Wednesday, January 29, 2014

being a nomad about what to study



The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question 'Whither?'


— Robert Frost, from "Reluctance"

A list of  'nations' in Sogdian
from the Berlin Turfan Collection
Sogdian script

These scraps of ancient paper with Sogdian writing from pre-Islamic Central Asia, from Sogdiana in fact, are little morsels I glom onto as I slog through information and possibilities to follow. For me, they are representations of the mysterious beauty of the Silk Road. The long tails of letters, the curves and twists — are they not like the long passes through the Pamirs?

Image from Pamir Highway Adventure site


The Sogdians were people in a region north of India and west of China who were the primary traders on the Silk Route. Their borders fluctuated with the spread of their language, Sogdian. This script is similar to medieval Iranian scripts. 

I'm grateful I learned — better said, studied — Turkish in Latin script, not Ottoman:




With so much history, research and scholarship about this part of the world, I have to pick out grains with my fingertips, crumbs to follow that will start to make connections. How is the Sogdian language and script like Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit? Do I care about this? You can see that just following this path of crumbs — the scripts — would take a lifetime's study.

So my feet question, "Whither?" 

I will probably do what I do in a new city when I travel: venture out and turn at corners or into alleys that intrigue. It is not easy finding new points of interest when you travel the same route day after day, like my drive to and from work. In my Midwestern way, I have lived a semi-nomadic life, having lived in 30+ houses in my 57 years. In fact, ten years in this farmhouse is the longest I've lived anywhere.


17 comments:

  1. Oh, this is going to be such a fascinating journey! I am intrigued where your feet take you, where the crumbs fall. We are all nomads — in the mind, if not always (ostensibly) in the body.

    'Glom' — I learnt a new word!

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    1. So glad to have you along, Robert! We can stop off in the caravanserai for conversations along the way. :)

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  2. I think Robert's comment nails it, especially for many of us in the blogging community — we are all nomads in the mind. That said, it's going to be an exciting journey, wherever you take us. We're no longer in Kansas, Toto!

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    1. Thanks, George. You and Robert are most definitely nomads of the mind, a beautiful image. (You both happen also to be nomads of the feet.) I may call on you both for navigational tips now and then!

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  3. I think we're going to enjoy this trip Ruth. When Silk Road comes to mind, I think of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road CD, which I suspect is only a bit of an interpretation! Looking forward to learning much more!

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    1. Jeanie, it thrills me that you want to ride along! I think of Yo-Yo Ma, too. I went to his concert at the Wharton Center when he was traveling on his Silk Road project, a very philanthropic effort on his part to support young musicians. I simply adore him. Another "crumb" to follow, I think!

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  4. caravanserai - this is your poem? on your sidebar? have you posted this another time? (surely you have not or i would have remembered it or SHOULD have remembered it.) it must be yours or you would have noted otherwise. tell me.

    xo
    erin

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    1. Dear Erin, yes, it's mine. I posted it at synch with the photo of the old peddlar here.

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    2. Erin, I published this poem of Ruth's (which in my judgement is one of the best poems she's ever written), together with two more extremely fine poems of hers, in the first issue of my online poetry magazine, The Passionate Transitory. You can find them here: http://thepassionatetransitory.yolasite.com/ruth-mowry.php

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    3. ! i will go. thank you. and i agree. how i agree. not only one of ruth's best but most certainly for me one of the best poems. i can't imagine how i missed it before. or perhaps it missed me. (at certain times i am obtuse to receiving such things. there are times for poems. for me, now, it is the time for caravanserai)

      xo
      erin

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  5. Replies
    1. Oh sorry ... that's not a universal exclamation of embarrassed and humble pleasure? :)

      The reference is Popeye the Sailorman, whom I watched incessantly after school, to Olive Oyl: "Oh goshk, Olive!" He's the fellow who ate spinach and got strong.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DS584Omhzw0

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  6. and so I will learn from you, nomadically which is the best way i think, the silk road long a fascination (& already you have taught me about Sogdiana) and the poem, which i do remember and am so glad to see here perfect in its message and its construction. Thank you.

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    1. We can learn together, DS. Wouldn't a long train ride through Central Asia be great? Except the train would be so damn hot. :)

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  7. Wow; I have just found your page! And your fabulous poem Caravanserai...I am deeply impressed with its ability to resonate. I am a writer, and creative writing teacher, and have often visualized both my world and the world of my characters through the idea of journeying; what is left behind, what it taken, what is lost along the way, what is found...to repeat Dante: In the middle of the journey of my life, I came to my self in a dark wood where the straight path was lost. One of my recent historical novels, The Horse Road, is set in 104 BC and explores how the Silk Road's western portion was opened up through trading Chinese silk for horses from the Fergana Valley. These horses were the ancestors of the breed we now call Akhal Teke and are splendid creatures in any language, including Sogdian. I wish your feet and your soul a safe journey! Troon at www.troonharrison.com

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Think of this box as an oasis, a caravanserai where we're having a conversation. :)