Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ancient Traditions

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit my best friend's vineyard just outside of Fresno, CA.  Actually, this is more than an opportunity -- it has become a yearly tradition for me, and now my fiance as well.

I took a few pictures I like and have posted them below along with a piece written by Hoorig Santikian, describing an old Armenian tradition that occurs towards the end of the grape season....

"From the first time I took my first three steps without falling, I can remember celebrating the traditional Armenian occasion, Masarah, the harvest of the grapes. Because my extended and immediate family lives on vineyards in the outskirts of Fresno, Masarah is a perfect family tradition to celebrate our Armenian heritage and culture.

Awakening at the crack of dawn, we make our way down the rows of vineyards to find the sweet reward of hidden golden grapes. With the morning sun beating on my face and my sticky clothes clinging to my body, it feels as though time has stopped. At that moment, with the bucket at my foot and a bundle of luscious grapes in my hands, I feel as though I am holding the vibrant sensation of life.

To my right sits my grandmother under a tree, her face marked by a familiar express. The wrinkles on her forehead and the brown coloring of her skin reflect the years of tiredness and aching. Her eyes, however, sparkle with dignified pride and innocent happiness as she watches the future generations carry on the family tradition. Yes, my grandmother’s job is well done. She has imparted her knowledge and tradition to us and instilled it deep in our hearts. 

 In her hand, my grandmother tightly clasps a tan antique cup, as if she is grasping onto a memory. I cannot distinguish between the pear shape of the mug and my grandmother’s fingers as both have the same aged look. Each crack, like the creases on my grandmother’s forehead, marks the history it has endured. If the mug could talk it would tell about past family Masarahs. You would hear the stories of past generations picking and smashing grapes as we do today, preparing to make our unique grape juice.
 Each year I anxiously await the harvest. Having a family deep in family rituals fills me with an overwhelming sense of love. As I survey my surroundings I make a promise to myself: I vow to keep my family tradition alive. 
 Surrounded by close friends we wait in anticipation for the grape juice to end its final stage of preparation and become our homemade molasses. In the midst of this festive atmosphere I am awakened to Masarah’s true meaning: gratitude. The crushing of the grapes and the making of the grape juice symbolizes gratitude for the crop which our land yields each year.

My experience with the Masarah has shown me the importance of humble gratefulness and cultural appreciation. The Masarah is a profound part of my strong bond with my family and my deep respect for tradition. When I am eighty years of age, in the wake of modernization, I will hold the same antique cup and watch my children perform the ritual of the Masarah, as my grandmother does today. I will know that I have nourished a strong and loving family through age-old Armenian tradition."

-- Hoorig Santikian

 Every year, the sounds of the military bugle wakes us up at the crack of dawn. Some of us begin preparing breakfast, while most of the youth and children pile into the back of a truck with buckets and scissors ( and parents) to harvest grapes for the days events. On average, there are 28 buckets used in the festivities.

The grapes are poured into burlap bags, along with the appropriate amount of lime powder, tied up and placed in a bathtub that has be reappropriated.  Then, taking turns, 3-4 small children, or two of the older heftier ones ( like us) get into with bare feet and beging stomping on the grapes to crush out the juice which flows through a seive and into a bucket.  It is a cathartic experience.

New traditions are added. This is after a family event and as such, it gets its unique spin.
For example, after experiencing a whole roast pig in Hawaii... Hoorig's father came home determined to roast a pig underground ever year during Masarah.  So, he built the above pit out of concrete... the whole contraption with levers a pullys is a sight to see and definitely worth the trip.

This last image is of a "Khnotsi" a traditional 
contraption built to make a drink called "taan" ( essentially whole plain yogurt and water)


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Slowly but Surely

Imagine a tall hill, bordering on the cusp of being labeled a mountain. At the top are a cluster of balls, varying in size. Some are massive -- others the size of a marble. A few of them sparkle with promise while one too many balls are a depressing dark matte black color. With the jolt from an earthquake, the balls tumble down the hill. Ideally, it would be nice if they stayed together like a herd of horses, but inevitably, a few of them take a turn and veer off course disappearing from site.

Those balls represent everything going on in my life, and something somewhere started the ground shaking and now i'm chasing the balls trying to keep up.  One of the balls which veered off course was my lovely blog and now i'm trying to catch it and bring it back.

This morning I woke up at 5:15 am packed my yoga mat, weights and water for bridal bootcamp; packed clothes for the school day and a towel, makeup and soaps to shower at school, packed some food for the day in a half-awakened state and stumbled out my door with a 50 lb backpack of law books on my back, a gym bag  purse and yoga mat on my shoulder, lunch bag on my arm, one 5lb weight in my sweater pocket, and another 5lb weight in my hand.  It was a miracle I made it down the stairs in the pitch black carrying everything.

Bridal Bootcamp ...kicked my booty --its a good thing. I was so worn out that by the end I was legitimately nauseous and had to pause for a few minutes before walking to my car.  I have to say it is motivating to be surrounded by other brides sweating to look fit and glamorous ( and healthy) on their wedding day.

Food has been rushed ( depressing, I miss my kitchen).  I was ravenously hungry for two hours after the workout.  I ate chicken... still hungry.  I thought protein was supposed to stop hunger??  A latte didnt help either... I snacked and munched for a bit ( there may have been a pumpkin scone involved- Sorry Starbucks, you disappoint.... but motivate me to tackle the recipe myself)

Ironically, mid afternoon I am no longer hungry and so far only had a banana for "lunch" . 

Another post-bootcamp observation -- I'm fidgety. How am I going to sit through 3 law school classes like this???  :)