“If there is any hope, it is solely in the bounties of God: that His strengthening grace will come, and the struggling and contending will cease, and the acid bite of blood-dripping steel will be turned into the honey-dew of friendship and probity and trust. How sweet would that day be in the mouth, how fragrant as musk the scent thereof. God grant that the new year will bring a promise of the new peace. May He enable this distinguished assemblage to conclude a fair treaty and establish a just covenant, that you may be blessed forever, across the unborn reaches of time.”
1. alison bird; 2. amy sahba; 3. anjali pala; 4. elizabeth sabet; 5. golriz lucina; 6. kadria simons; 7. layli samimi-moore; 8. leila g. t.; 9. leili towfigh; 10. liam keenan; 11. manijeh afnan-murray; 12. na’im samimi-moore; 13. negeen sobhani; 14. omid toloui; 15. philip blythe; 16. reed t. jones; 17. ronnie yousefzadeh; 18. ryan lash; 19. saleem vaillancourt; 20. shirin sahba; 21. sholeh loehle
wishing everyone a Naw-Rúz full of celebration and joy, leading to a fulfilling new year.
thank you for your presence in this space. it has been a pleasure to share our Fast with all of you, and to have you, in return, provide us with such love, support and encouragement.
we hope to welcome you back here once again, next year.
until then – happy New Year!
“Since Thou hast adorned them, O my Lord, with the ornament of the fast prescribed by Thee, do Thou adorn them also with the ornament of Thine acceptance, through Thy grace and bountiful favor. For the doings of men are all dependent upon Thy good-pleasure, and are conditioned by Thy behest. Shouldst Thou regard him who hath broken the fast as one who hath observed it, such a man would be reckoned among them who from eternity had been keeping the fast. And shouldst Thou decree that he who hath observed the fast hath broken it, that person would be numbered with such as have caused the Robe of Thy Revelation to be stained with dust, and been far removed from the crystal waters of this living Fountain.”
amy: above all else, today, i pray my Fast is accepted.
ryan: when you post on the nineteenth day, i suppose it’s inevitable that you’ll be thinking not just of that day, but of past nineteen. and i’ve been thinking about this quote a lot through the duration of the Fast. the Fast is a gift to us, but also a test (of course, in the end all tests are gifts aren’t they?) and this year i felt both sides of that profoundly. i’ve been able to enjoy meals and prayers with an incredible array of friends through the course of these nineteen days, from quiet breakfasts for a handful to evenings shared with 50 or more. at the same time it’s like i’ve missed the fast entirely, failing to take advantage of the opportunities it provides for prayer and reflection, instead feeling like i’ve had my soul kicked around the proverbial block. i guess i’ll have to wait to find out how this one went down the books…
leila: today i am enchanted with the new life surging out and spearing all around me, and the metaphor of spring following winter, always, always, relentlessly and bringing hope, is filling me up to the brim.
“Do not bring our fasts to an end with this fast, O my Lord, nor the covenants Thou hast made with this covenant. Do Thou accept all that we have done for love of Thee, and for the sake of Thy pleasure, and all that we have left undone as a result of our subjection to our evil and corrupt desires. Enable us, then, to cleave steadfastly to Thy love and Thy good pleasure, and preserve us from the mischief of such as have denied Thee and repudiated Thy most resplendent signs. Thou art, in truth, the Lord of this world and of the next. No God is there beside Thee, the Exalted, the Most High.”
amy: the fleetingness of this exact moment – that is the theme of this Fast for me. these days, simultaneously so precious and so ordinary that i worry i am both painfully aware of every instant of them that is not lived to its maximum capacity, and just as painfully aware of them zipping by so swiftly i barely see when they start and when they end. if it weren’t for this Fast – that endows each sunrise and each sunset with such significance, every single day full of the entire spectrum of possible feeling – prayerfulness, detachment, assurance, doubt, focus, confusion, love, gratitude, frustration, joy, humility… . it is possible, utterly possible, to be unable to find the words to say ‘Thank You’ for all of this.
