art ~ spirit ~ transformation
e*lix*ir

e*lix*ir   #1
autumn 2015
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Editorial

  • Forging a Poetry of Hope
    by Sandra Lynn Hutchison

  • Poetry

  • Christine Anne Pratt
  • Harriet Pasca-Ortgies
  • Valerie Senyk

  • Fiction

  • The White Dog
    by Maya Bohnhoff

  • Memoir

  • Riding a Purple Bicycle
    in the City of Isfahan

    by Sahba

  • Reviews

  • Luminous Journey
    by Anne and Tim Perry
  • Prison Poems
    by Mahvash Sabet

  • Column

  • The Writing Life: Beginnings
    by Sandra Lynn Hutchison

  • Art

  • Paintings
    by Honnie Goode
  • Paintings
    by Louise Mould

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    Riding a Purple Bicycle in the City of Isfahan

    by SAHBA

    Being born in a country like Iran, in which women are forbidden from doing so many ordinary things, has made me yearn to do those things I believe are my certain rights. For example, in many cities in Iran, women are not allowed to ride bicycles. Perhaps it is considered immodest for a woman to straddle a bicycle while she is dressed in a chador? I am 20 now, and it’s been years since I rode a bicycle, but I have never stopped dreaming about the feeling of flying through the air as I watch the grass blur into a streak of green beneath my feet.

    In childhood, I rode a purple bicycle my parents bought for my brother. Every afternoon I would ride with the neighbor children up and down our alley. In time, my mother grew confident in my skill and let me roam beyond our small alley, even allowing me to venture out alone and explore the city. I relished the sweet feeling of independence that swept over me each time I straddled my purple bicycle and set out on a new adventure.

    As I grew older, my purple bicycle became too small for me. I asked my father to buy a bigger one, but he was afraid for me and refused, reminding me that in the city of Isfahan it is illegal for a woman to ride a bicycle in a public place. But my father’s fear did not deter me: I could not stop dreaming of owning a bicycle and traveling the windy streets and alleys of Isfahan, just following the desires of my heart.

    So I decided to save any money I earned to buy a new bicycle for myself. That year, the price of everything seemed to go up each day. It took all my salary just to survive. I wondered if I would ever be able to afford a bicycle. After one year, I was forced to admit: I might have to wait years before I owned my own bicycle.

    Then, a few weeks ago, I visited a nearby park with three of my best friends. One of them -- a boy -- had brought his bicycle with him. I asked him if I could ride his bicycle, even if just for a few minutes. My heart filled with joy when he told me that I could use the bicycle as much as I liked.

    I decided to take him up on his offer right then, so I mounted his bike and set off down the path. I whizzed past people who stopped and stared at me. Three women in chador huddled together to talk animatedly, pointing their fingers at me. But I didn’t stop: I just increased my speed. The wheels revolved faster and faster. I felt like a bird freed from its cage.

    I could hear nothing but my own voice singing and behind it, my mother’s voice as she recited these familiar lines from Rumi to console me when I was depressed about my lack of freedom, “Oh, bird of my soul, fly away now, / For I possess a hundred fortified towers....” I wanted to shout with happiness because my dream of riding a bicycle had come true, even just for a few minutes.

    As a twenty-year-old girl who has been deprived of riding a bicycle for more than eight years, I draw strength and hope from the memory of that afternoon I flew down the paths in the park. I even dare to imagine many more hours racing past green lawns. The long years of dreaming and yearning almost fade away when I think that one day I will own a bicycle of my own. I hoard the thought of my freedom sailing down the streets of Isfahan, and I whisper to myself, “Why should I be unhappy? Every parcel of my being is in full bloom.”

    I have ridden a bicycle. I have traveled to the moon.


    Bio:   Sahba was a student in a course on essay writing I taught this past winter through the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education, an unofficial university that came into being in response to the actions taken by the Iranian government to prevent Bahá’ís living in Iran from pursuing post-secondary education. Because Sahba was clearly such a talented writer, I spent considerable time helping her revise this piece -- which was written for my course -- and prepare it for publication. When I asked Sahba if she would feel comfortable being identified, she told me to use her first name only. Sahba continues to write and pursue her love of art and music in Isfahan, and she continues to dream of a day when Iranian women will enjoy greater freedom.

    - Sandra Lynn Hutchison