A few thousand more words…

I had an internet problem tonight that I finally managed to fix – thank you, Apple forums! – so before I grab that forty (or more) winks, I leave you with these.

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Another season’s end

The 2018 dig season is a wrap. The last of the die-hards departed early this morning; some off to dig at Zincirli in Turkey, some to home – and I to continuing adventures.

Nearly three weeks have flown by in a blur of early wakings, lengthy days and plentiful strong coffee. A steady supply of new artifacts has been appearing on my desk, nearly the number I would expect in the usual longer time in Turkey.  I nearly made it across the finish line, but some hours of work remain to close out the season.

Somewhere in there was a morning outing to a sea cave on the Lebanon border, two field trips and an evening stroll to the Mediterranean shore to feed the mosquitoes. I dipped my toes in the Sea of Gallilee, looked over Jordan, clambered through a crusader castle and strolled Roman pavements. The highway signs are laden with story:  Nazareth, Bethlehem, Tiberius, Jordan. History lies thick on this land and beneath it.

And today I am in Jerusalem.

That’s a story for another day. Time to tuck in early in my cool stone-lined nook of a room and try to replace a few of the hours of sleep I’ve been missing.

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Off again…

Autumn became winter, then winter became spring and now we are half way through summer. I’ve shamelessly neglected this blog so rather than face the daunting task of catching you up, I’ll just launch in to my current exploits, shall I?

Here I am once again – half way around the world. New country. New dig. 

Tomorrow I begin as the illustrator at Tell Keisan, working once again with Dr. David Schloen – this time in Israel. It’s been lovely landing in a strange place to find familiar faces from past seasons at Zincirli – friendships that reach back over years and stretch across many miles. With more than fifty staff here, there are also many new faces to learn in the next two weeks! 

I’ve arrived on the weekend so it’s been an easy start: yesterday a half day to catch up on sleep and slip into a new rhythm, and today to tour a nearby dig at Tel Dor at the edge of the sea, followed by time on the beach. I have to honestly say that this has been, hands down, the best first day on a dig I have enjoyed thus far! Nonetheless, I’m still a little sleep deprived and jet lagged. So I leave you with a snapshot of the Mediterranean from the Israeli shore.

More soon…

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Morning sounds…

The village minaret  – and its’ loudspeaker – are only steps from our residence and although two concrete walls separate my quarters from the earliest call to prayer, some mornings it seems as though the muezzin is sharing my room – or perhaps only occupying my dreams. The hour of the call no longer coincides with my morning alarm, yet it’s still the signal for first stirrings in the dorm. As the dig mornings count down, I’m more and more likely to doze through these sounds of preparations – a variety of digital chimes, sleepy chatter, the patter of flip flops, water splashing and toothbrushes humming, the to-and-fro of heavier footwear, keys clacking in the lock and the door slamming …and clacking and slamming and clacking…and then uncharacteristically closing quietly…and then slamming again. Off they go to the field, just when my own digital wake-up call starts chirping.

The kitchen is quiet when I arrive soon after, the remains of first breakfast awaiting the house staff, of which I am seldom the first to emerge, but rarely the last. The tea has been depleted, so I light the stove to freshen the pot then take my simple fare of tea, bread, cheese and vegetables out to the courtyard under the pines and cedars. The wind shushes through trees that are filled with chattering birds and frantically cooing pigeons (I don’t know exactly why, but the local pigeons always sound panicked to me.) A pair of stray dogs, mother and pup, romp across the lawn, while a village cat surreptitiously slinks under the tables seeking scraps from last nights’ dinner. The sky is only just warmed by the rose of approaching dawn.

Inside the workroom, the air is still and stuffy from the heat of the day before. As I pry open the windows, the metal frames grate and complain. The cool morning air quickly freshens the room. Only a few of us are here in the offices in the morning. We work in companionable silence mostly, the only noises the click, click of keyboards and an occasional foot keeping time to an audio feed. It’s quiet enough that I can hear the tapping of my technical pen contacting the paper as I fill a drawing with stipple dots of texture.

The sun rises above the horizon, golden light streaming directly across my desk. I pull the curtains closed so that I can see my work surface. A hose hisses as the caretaker sets out the sprinkler in the yard. Women’s voices approach; greetings are called. Şukriye and Leyla have arrived to begin the day’s cooking. Soon the soundscape includes the rhythmic chopping of second breakfast preparations.

Slowly the village rouses. There’s a shuddering of trains at the nearby station and a hoot announces an imminent departure; gears grind as a transport heads up the hill; metal shutters clatter up as shops open in the square.

Good morning, Fevzipaşa.

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Time flies!

I’ve been here on the dig for three weeks and we’re already past the half way point of the season. Spare time seems to be at a premium. I’m using my afternoons to catch a nap rather than socialize or write. The usually punishing schedule is particularly punishing this year; could it be advancing age??

If the pattern holds, we’re easing into September weather. Temperatures are in a slightly more comfortable range – in the morning and evening, certainly. Our start time has been dialled back to account for a later sunrise, and we ended our evening meal after dark tonight. I have a full crate of artifacts collecting beneath my desk, awaiting attention: an assortment of partial stone vessels, clay weights and such. Nothing that you would recognize as ‘treasure’ but it all tells a story. I’ve drawn about half of what is on my “to do” list, and more comes in from the field each day. Maybe that accounts for the lack of free time more than my age?