omid: i’m a bit sad that the fast is ending, yet excited to celebrate the start of a New Year. i liken it to a dear friend who is leaving your home after having visited (and slightly overstayed) for three weeks—you’re sad they’re leaving but relieved that you get to go back to life as usual. it’s the heightened spiritual awareness and detachment during the fast that i want and hope to continue to hold onto.
leila: today was a reminder of how much and how many things can change in one year. 21 March 2008 was the end of this project’s first iteration and the beginning of a new stage in my life, though i wasn’t yet to know it (two weeks later i was gravid). next week shaun and i will probably begin preparations to move … again (our third relocation in as many years of marriage). i have been spending the day with a friend as dear as a sister, and we spoke of the delusions of our youths, the brightening hopes of our presents, and the possibilities of our lives to come. many tears were shed, but so was much laughter (which took us back to tears). i feel inspired by possibilities, this love that is so large, and tickling warmth of a really good home-cooked curry.
‘Remember not your own limitations; the help of God will come to you. Forget yourself. God’s help will surely come! When you call on the Mercy of God waiting to reinforce you, your strength will be tenfold. Look at me: I am so feeble, yet I have had the strength given me to come amongst you: a poor servant of God, who has been enabled to give you this message! I shall not be with you long! One must never consider one’s own feebleness, it is the strength of the Holy Spirit of Love, which gives the power to teach. The thought of our own weakness could only bring despair. We must look higher than all earthly thoughts; detach ourselves from every material idea, crave for the things of the spirit; fix our eyes on the everlasting bountiful Mercy of the Almighty, who will fill our souls with the gladness of joyful service to His command ‘Love One Another’.”
amy: the Fast is one of the main time markers for my internal clock. by it, i measure how quickly the year has gone by, whether i accomplished all i wanted, or if i fell short of my goals. it might be simply because of the reflective nature of this time of year, or because all the time i would usually spend obsessing over food can now be redirected to answering questions like “what am i doing with my Life?” – which would seem to be slightly more important to said Life than, say, “cookie or brownie?”. (for anyone out there that might actually care, probably brownie, but it all depends on who the cookie is).
liam: my understanding of life is that the purpose of this fleeting material existence is to strive with absolute Faith, to the point of exhaustion and collapse, with all that you are and all that you have, to create unity in the world under the standard of Baha’u’llah. i believe that however we choose to undertake the Fast, it teaches us that we can be strong, all of us, together, all of the time. and even though we sometimes all feel challenged, or hurt, or unhappy, or broken, the Fast allows us to draw closer to a love, a strength and a joy that sustains us throughout the darkness.
leila: i feel like i don’t deserve the friendships i have. shiva, who has come to visit us (mainly the sprog), from canada, has been talking up a storm with my nine-week old in farsi, eliciting gurgles and a bounty of smiles. then there’s amy, who, because of her encouragement and daily loving kindnesses, is nurturing me back to a life of beauty and brightness. i could go on, but my darling babe is sobbing for her sleep, and so, as a matter of fact, am i.
“Arts, crafts and sciences uplift the world of being, and are conducive to its exaltation. Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone. The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth, and not those which begin with words and end with words…”
amy: it is hard to believe we are just a few days away from the end of this Fast. i don’t want to jinx it, but it has been remarkably easy – in the physical sense – so far this year. it is never easy on the spirit. yes, it is uplifting, meditative, rejuvenating but all those processes come about through strain and work. there is no doubt that abstinence from food and drink is such a small exercise in detachment compared to the workout our souls get this time of year.
negeen: it’s a strange thing how much the body and mind relax in what one might think of a stressful situation of not being able to eat or drink. at some point in the afternoon, you feel your body clock ticking more slowly and you watch the world continue at its normal pace. like the waves that flow around your ankles at the beach, you watch and reflect with a sense of detachment from it all. you’re forced to slow down, move deliberately, not hastily, carefully, not mindlessly, with a calmness and serenity that can’t be reached in any other state. in these moments of quiet contemplation, despite the glaring monitor, blowing heater and chattering Dora, it is the time when i feel most connected to the rhythm and peacefulness of the natural world.
leila: i have never been one to talk out loud to myself. now, not only am i frequently narrating the minutiae of our lives to my pre-verbal daughter in the hopes that she’ll very soon learn how to articulate her desires instead of crying about them, but i’m also actually at the point of affirmations. two of the big ones are: “looking after her is my job, and it needs to be done to the best of my ability” and “this is lovely, this spiritual growth, and i’m grateful that it’s happening during the Fast”. nothing super deep or even original, but they are big themes, big meditiations, for me, and it is so important to me to remind myself of them every single one of these special days.
