Saturday, April 23, 2011

Signs of Spring?

Not our first daffodil of the season, but the one with the best angle.

I took this picture last week. That unopened green tulip in the foreground is getting ready to bloom now. It has pointy yellow petals with red veins.

Still, I'm not convinced it's almost May. Worst spring ever, since I've been here. I've heard something is amiss with the cemre. I've often wondered what cemre are, but no one is very clear on this. It appears that the cemre are something that fall, and they seem to heat various natural elements in a certain order, but everyone tells you different elements and different orders. If you ask what falls, the answer is "Well, the cemre." So.

Wikipedia is mildly helpful (from the entry "Turkish Folklore"):

End of Winter Cemre

Cemre are three fireballs that come from the heavens to warm earth at the end of each winter. Each cemre warms one aspect of the nature. The first cemre falls to air between February 19-20. The second cemre falls to water between February 26-27. The third cemre falls to ground between 5-6 March.

You see? Wikipedia is helpful because it mentions fireballs. Which means that the thing of cemre is so convoluted that introducing fireballs appears to clarify the issue.

I think the problem is one of language rather than knowledge. I can't get it in Turkish, and most people find it hard to explain in English. It's one of those things people seem to understand so intuitively they can't really give specific reasons, like when I try to explain reduced adjective clauses. It is because it is, and a good explanation is elusive at best. I'm okay with that, especially because I'm not a farmer or some poor kid trying to do the stupid TOEFL.

The real problem this year is that the cemre appear to have fallen out of order, or not warmly enough, or something. I tried really hard to relate to the minimal stuff I already know about How Stuff Works In The World, and the only cemre that makes sense to me is the ground one, maybe in relation to the air one, but the fact that cemre have specific dates on a particular calendar is terribly confusing.

In any case, it's freaking cold and shitty most days this spring and everything is happening late, nature-wise, though things are picking up speed.

In the end, I might be willing to believe the cemre thing because something around here has gone seriously awry.


Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

I think the problem is one of language rather than knowledge. I can't get it in Turkish, and most people find it hard to explain in English.

Nope. AFAIR, it is one of those things nobody really knows but are perfectly at peace with not knowing. Old style calendars (eg Saatli Maarif Takvimi is like the Old Farmers' Almanac in that regard) and old folks say these things as if they were explanations and everybody plays along. It hadn't occurred to me to look up the etymology of 'cemre' up till a few seconds ago for example.

I once looked up a word (kaybana AKA gaybana) that was used in my family and found the the explanation of the non-existance of the explanation to be good. Perhaps, 'cemre' should be treated like that. Just say it with confidence when the occasion arises and at the appropriate times of the year and you'll be fine.

Stranger said...

Yay! I thought I'd lost you, Bülent.

If it's a matter of tolerating ambiguity, I'm fine with that.

I'd never heard anything about a fireball until I looked it up on Wikipedia. I thought the cemre was something intrinsic to the earth, and in the water and air therein. People talk about the cemre falling, and you say "What is cemre?" and they say "Cemre işte, cemre duşuyor yaa..."

So I figured it had to do with the ground settling, and it was something farmers knew about but not city folk. I was thinking that if a field had been tilled in late fall/early winter and kind of froze that way, then in the spring thaw (and perhaps coming with the lowering of that certain type of spring fog/mist that hangs on the ground in the morning, which could encompass the water and air) the ground kind of settles and starts looking ready for the spring till. Or something like that.

But I kind of like your way better. Maybe if I talk about it enough, I'll get it without realizing it.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

I shut up for that long? Anyway, good to be back then.

I don't use cemre anymore. In fact I hadn't even heard mention of it aroudn me in years. Yes, the way it was around my grandma was basically you'd eyeball the date look at the weather and opine that one of the cemre that did fall or failed to do so for some unknown reason. They do that, you know. OTOH, you are in an Alevi family and perhaps it has more significance among them and comes with more elaborate stories. (You do know that up till very recently they kept to themselves and didn't tell others about many of their ways and traditions, right? For example many things that I thought were ordinary turkus or even kid's limericks, turn out to be nefes-based and have deeper religious significance. This country and the people here aren't all that transparent even to the natives.)

Stranger said...

Whenever BE's family does something that seems traditional (when I'm wearing my Margaret Mead hat, anyway), I'm never sure if it's a Turkish thing, a Muslim thing, an Alevi thing, or a Sivas thing.

A couple of weekends ago, the MIL met my new cleaner, who's also from Sivas (though not Alevi). MIL tried her best to be critical (of the cleaner's work, of me for choosing the cleaner), but within minutes they'd established where they were from in Sivas and that the cleaner's village was where the tomato carts to MIL's village had come from. Then they sighed over the goodness of those tomatoes, and in the next breath were laughing over some Sivas inside jokes.

I'm pretty sure they both know all about the cemre.

You're right though, that it's interesting what people choose to give away to outsiders, and how they choose to give it.