While I continue to play catch up here, I thought I’d hold you at bay with a few photos from a recent trip to the Gaziantep museum. The stele I’m posed with and the orthostat were two of the very first finds that I was assigned to draw in 2008. I was only here for three weeks that first season – a “try out” for the position of illustrator. I cut my teeth on some major material and passed the test, so here I am nine years later. The museum case may not seem like much to you – but it’s the first time ever that I’ve seen a collection with which I’d been up close and personal: I’d drawn (and handled) every artifact in the display!

 

 

Once around the circle…

Hello again. Welcome back. I know. It’s been a while.

I’m sitting on my balcony as darkness falls. A chill glass of white from a neighbourhood winery sits to hand. The distant clouds are frosted in pink, the nearer hills shading to bronze; following a week under the shroud of a smokey haze, it’s lovely to breathe clear air and see down the valley again. The crickets have begun their nightly chorus – the rhythmic song of late summer that lulled me to sleep my first nights here.

It was a year ago this weekend that I left behind my home in Ontario. I’ve come round the calendar, marking the changes and learning the rhythms of this new home. I’ve seen the summer orchards shade to bronze and copper, watched as winter crept down from the peaks and watched it retreat again, drank in the scent of orchards in blossom, marvelled as clusters of fruit appeared among the rows.  It was peach season when I arrived and it’s peach season again; each day’s offering bigger and juicier than the day before. Berries, apricots and cherries have had their day, now root vegetables and field tomatoes are crowding the stalls. Cabbages and pumpkins ripen in the fields, the trees are burdened with still-green apples.

Summer is far from over here in the Okanagan – but I’ll be heading off in the morning to spend the remaining weeks of the season in Turkey.  After a year of exploring and learning a new place, it’s time to return to a familiar one. The dig at Zincirli opened at the beginning of August and I’ve had word that lovely objects have emerged from the soil and are waiting to be drawn. I’m eager to reconnect with friends – it’s been nearly two years! – and I’m wondering how the sleepy little village of Fevzipaşa has fared meanwhile. I’m awash in thoughts of steaming tea in tulip glasses, tiny cups of morning espresso, late night conversations in a windy courtyard and early mornings awakening to a somewhat-less-than-melodious call to prayer. Adventure – of a sort – awaits.

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If you’ve been following this blog previously, you have an idea of what’s to come. If you’re new here – you may want to take a look at this early post to catch up on what I’m up to. Old friend or new – I hope you’ll come along!

The best laid plans…

Yes, I know. It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything.

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. I know that better than most. You never know when the bus is headed your way. When lightening will strike. Or the rogue cell has started replicating. I’m holding out for this being a mere bump in the road.

Here was my plan about three months back: I was enjoying a busy time at my seasonal job at the garden centre, in the glass house, spending sunny, warm days planting green things while a  bitterly cold and overlong winter raged out of doors. Evenings and days off, I was happily honing the sketches for the next children’s book – an alphabet of the West Coast – which fostered a daily mental stroll through the Pacific rainforest and along coastal beaches. Once the gardening season wound down, I  planned to ramp up to full-time studio hours to finish the illustrations, ending up just in time to jet out to Kelowna for a wedding and then off to Turkey for dig season. And then – who knew? – perhaps on to Europe this year? That was the plan.

Instead? The Zincirli dig season was cancelled due to the current Syrian situation. Disappointing, but that opened up an opportunity to join girlfriends for a week on Prince Edward Island in July. It also meant that I could stay longer in Kelowna once the book was done. I would be home to keep a vegetable garden for the first time in years and finally plant the new perennial bed that I had begun preparing two years ago, repaint the front of the house and stain the back deck…the revised plan kept expanding.

The latest plan, though, has me not going anywhere – not Turkey, not Kelowna, not Europe –  not for a while and that will be after a trip to hospital. I’m scheduled for neurosurgery.

Neurosurgery. I kind of like the sound of it, if not the reality. No, a surgeon is not going to root around in my skull a là Dr. McDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy; he’s going to give my spinal cord a little more room. If you want all the technical details, it’s a posterior cervical decompression with instrumented fusion. Look it up! It’s quite an amazing procedure, really –  if it’s not your spine, that is.

How did all this come about? I started noticing some bothersome symptoms last spring – numbness and tingling in my fingers and a feeling that I might faint when I tipped my head back to look up or reach above my head. It wasn’t constant, so I mostly ignored it. I concluded that I probably needed physiotherapy, that it might be related to previous issues with carpal tunnel syndrome and so I shelved it until I had more time – which was never, of course. The tingling got worse, affecting my arms and, sometimes, legs. My daughter remarked that I was walking funny and truthfully, I was feeling unusually clumsy. So I stopped procrastinating and saw a doctor – who immediately sent me on to a neurologist who then sent me on to a neurosurgeon. Arthritic bone and herniated disks in my neck are pinching my spinal cord – due in part to aging, in part to genetics and in part to some mythical injury that both neurologists are convinced I must have experienced somewhere along the line. The surgery will relieve the pressure and reverse most of the symptoms; I may be left with a bit of numbness in my fingertips.

The current plan? I’ve left the garden centre, the book is on hold and I will have surgery next week and settle in for some recovery time. Kelowna was inside the recovery window, so I had to give that up. Prince Edward Island will be comfortably outside the projected recovery and still on the agenda. The garden hasn’t been planted. The perennials will have to wait and so will the front porch repainting. The back deck hasn’t been stained, but has been fitted up with new patio furniture to create a cosy recovery nest. I’ve loaded up my e-reader and there is still time to round up some interesting plant material to sketch while I laze in healing comfort. Perhaps those of you nearby will drop in during the month of June to laze with me? I may even manage a blog entry or two with all that time for rest and reflection.

That’s the plan.