“One righteous act is endowed with a potency that can so elevate the dust as to cause it to pass beyond the heaven of heavens. It can tear every bond asunder, and hath the power to restore the force that hath spent itself and vanished….”
amy: usually, at a certain point during the Fast, i just lose my appetite. it’s not so much that i am not hungry, because i am, especially around 1pm, but food looses a bit of it’s appeal when you wake up in the dark to feed yourself. this year though, i’ve maintained my appetite for breakfast throughout, and i wonder what the reason is. nothing terribly exciting about my breakfast: toast with tart lemon curd, a handfull of almonds, at times a smoothie, a cup of coffee, egg in some form or another. it just seems the contrast of flavors keeps my taste budds engaged. so i am curious – what do you have for breakfast during the Fast?
leili: the residue of life – tests, the difficulty of human interactions, the dregs of winter – seems worst around the 2nd of march each year. i am reflecting on this “force that hath spent itself” today: just when i think i can’t take more, and i feel evanescent and remote from my spiritual core, the Fast provides a structure for prayer, reflection, gratitude.
re: gratitude and righteous acts, one year during exams, a family member of mine got seriously ill. they didn’t want to worry me, but I found out. a semi-random friend was nearby when he overheard what happened. he noticed i was upset, and disappeared. he came back two hours later, announcing, “We’re going to Boston.” he had borrowed someone’s car, rearranged his exam schedule and then, despite my protestations, drove me to my home hundreds of miles away so i could be with my family. this little act that he did – an immediate, compassionate, unselfish response, without even being asked – is still inspiring to me.
leila: i love spending the day with my daughter (happy little vegemite that she is!), even though she frequently tests my love by her evening behaviours. today i am thinking about friends who are like my sisters and brothers, wishing she could know them now, and hoping that she will know them in the future. my dusk shot is part of a corner she becomes peaceful in, when i hold her. she finds the black-and-white Seyhoun captivating, and when her attention wanders, the bright primaries of the books are her next favourite eye-candies.
“Wherefore, O ye beloved of God, offer up thanks that ye have, in the day of the dawning, turned your faces unto the Light of the World and beheld its splendours. Ye have received a share of the light of truth, ye have enjoyed a portion of those blessings that endure forever; and therefore, as a returning of thanks for this bounty, rest ye not for a moment, sit ye not silent, carry to men’s ears the glad tidings of the Kingdom, spread far and wide the Word of God”
amy: i wait for that dawn light eagerly on sunday mornings, standing quietly by the window in the kitchen, camera in hand, leaning againt the window frame, my head tilted sideways, up to the sky. everyone else has crawled back into bed. slippered feet on hard linoleum floors, i wait, surprisingly patient, watching the skies brighten, the brick wall across the shaft progressively light up, waiting for it to creep towards me, to light up the subject of my photo.
anjali: my mind has been occupied with thoughts of growth and renewal today–new projects with limitless potential, the emerging signs of a new season, and the tangible feeling of change. i drink cool spring air in wide gulps and marvel at my friend’s ever-growing belly, filled with delight and reverence for the new life we will soon welcome into this world.
leila: a cosy day at home for the most part, today; it snowed again this morning. in seattle! in march! then we went out for a walk in the wind and got caught in a hail storm. it’s raining through the sunlight right now, i wonder whether we’ll have a rainbow before it gets really dark. insert Four Seasons In One Day metaphor here.
