Saturday, March 31, 2012

Superstition in Waiting

This week, my students have been producing poetography, an art form which combines photography and short poetry (like a zen tanka or haiku), and I am feeling inspired by the poetry inherent in an image. So I dug up this old shot that I always pause on when looking through old photos of my first year living in Turkey.

I'll tell you its story.

I shot this photograph in 2008 in a small town in the Black Sea region of northeastern Turkey. Senyuva is a rural town situated at the base of the Kackar Mountains, rugged terrain which remains covered in snow most of the year.

Every June and every September, the Turks living in this area migrate between base towns like Senyuva and summer villages in the mountains (called yaylas). Each trip is cumbersome- they pack up all their belongings and walk with their livestock up or down winding dirt roads.

I was first introduced to this lifestyle when I volunteered (WWOOFed) on a goat farm in the Alps of northern Italy in the summer of 2005. I was lucky enough to have participated in the walking of the entire goatherd up to the farmer's summer home, where it was cooler and the goats would happily produce more milk than if they had stayed in their muggy, hot Winter home at a lower elevation.

This movement of people and livestock, up and down mountains, with the seasons, actually has a name. It is called transhumance.

On my visit to the Kackar Mountains of Turkey in early September of 2008, I was once again lucky enough to be in a summer yayla when the first big snow storm of the Autumn fell, commencing the transhumance of the Turkish animal-farmers. Though we didn't walk down with the livestock, we did sit in an overcrowded mini bus and "crawled" down the mountain road with the farmers and livestock walking beside us. I was reminded of Italy.

But this photo was taken the day before I arrived at the yayla, the day before the snow storm.

I stopped in the base town of Senyuva on my way up to the yayla. The town was abandoned, but I spotted this Turkish eye hanging in someone's yard. Turkish eyes are a superstition meant to ward off evil spirits in the form of jealousy or ill thoughts.

This blue eye waited in cobwebs for its owner's return.