Years in Jerusalem have taught me not to trust March. Or almond blossom. Just about always it would be on those so called perfect days, blue skies, puffy white clouds and the almond blossom showing off, that there would be a gargantuan boom and clouds of smoke and that would be that...another terror attack. Another bus blown up whilst almond blossom rained down amidst the ashes of death. More lives snatched away while passengers in a bus quietly admired the almond blossom.
And here we are in Duhok province Kurdistan, miles away from Jerusalem but somehow oh so very close and connected , on a miserably dull day in March, the almond blossom in full array, driving half the way up a cold, damp mountain to be with our mud dwelling friends in their camp surrounded by suspiciously blossoming trees.
It had been wonderfully warm and then the cold hit again and with it the request for more winter clothes. March is one of those months, it kind of lies. Puffy clouds and then terror. Almond blossom and refugees stuck in the mud. And our vehicle packed with clothes and football gear which arrived to the smiles and waves of the 150 families who live up the mountain in the autumn, winter and spring mud and know and love us as do we them.
They know our vehicle. They saw us and began to come towards the tent which the Mukhtar had given us for a distribution centre. The word of our arrival quickly spread beyond this tiny camp into the village beyond so that both Yezidi and Muslim women quietly lined up for blouses, shirts, sweaters, scarves, make up and whatever we had that day...football gear both for kids and the team. On that particular day we were a kind of mobile Costco.
Did you read Odd and the Frost Giants? Reminds me of, " By March the worst of the winter would be over. The snow would thaw, the rivers begin to run and the world would wake into itself again. Not that year. Winter hung in there, like an invalid refusing to die. Day after grey day, the world remained unfriendly and cold" ( Neil Gaiman) Our Zawita mud- dwellers would agree. Most definitely so. Winter has hung in like that for three years now.
As the team gave out clothes to 150 families, I did my thing, namely wander around. I saw a tent which I had not noticed in previous wanders. My breath was taken away. I stood on the soggy muddy carpet spread outside the front door and just gazed. My eyes were enraptured. My heart felt those bittersweet emotions. Tears welled up in my eyes as I felt deep inside my soul the glories of the mud dwellers former life. Home very sweet home in the Sinjar had been pried from them. Tents and mud half way up an unvisited mountain had not deprived them of their dignity. Paradise lost. But. But. Not in its entirety.
I leave you with these musings. We went to give. But I became the receiver not the giver. A lesson on dignity when in mud. " One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away until surrendered." Michael J. Fox
Here in Zawita. Half way up an uninviting mountain, dignity reigns, totally unsurrendered. Mud dwellers they may have been forced to become. But if you take the time to look past the almond blossom which seeks to grab all the attention, you will see that you are surrounded by Kings and Queens, noblemen of another time and another place. Dignity reigns. All else is silenced. And winter begins to melt.