey when it was a emerging third-world country with a time span weaving back and forth from 1912, the 1980’s and the turn of the 20th Century. After Adalet’s burial, her friend, American daughter-in-law and writer, Lee, begins the quest to fulfill Adalet’s wish of two summers ago: “Write my life. I’m not important but my woman’s story is,” and Lee ponders, woman: the backbone of culture. Lee probes the details of how this strong and centered woman managed to emerged from material loss, love’s betrayals, sudden death of one of her seven children, devastating disappearance of another, parental disdain and, always, the rugged travel and resettling all across Anatolia, again and again following promises and hope left in the wake of her husband, Burhan, the province governor’s increasing drinking, gambling and womanizing–and how Adalet overcame with grace and hope.
Izmir, Aegean Sea coast, 1923-24
Women were now able to do such things if they wished.
Though green parks, avenues and the sweeping curve along the bay remained, Izmir sighed and complained with the weight it had carried those last few years. There were still a few scattered white bungalows nestling among their groves as if nothing important had happened at all. Intermittently, the palm trees produced a weary rattling and hiss as people passed; but few had time for reflection.
The first weekend that Burhan brought Elif and Adalet into Izmir from the village of Kushadashi, they stayed in one of the hotels left standing on the quay, and the three went strolling along the broad promenade within the nips and curling caresses of the evening breeze. “The trolley is coming, Elif, baby. Hear the bell?” Adalet asked. They waved at the horse drawn carriage cutting through the placid air come off the shore, its curtains tied back tight against the tops of the vertical railings in order to give the seated passengers a panoramic view.
“Tomorrow, once we’re settled in, I’ll take you to Konak,” Burhan said. “The German Kiser Wilhelm Clock Tower still stands.” Pulling her round cheeks up into a smile, Adalet beamed back at him with the glowing belief that her marriage was at last on solid ground. Up until the present, they’d hardly had a chance to relax into it. The army had made her husband a bit leaner, but he seemed not so nervous. He was so obviously pleased that they were with him.
“One day, if you dare to visit me in Kushadashi again,” he added with his distinctive grin, “perhaps I’ll show you something you won’t believe.” She smiled across to him. “The locals took me out on horses to see the province and we rode into an ancient marble city.” Adalet raised her brows in question. “In ruins, of course. Ephesus.” He nodded his head. “There’s much in Turkey to see. Nearby, is the spot where Mother Mary herself lived.” He shrugged as if he didn’t want her to think that he would believe what he was going to tell her. “Some believe that if you drink the water at Mary’s place, you can be healed of whatever ails you.” Burhan placed his hands together in reflection. “They tell me that there’s still a huge amphitheater where they used to perform,” he said, pursing his lips. The wind blew his hair playfully across his forehead.
Adalet thought of how she’d first been entranced by Burhan on the small stage of her middle school back in Kirkkilise. If they had lived in different times, Burhan could have been an actor. “I can see how a large theater would interest you,” she answered.
Adalet had read the life of Mother Mary in the Koran. “It’s finally safe for my Mother to go back to Kirkkilise,” she added. Burhan only acknowledged politely. She knew that he still had disturbing and distant feelings about her parents.
“What do you think the history of the ancients have to show us?” he asked, nudging slightly her arm that helped balance the toddler on her shoulder. “We had better become philosophers if we’re going to build a modern nation.”
She was taken aback and flattered that her man had asked her such a thoughtful question. Maybe he was beginning to see her as more than a girl. She shifted Elif in her arms so that the curly brown head lay on her breast, for the child had fallen asleep in the warm air. “That everything you can imagine can be made to come to pass,” she began slowly. “That miracles do happen when there is a great leader and when the will of the people is strong,” she proceeded. “But, achievement comes with some tragedy and defeat in its wake.” He regarded her seriously. As they walked on, she continued. “The Ottoman Sultans are now history. Once we were Ottomans, you and I. What can we say to ourselves? One must tend to the daily home fires.” She had concluded in a definite tone.
Burhan stopped and gently removed the child from her arms, careful not to wake Elif. The three had come to a stone bench that faced the open harbor. They sat in the silence for a few minutes until the belching horn of a small ship stirred up Elif’s thin whine that threatened to burst into bawling. Burhan transferred Elif to Adalet, who knew how to calm her back into quiet. After a bit, he scooted to the end of the bench and took out his tobacco pouch and papers and picked back up on the conversation they were having before. “Who are we now to be, we Turks,” Burhan said, spilling the brown bits in a line along the edge of the paper, “the spirit of the Gray-Wolf tribes who came from the Asian Steppes?” He slid the bag into his inner coat pocket and then delicately rolled the smoke while he talked. “Or, is our future to be so many well-trained puppets like our last sultan—“ He licked along the end of the paper and sealed the cigarette and stuck it between his lips. Patting for a match, he finished his question, “Dancing wildly for Western audiences?”
A phaeton rushed past behind them. Adalet turned and watched it jog on around the wide boulevard, listening to the hollow clops of the heavy hooves as they busily faded into the distance. She wondered if Burhan pondered much about his father, Mehmet Nuri. Burhan usually didn’t share his inner feelings. The two of them had heard that the blacksmith had died under the legs of run-away horses that dragged an empty buggy. It happened during the chaos when the Greeks retreated from Izmit. Who would have thought such a fate? No one seemed to know if he was buried, or where. Burhan did not want to speak more about it; and naturally, neither of them had seen Burhan’s brother Ruhittin for several years. She turned back toward the sea and watched the undulation and changing colors of the water. The sun had all but set. This day would move on toward tomorrow. Mehmet Nuri had lived a decent life. Allah keep him. Perhaps there was not much more to say about it.
Kemal Pasha would later tell the new nation that all must respect the tradesmen who were vital to keep society going. So many artisans had been lost with the Christian deaths and evacuations. “The true owner,” the Gazi would say, “is the peasant who is the real producer.” For Adalet, this would include shoemakers, tailors, carpenters and blacksmiths. The memory of Mehmet Nuri’s life and journey would always provoke Adalet’s heart and mind to wonder. Was all of life a planned journey toward a certain death? …
For other contributions by Judy Light Ayyildiz, please follow the links below:
Text in this post: © Judy Light Ayyildiz
Published with the permission of Judy Light Ayyildiz