Daily time, elements and components

Sinem Dişli
About More

She did not know that the crow eggs were blue and speckled. For days she has been trying to observe the crow's nest hidden by ivy climbing the sky tree that had been trimmed without permission. A branch grew quickly, a gap appeared between the leaves, and a nest appeared. 

Suddenly she smelled onion bread. How did she know onion bread? How could she recognize that smell? She remembered the morning she had biked to this oldest Jewish bakery in New York. She had bought onion bread (bialy), poppy seed cake, and bagels, among various pastries. How had she forgotten that day and buried it in the depths of her memory? How could the smell suddenly conjure up that memory? Could she bake this bread herself? She'd need yeast for that. But there was a curfew, and everywhere was closed.

She thought of daily life as it had been lived centuries ago. How did people handle their desires? How much patience did they have to exercise to get their requirements fulfilled, how much time did they spend on what? Nowadays she could order bread whenever she wanted and get it immediately. But today she would have to wait until tomorrow for it. Who knew what kind of wishes would pop in and out of her head by tomorrow? While she was trying to get one, she wondered how the other would come about. Perhaps one would suppress the other, and it too would fade into a pattern of desires. While she waited for something to materialize, the effort that embraced this thing was like a state of worship. It was reminiscent of the length of various physical and mental shifts undertaken to keep the expectation alive within. 

A sweet yeast bread came to her mind that she had wanted to make for a while. The other day she had bought Mahaleb for it, but later she had decided not to try it without eating the food in the house. She had planned to make the bread in the hyacinth season, but the time has come almost at the end of the month. How would the taste of the bread be preserved after all this waiting? 

The crow flew back and sat on her eggs. How many kinds of birds were here? She listened for the voice of a dove. She thought of the nonette, the passing storks, the doves, the sparrows, and the gulls she had seen several times on the other days. She tried to learn the species of a smaller bird that she did not know. The bird was very small, and its plumage was greyish, brownish. It was probably a wren. The swallows, too, were also starting to come slowly, and last week even the Alexander parrots had suddenly flown over her head. She imagined that the Arabian jasmine she had bought months ago covered the whole balcony. Why hadn't it bloomed fully? Since she'd moved it from indoors to outdoors, it'd calmed down. It was as if it wasn't dying or growing. Perhaps it didn't like the soil. She wished it would grow quickly. She thought about how many things she could have missed in her life when the jasmine really did cover the whole balcony one day; she wondered how many things would have changed or remained still in her life when the days of days came. She would be a little closer to death. 

As sunset approached, she caught herself in one of the hundreds of indecisions she had experienced during the day. Should she have a beer and enjoy the sunset, or should she start cooking now? Perhaps it was best to do exercises she had neglected for days. She could do them for half an hour. She knew she would feel better if she did them, but then dinner would be late. Then she would suffer from digesting the meal, and she wouldn't be able to do anything else. Perhaps she could eat a piece of quince for the moment. Where did quince come from in April, she thought. It is better to soak the mung beans within a week; they would sprout in time. She would crumble the leftover pieces of bread on the edge of the window and then start reading.

She wiped the drinking water bottle that had just arrived with warm water mixed with yellow soap. She wondered how yellow soap was made and why it is called yellow soap. She did some research and looked into it. It had first appeared in Babylon. It was made from olive oil mixed with potassium hydroxide instead of the alkaline material used today. She could not imagine the soap apart from the smell of woolen rugs she had washed in her childhood. She used the leftover water in the bucket to mop the corner at the entrance where she kept grocery bags. At that time, she saw the worm compost bottle under the coffee table in the corner and decided to water the lemon tree before sitting down. She mixed the compost into the water pitcher she was currently using as a vase. She took the mimosas, which had dried up months ago, out of the vase and finished the mixture. She noticed small red insects on the leaves. Did the plant have a disease? Was it getting enough wind and sunlight? Should it be moved outside? She planted saffron bulbs, garlic, and strawberries at its roots. These would give the tree strength; they were all pacifist plants. She took the healing insect repellent mixture from the oil of the chinaberry tree and began spraying it on the leaves. How many creatures had she killed so far? At this point, she spilt some on the ground. She decided to take a rag and wiped it up. There was still some compost left at the bottom of the pitcher. This she could use these by giving them to the seeds she had sprouted. As she did so, she noticed that some of the seeds in the egg cartons were still not coming into the leaf. Did they need more light? But what if the others planted in the same row didn't need it? I'll have to check, she thought. 

