Since the Vikings returned home and the Beothuk were assisted in taking their leave centuries ago, it is from the U.K., Ireland, France, Acadia and aboriginal territories around the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence that most of the folk on this island originate.
Doctor Ali, as I call him now, came from somewhere else as do so many of the doctors that come and go in our province. To my question about his origin, he replied “Persia.“
If you look up Persia in an atlas or on the Internet, you will find there is no country called that anymore. My experience based on asking this same question of other itinerant doctors is that when they say they come from Persia, they really mean Iran. That is because western countries, particularly our neighbours to the south, have so clumsily interfered in Middle-East politics, that many Iranians and Americans share a mutual dislike.
As a consequence, Iranians reluctant to reveal to westerners their homeland, usually revert to Persia. Once Dr. Ali and I had agreed that he came from Iran and I didn’t hold it against him, we began getting to know one another. It has been a rewarding experience.
I like that he is thorough in his work and takes the time necessary to make me understand his explanations. He seems to like that I am interested in his homeland and sympathetic to the story of how his religion-based government drove him away from Teheran which he calls the most beautiful place he knows.
Something like 15 or 20 years ago, out for a drive along the south shore of Bonavista Bay, Lisa and I stopped at an old-fashioned groc.&conf. of the sort that used to be found in every village, but are sadly rare today. The sign advertised that it was going out of business. Among the many articles unseen for years, I unearthed a baseball cap on which was written the words “I love Iran.” I tried to imagine how this cap, bearing this motto, could possibly have found its way to this tiny shop, on the Bonavista Peninsula. I had no idea what I might do with it, but for 75 cents I figured why not? Much later, I met Dr. Ali and gave him the cap.
Knowing he was returning to Iran for the holidays, I sent Dr. Ali one of the year-end cards I make to celebrate this season. During one of our conversations we realized we were both troubled by the interference of organized religion in society. As a result, Dr. Ali fled Iran and I shun western Kapitalist Kristmas and its sales manager Jolly old St. Nick with his crew of caribou.
On my annual card I always have the same caption.
It reads, “May there be Peace in your heart and Love in your home.” No religion there. Just Peace and Love. Sounds a little like the Beatles doesn’t it? But ask yourself, what has come along so far that is any better?
Along with this message I paint an image that speaks to the arrival of the longest night and the moment when the shortest day begins to lengthen. That is what I celebrate at this time of year. The return of the sun. Rebirth.
Wanting to write something personal on the card to Dr. Ali, I was at a loss. This is the moment when Lisa usually swings into research mode. She found something entirely appropriate.
She found the words: “Shab-eYalda” It is the eve of the birth of Mithra, the ancient Persian Sun God, who symbolizes light, goodness and strength on earth. Shab-e Yalda is celebrated on Dec. 21, and has great significance in the Iranian calendar. As the longest night of the year, Shab-e Yalda is a turning point, after which the days grow longer, symbolizing the triumph of the Sun God over the powers of darkness. A time of joy.
Lisa and I couldn’t agree more. May there be Peace in your heart and Love in your home.
A joyous Shab-e Yalda.
Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer in Salvage, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.