Although your thumb is not green,
you still love the plant for whatever the circumstances bring.
Dead or alive
You saw the crop for what it could provide.
Whether browning at its leaves or blossoming in the spring,
You did your best to give it what it needs…but your thumb is not green
᎒”Típico, where are you, my friend?” Said the goat
The blue tin door was left open. The shop owner Burhaan left for Asr, the afternoon prayer. Believers in the town would leave their shops to congregate for worship at the masjid. In their hearts, they knew that God would guard their shops and that praying on time would bring them a better business. The city thieves themselves couldn’t hold the guilt that came with roaming a marketplace that had only the wind as a witness. The seeming emptiness made God’s presence evermore prominent, and so the thieves rested under trees or collected sand in their hands to dump into tin cans. Such pastimes allowed them to be momentarily neutral with the angels who record deeds.
Burhaan was an old man with only one son in Yemen. He knew not of his son’s health or if he had children of his own, but he knew his son was alive. When the war broke out 26 years ago, Burhaan could only afford one ticket to Yemen. He arranged for an old friend who lived in Yemen to watch over his young son so that he could work more in order to afford his own ticket.
The old man had his plans, but so did his maker, the one above.
With the morning birds outsung by gunshots, the turmoil of war turned Burhaan’s handknit sweaters into a forgotten luxury. Before the instability, his sweaters were for the people—priced for the shoe shiner but fit for a king. But the war did not know between the humble cobbler or the indebted banker. It destroyed all that was material—leaving only the condition of the heart and fate of the soul untouched.
Before his son left for Yemen, Burhaan spoke with God.
“Ya Allah, watch over my sweet Moses. If I cannot hear from him or see him soon, let me know of his circumstance through the omens. If my business goes bad may it only mean that he is prosperous? If I fall weak, may it be that he is strong? Allah, you have gifted my son the knowledge of your earth. By your mercy, no one could care for the flowers and crops as my boy Moses could. I, on the other hand, could not sustain a flower for more than a week. The gift is not in me my lord.”
Burhaan took a deep breath and pressed one bead of his tasbih (prayer beads) firmly with his thumb. He stared at his thumb and felt a chill.
He then continued, “Oh Allah, if suddenly I am able to care for plants with his green thumb, then let that be a sign of his death. Please, oh the most merciful, do not ever give me a green thumb.”
Each week, Burhaan would buy a new flower pot, and each week, the plant would die. He’d celebrate the loss with ginger shaax (tea) and a visit to Hawa’s shop to buy more yarn for making sweaters. The sustenance of his business relied on the death of flowers, and therefore the livelihood of his only son.
The goat watched for Burhaan from the corner of the shop. She knew his face well, but to him, she was just an Eid al-Adha sacrifice.
When Burhaan left his shop for prayer, he always propped the blue tin door open with a large stone. He surely was a believer—too trustworthy that God would forbid the entrance of a thief. But did he forget about the goats? Surely, he was ignorant.
The goat entered through the blue tin door and gave a loud call.
᎒ “Típico, my friend! I saw so much today and want to share! Come out let’s chat.”
From the third shelf on the five-shelf bookcase, the yellow ball of yarn rolled from behind the stash of wool blankets so it could see and be seen.
“Why do you always call me Típico, it’s very annoying you know. Burhaan doesn’t even give me a name and he is my owner.”
᎒ “Don’t be silly Típico, you have no owner, you belong to yourself. When that old man sews you into a sweater and sells you to a customer, even then, you will still belong to yourself. You may look very different and may have different companions, but you are always your own.”
The ball of yarn began to laugh—rolling from side to side as balls of yarn do. The ball of yarn could not take a poetic goat seriously, especially not this one. This goat would say the other goats were too limited in their thinking and so she preferred to distance herself from them. And how was a ball of yarn any less limited? Either way, the ball of yarn enjoyed her unannounced visits.
᎒ “I see you find me amusing little Típico”
“Stop, why do you call me that, what does it even mean?”
᎒ “Ah if you must know, one day as I was walking along the Boosaso coastline, some men on a boat preparing to begin their voyage said the word Típico. I, of course, could not understand, and so I asked another goat from Kismayo, who was more familiar with the boatmen, and he told me it’s how the Portuguese say typical. And then I thought of you because you’re sort of bland and boring, even if you’re bright yellow, you’re still not that much fun. But I sort of like it. There’s a predictability to you. I can count on you to be stuck wherever I saw you last.”
“Well that’s not very nice, but I’m not offended. In my opinion, you move around too much and don’t know your place in life.”
᎒ “You would move around too Tipico if you knew how nice it felt to live without planning.” The goat gave a wink.
“To live without planning? What exactly do you mean?
᎒ “Look Tipico, the only reason you stay where Burhaan puts you is that you abide by the expectation that he should find you where he left you. Do you not think for yourself?
“Well, I never really gave thought to the thought of thinking for myself.”
᎒ “Oh Tipico, Just imagine the potential. Unlike my limitations with four legs, as a ball of yarn, you can span longer distances at once, if you only you’d learn to unwind on your own accord. Look little one, your life would be at your dictation if you learned to challenge the culture.”
᎒ “Yes, Tipico, the culture! The construct, the guidelines. You ever question it?”
“Well no, not really.”
᎒ “Then you don’t have a love for it. A citizen to a place or belief system is not loyal if they are not critical. You can’t contribute to an environment unless you question why things are as they are. Question matters like why you stay on that shelf rather than on the floor where you can comfortably travel.”
The ball of yarn stared at the goat and fell silent. Challenge the culture? Disloyal if not critical? These were new prophecies and the ball of yarn needed to think tirelessly in order to extrapolate meaning from such propositions.
᎒ “What is wrong Tipico, goat got your tongue?” The goat made herself laugh.
The ball of yarn was dumbfounded. “No, I uh, I just.. I, I want to come down from this shelf. But how?”
The goat’s eyes twinkled in bemusement at how ready the ball of yarn was ready to risk his ingrained culture, his unquestioned normalcy of being shelf-bound. She initially thought it would take more convincing, but this was easy.
᎒ “With my help, of course, nothing anyone does is achieved alone!”
The goat left and returned with a pillow from Burhaan’s couch—placing it at the foot of the bookcase.
᎒ “Jump Tipico!”
Without hesitation, Tipico rolled off and landed on the soft pillow. He had already jumped in his mind before his body saw to it. He thought his freedom into existence.
With the ball of yarn on the Turkish embroidery pillow, the goat started dancing and gave Tipico a congratulatory kiss.
᎒ “Look at you! You’re like a king on your cushioned throne! You’re not so typical anymore my friend, but we won’t change your name, it must serve as to remind you of where you came from.”
The ball of yarn was so happy to see the world from his newly acquired perspective. He had a new excitement to span greater distances and learn new things.
᎒ “How does it feel Tipico?”
᎒ “Ah, this is only the beginning my friend.”
“Did I challenge the culture?”
᎒ “Unconsciously, yes, but consciously no.”
“Tell me more about culture and how I am to consciously challenge all that I’ve ever known, ” said the ball of yarn with teary eyes and a yearning for a new truth.
᎒ “Ah ok my dear Tipico, let me awaken you to the paradigm shift of your identity.
End of Part I.
Peace and Blessings,