Monday, February 20, 2012

Evenings are still.

No longer are children running around, playing soccer in the school yard.  Or men gathering outside the mosque, talking together.  Women stay inside, no longer doing chores in courtyards or in the fields.  Winter has fallen and residents have taken refuge indoors.

From rooftop stovepipes, smoke curls up mingling with the brisk evening air. Inside homes, families gather around stoves enjoying the warmth and comfort emitting, from the fires within.  Outside the world is still, undisturbed by those who occupy its days.  Farmers, students and mothers alike, converge together around glowing stoves, hiding from the night, that seems to have settled inside their bones.   
Set up in sitting rooms or kitchens, these stoves are the primary source of heat for entire families.  While many layers of clothing adorn each man, woman and child in town, it is not enough.  Blankets and sweaters are important, but stoves are essential for the winter months.  These once shiny stoves, now darkened with soot from years of use, are welcomed winter editions to homes.
Children comb fields of apple and apricot trees, now barren, searching for fallen branches.   Men  prune large branches off trees and chop trunks into logs.  The melancholy family donkey is then, heavily laden with timber and led away.  These little donkeys, often barely visible under the burden of branches, slowly trek towards home. 
Homes are rearranged to accommodate for winters cold.  The room that holds the stove,  becomes the primary sleeping place for the family.  Blankets, pillows and sheep skins are arranged near the stove, ready for slumber.  Tidy piles of wood sit neatly, in the corner, waiting to keep families in relative degrees of comfort, throughout the night. 
Once fires are roaring within, kettles of water or cast iron skillets are warmed on top.  Pots of tea are brewed, for the family and the rare, visiting neighbor.  Fresh bread dough often sits, in a clay bowl, rising in the warmth near the stove.  Once ready, the dough will be fried and served hot, with honey or jam.  The sweet smell of fire and new bread fills the nighttime air, making it the signature scent of winter. 
Men spend the evenings, finishing chores.  Cows are brought it from the fields.  Wood piles are replenished.  Brothers, uncles and cousins get together to drink cups of coffee and offering advice on work and family.  Young people pass the time playing card games and watching television before dinnertime. 
Women spend the evenings visiting their neighbors, gathering near stoves, enjoying each others company.  Women swap stories and advice.  Men discuss crops, cows and home construction. Always, a metal tray of tea cups and a pot of herbal infused tea sit on the nearby table. 
Siblings sit on the floor playing games, waiting for dinnertime. Their laughter and yells are mingled with their mothers cries to be quiet and behave.  As an occasional treat, handfuls of almonds are given out, to be then roasted on top of the stove.  School books sit in the corner, undisturbed until the morning, when children finally seek them out.
While the days fade away, so does the snow atop the nearby mountains.  Soon enough winter will melt its way into spring.  Until then, snow will fall and the fields will frost.  But luckily, the home fires will continue to burn, warming all those who sit before it. 

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