“Take thou good heed that ye may all, under the leadership of Him Who is the Source of Divine Guidance, be enabled to direct thy steps aright upon the Bridge, which is sharper than the sword and finer than a hair, so that perchance the things which from the beginning of thy life till the end thou hast performed for the love of God, may not, all at once and unrealized by thyself, be turned to acts not acceptable in the sight of God.”
amy: an early morning walk in a deserted, quiet saturday morning brooklyn. just after breakfast and prayers. it’s cold, but bright. and the air is cool in my mouth, in my nose, my thorat, lungs. good friends, silliness, cameras. it’s something so good. so unusual. so unique to this time of the year.
manijeh: during these days of fasting, i find its easier to focus on the tasks at hand, and to be more productive so that when the time comes, and you reach the end of the day, i feel a sense of accomplishment. being able to break the Fast with friends or family, spending time with those that we love, reminds me how lucky I am to know such wonderful souls.
leila: after a long spell of spectacular weather, seattle is providing us once again with her usual rains. we had a visit from a pregnant friend this morning, and i was able to give her more of our daughter’s outgrown baby clothes. i’m glad that they’ll get used more but it’s also creating ambivalent feelings about how quickly she’s growing—she’s obviously trying to talk already. tonight shaun and i said prayers for two dear friends in opposite parts of the world, and i love feeling this spiritual connection that’s actually almost physical. also, based on thoughts i’ve had in recent nights, i wonder whether God ever hates us, His “children”, because we’re so crazy and unreasonable in the middle of the night. for example.
“The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying Their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest.”
amy: we don’t appreciate the people that are close to us, the friends that surround us. i am reminded about the fundametal role they play in my life during the Fast, when sharing prayers and a meal are the highlights of the day, something to look forward to. and when you are together, basking in that warm glow of shared company, you are grateful that these people love you enough to overlook your hunger induced grumpiness.
philip: this year’s fast has been very stressful for marta and i, and has become all about letting go of worries that are out of our control, and trusting in the will of God. fasting focuses your attention on the important details of life, but hunger will also cloud your judgment… it’s a fine line between enlightenment and hypoglycemia that we travel every day, but i can’t imagine my year without it. i dread the start, love the duration and miss the end, little guilty pangs of “oh no, i’m eating during the day!!” accompanying me till the end of march. it’s a time to re-organize our lives, spring-cleaning of the soul…
leila: it seems that some of the most difficult times in my life are the ones of which i have the fondest memories. i know this will be true of this time, this time that has me sobbing with feelings of futility one night and laughing until my face hurts the following day. and then today my two-month old daughter participated in her own fast when i somehow forgot to feed her for almost six hours. i’m pretty sure there’s a special place in the next world for people like me.
“Lift up your hearts above the present and look with eyes of faith into the future! Today the seed is sown, the grain falls upon the earth, but behold the day will come when it shall rise a glorious tree and the branches thereof shall be laden with fruit. Rejoice and be glad that this day has dawned, try to realize its power, for it is indeed wonderful! God has crowned you with honour and in your hearts has He set a radiant star; verily the light thereof shall brighten the whole world!”
amy: i couldn’t help but look up to the sky yesterday – it was so blue and bright. it was still freezing cold, but it didn’t matter as sunlight washed over everything. i kept repeating this line from a morning prayer i love: “Illumine my inner being, O my Lord, with the splendors of the Dayspring of Thy Revelation, even as Thou didst illumine my outer being with the morning light of Thy favor’ and how true it rang, how i wanted to be illumined in my ‘inner being’, that true essence of myself, in the same way that that sunshine was caressing my cheek, brightening up my day and putting a spring in my step.
i’ve discovered that fasting from my own desires is revealing a very unbecoming me to myself. this has been my most confronting fast yet, where i don’t like the person i seem to be under the pressures of new motherhood, snarling about losing sleep and sniping about petty injustices; beatific and radiantly maternal i am not. undeservedly but thankfully, i have a loving, encouraging and patient partner and a beautiful daughter who smiles at me all day long. taking a long shower at the end of the day, using up all the hot water, is my version of breaking the fast.