What Fall Tastes Like
I get my freedom and my beauty from my mother’s side. My grandmother would have me believe that pretty girls are bad. I believe my mother instead. But still, I try to keep my beauty hidden.
pretty girls have healing properties
Her oldest sister left a long time ago with a man to live in Frankfurt. She says it’s dark and cold there. I think she likes it though. She comes to visit us sometimes, in the spring. My grandmother tells the story differently: that it is that man who is dark and my aunt who is cold. My mother’s youngest sister also had problems with men. A free spirit and educated, when the government changed, the men did too. She had to leave. I have one faded picture of her in a corduroy mini-skirt sitting by the river. My grandmother tells the story differently: that there was a scandal and that she didn’t follow the rules. My mother tells both stories differently, saying that the beauty of her sisters, on both the inside and the outside, was only matched by their goodness and sweetness.
I get my fierceness from my father’s side. He comes from a long line of warriors. They traveled the way of the Silk Road, finally coming to rest amongst the dust and the farms in the south. My father is a farmer, but also fought for many years, fought whoever there was to fight. He has a tattoo of a grenade on his hand, along with a constellation of dots, for his arthritis. He moved us from our village to the city when things became too dangerous. The other farmers began to grow the crops the warlords wanted and my father fought against that too. He is no longer a farmer or a fighter. He has a small export business.
My mother misses the dry climate. My grandmother misses everything, because she has lost her memory. She spends her days in and out of the hospital for diabetes treatment. My mother makes her home remedies and I try to make her feel better. When my older aunt comes to visit, she misses the sun in the south. My younger aunt, well, we miss her and I hope she misses us too. We lost her. I think my father misses his land and his rifle. He lost those too.
I miss the fields of poppy and that same river that my lost aunt used to sit along in her corduroy. I work in the office of an international organization. The Western women I work with say that I am very beautiful and exotic. I know I am a farmer’s daughter. But, in the fall I feel my freedom and my fierceness and remember the subtle season change in the south and my father pruning trees. I stay quiet.
These things are better kept on the inside. The little bits of myself and my story, maybe they are beautiful, like my mother and the Western women say. Maybe someday there will be someone who wants to bring them out. For now, they are safe on the inside, held together. I’d rather not let them scatter and explode, like my father’s grenade. Maybe pretty girls are bad.
Pomegranates have their origins in Iran and Turkey and were spread throughout the Mediterranean and to the east along the Silk Road. They grow best in dry climates. The word pomegranate comes from the Latin, seeded apple. In old French, it is pomme-grenade and birthed the word grenade. The fruit is said to have healing and health properties. If you don’t know how to open it properly, it can explode.
The Greek myth of Persephone, who was lured into the underworld by Hades, has the beauty willingly eating six pomegranate seeds, banishing herself to six months per year underground. She appears again in the spring. Eve was less likely to have tempted Adam with an apple, than with a pomme-granade, a seeded apple. The pomegranate. I’m not sure what happened to Eve.
The best pomegranates in the world are grown in Kandahar. While much of Kandahar’s farms once and still do grow poppy, many are again planting pomegranate trees. Pomegranates are harvested in the fall, at their prime in October and November. Kandahar pomegranates have seeds of deep crimson, so ripe and full of juice that you can see the outlines of the seeds through the skin.
I wish I could feed you a Kandahar pomegranate, carefully cut off the top like a pumpkin, score the peel in sections, break it in half, and then in wedges. I would bend back the peel of the wedges and tap them gently so the seeds fall into a bowl for you. You eat them with a spoon and maybe with a little salt, if you like. That’s what fall tastes like in Kandahar.