Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ahlan Ramadan! (Welcome Ramadan!)

It's hard to believe how fast we went from my birthday to Labor Day weekend, to Ramadan beginning September 1st-- Labor Day.

Looking back at the events of the last eight months-- just four months left of 2008, YIKES!-- it's all kind of a blur. I know that somewhere in that jumble of events leading up to this moment, my brother came out for a visit in January; a new friendship bloomed with the spring; and I'm now an Assistant Editor for a school newspaper while attending a class to help me get my work published.

In other words, time flies when you're having fun, and there is still more fun to be had.

The last few years the holy month of Ramadan has fallen during the months when the sun goes down fairly early, making the fasting not so bad with shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures. It's still difficult to go about your day without being able to even take a sip of water then, but it's not so bad if the weather is cool, and again, the sun is up a small number of hours you are awake.

This year, Ramadan is right on the cusp of only subtle changes in the transition from summer to fall, and too long before daylight savings time "falls forward". Given that I'm at school two days a week, and have to attend newspaper meetings on those days that keep me on campus until rush hour traffic really marinates the route home, it's going to be one heck of a month of fasting beginning as soon as tomorrow.

Despite the degree of difficulty this Ramadan will possess for the time of year, and my schedule, I'm looking forward to the spiritual aspect of this month, when I get to sit with myself and read the Quran. That was such a beautiful and enriching experience that felt like a mental detox last year, I can't wait to experience it again.

As a result, and in preparation for the busy schedule ahead, I wanted to take it easy today. So, I spent a lot of time doing things I don't think I'll have time to do during Ramadan.

I sat outside on the deck reading to enjoy the last bits of summer and relax before things get too busy for such precious time, and noticed that the sun was not only beating down on the section of the deck that in the summer gets completely shaded by late afternoon, but it was also extremely and alarmingly hotter than usual. It felt like someone was holding a magnifying glass to my skin, just waiting for the sun's rays to burn my flesh like a poor, defenseless ant. Though I had sunscreen on, I chose to move to the little bit of shaded area on the deck to avoid hearing a sizzle from my skin, and that made my relaxation time a lot more pleasant, as there was a nice breeze in the air. The breeze would pick up and turn into serious wind ever so often and shake things up enough to make you think a storm was coming, but then the rustle of the leaves would soften, and soon you'd be back to enjoying a soft, cool and totally pleasant breeze.

Later, I came inside and did stuff I'd been putting off on the computer. I created a draft of the newspaper guidelines I was asked to make over the weekend, and then wracked my brain trying to come up with story ideas for Tuesday's meeting. The only somewhat interesting story ideas I came up with were finding out if and how the school is making efforts to be "green", and how high gas prices are affecting things like enrollment and students' ways of getting to school. I was supposed to come up with five ideas, and the other three are even lamer than the ones I just mentioned, but I'm just using them as fillers on the list for the time being. Perhaps something more substantial will come to me between now and Tuesday afternoon, but I doubt it.

After getting that stuff done I visited one of my favorite authors' blog and spent over an hour reading her treasure trove of insight into writing the way and things I want to write. The phenomenon of blogs is that they provide a great and convenient way to peek inside the mind of a brilliant author, and making them human to those awestruck by their creations. I think one of the most helpful resources when trying to write right is getting a glimpse of how an established writer, er, author, weaves a flawless tapestry in anything BUT methods. Getting that glimpse, you begin to see that your inability to stay focused enough to write more than six coherent sentences is hardly a unique problem, but rather the only way to write when you have a life on the side.

You also get to see just where this author gets his/her ideas, and it brings them down to earth, eliminating the perception you have of them being super beings with a super-compartment in their brain where great stories are stored-- all they have to do is sort through them and pick the one they want to write down on paper. This of course does not lessen the awe with which you view them, mind you. On the contrary-- it makes someone like me think the author I'm spying on through their blog even more brilliant in my eyes for the simplicity with which they are able to tell such amazing stories. It's totally inspiring and heartening to see their struggle, and it encourages you to keep going full steam ahead, despite your crazy life getting in the way.

I will leave you now with a video of a song called "Ahlan Ramadan", which translates to Welcome Ramadan. It is a traditional song sung and played to welcome the holy month.

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