Yesterday was Friday – the day of worship, rest, and picnics in Kurdistan.
Yes – picnics.
About a 10 minute drive from our apartment is beautiful Lake Dukan and an area called Darband. Come Friday and Saturday, Darband is full of people from all over the area enjoying the cool breezes and beauty of Lake Dukan.
Suburban utility vehicles, small compact cars, motorcycles, hatchbacks, sedans, and more drive over the bridge and find the most scenic spot to settle. Out jump excited children and more staid adults along with large watermelons and cantaloupe, soft drinks and juices, kebabs wrapped in bread with big slices of raw onions and tomatoes, rice, and homemade cakes and sweets – feasts for the joyous and the weary. Sometimes you see entire families pile out of cars or trucks. Grandfathers in Kurdish clothes with their full pants and fitted jackets, black and white checked sashes around their waists, grandmothers in traditional dresses of muted colors, teenagers who live between what they see on the internet and traditional Kurdish society, and children of all ages. Other times you will see a starry-eyed couple – him in jeans and a t-shirt, her in traditional Kurdish clothes, full of color and sparkle.
From the time I was small, I’ve always known there was magic in a picnic. From my own childhood, picnics along canal banks in Pakistan evoke memories of a time of innocence. We would lose ourselves in rich, chocolate wacky cake and the characters from the book my mom would be reading aloud. While these characters lived their lives far from where we sat, it didn’t matter. My brothers and I would sit on a quilt, deeply attentive, our minds taking in the plot and story lines, crafting our own even as we listened.
Last night we went to Darband at dusk, when the colors along the mountains that surround Lake Dukan are their most beautiful. God-painted purples, mauves, and dusky blues spread out, the artist casting his brush for our and his pleasure. We went with friends and walked down to the banks of the lake. It was light enough that boats and jet skies were still out on the water, their motors creating loud noise and waves that splashed on the clay soil. As it got darker, the noise stopped, and all you could hear was the gentle lapping of water on land and murmurs of contented people. We ate slices of cantaloupe and sipped on orange drinks.
Our friend brought out a saz, a stringed instrument from this area, and played music in the fading light.
I’ve long believed that true contentment is not found in man-made places of concrete and steel, instead you step outside into space and nature and you rest. As I stood there on the banks of the lake, I felt soul-deep peace and gratitude. The earlier frustrations of the week with lost electricity, an oven that I couldn’t light, and general angst faded like the light across the horizon. Perhaps that’s the true magic of a picnic – that we can forget for a moment the daily worries we face and take back lost moments.
We finally left when it was dark and only the lights of the cranes hard at work on the mountain road nearby were visible. As we left I knew that this was a moment to remember; that this will become a favorite place for us during this season of our lives – a place where we can share with Kurds friendship, culture, and a mutual love of picnics.