With the shopping done at once, she planned the season of ingredients she would buy accordingly. Each grain, plant, and fruit had its own temporality. These temporalities had to come together in order for them to combine in a certain state.

A day or two passed. She continued to read. Now she was thinking that she should boil the raw milk she had bought as soon as possible. She was already quite late in doing this. She was planning to make a dessert with roses. She remembered the liquid distilled from the roses grown in Isparta that she had received as a gift. She found the bottle. She put the Oblomov down and went to the kitchen. Would the milk have gone bad already? If she added the ingredients for dessert without checking to see if the milk had gone bad, she might have to throw it all away. However, if she boiled the milk first, she could make cheese from it, even if it was spoiled. 

Was there such a thing as spoilage, then? Everything that was spoiled, in fact, turned into something else. The thing that sustains life. Maybe not our life, but that which sustains the wholeness of life. That life coming from the release of the spoilage acid in the milk itself.

She decided to boil the milk. In the middle of the night, the whole kitchen was steaming, and a sleepy smell began to spread. As the temperature rose, the milk turned sour. Yes, it was no longer possible to make the dessert she had dreamed of for days. She filtered the milk, separated the particles, and salted it. The cottage cheese was ready. The liquid that ran through the filter, on the other hand, would meet the plants' calcium needs. She had no energy left to go back and read her book. So, bit by bit, the day was over.

Her anxiety gradually diminished with the time she spent at home these days. The guilt, however, was still there. She was constantly thinking of the things she still wanted to do, and the day was over before she could start even one of them. She looked at the bouquet of wild roses, daisies, geraniums, spartiums, and leadweed she had gathered in Rumeli Kavağı the day before. It was mid-May, and the baby crows had not yet hatched. Perhaps they had fallen from the tree, perhaps they could not be seen among the branches of the greening tree. Yes, the green that could be seen from the back balcony overlooking the Marmara Sea was deepening layer by layer. The magnolia tree, even the Arabian jasmine on the balcony was blooming. There was also a small walnut tree. She noticed that she could even see the tops of the cedar trees that rose between the distant parallel streets. She remembered visiting this place once and touching the body of a very tall cypress tree. A poisonous ivy had grown on the trees of almond, ash, sweetgum and daphne. She imagined how the forest rising from the seashore had once consisted of all species intertwined.

As the weather got warmer, people began to take to the streets. The man in the building on the right had probably gone to the barber's, and the son of the old lady a few floors below him had come to visit her mother. The son dialled a number and put the phone on speaker. His mother began to answer his friend Vasily's questions about the ceremony from the loudspeaker. She saw that the lady was researching some notebooks after dinner. She has wondered for a long time what they were kept about. Perhaps the old lady was a religious official. She always sat in the corner in front of the big window. In the afternoon the lady's helper cut her nails. She put a cake-shaped ring that looked like a Ferris wheel on the table. She would love to bake a cake like that, but she had to put that wish aside for now. There were so many things she still wanted to do! Her appetite was growing by the day. Having a magnificent dinner after reading pages of a book with relief. Enjoying the golden hours on the balcony in the evening, calling her mother whom she had not spoken to for days, replying to the incoming mails, making a little dummy book, studying history and perhaps starting piano lessons; putting aside the financial difficulties, hassles and worries that the pandemic will bring; making notes on the needs of the house they want to go to in summer, taking off the winter clothes and bringing back the summer clothes; researching how to take care of the Karabaş plant. She had a great desire to do all these things, but she could not do any of them completely. 

She learned that Karabaş was a great-used plant that was enacted to fight the cholera pandemic in the Ottoman Empire era. It was also known as French lavender. A few days ago, she had made a dessert from it. Lemon, black mulberry and rosemary came together for this recipe. How had all this been possible a few centuries ago? She remembered the 18th-century paintings she had seen. She imagined a kitchen where there was no refrigerator or water. How much dynamics had to be processed to make all those ingredients come together... Milk had to be bought from a farmer, boiled, refrigerated. Was it even possible to get that tiny amount of milk in that amount of time? All the processes that needed to be done with that amount of milk had to be organised at the same time. Yeast had to be made or bought from the brewers for the baked goods. She imagined the plates, the porcelains, the pots, all the tools and the weight of the materials from which these tools were made. She thought of the labour force put into carrying the water that was brought to and from the kitchen to wash the dishes. She imagined all the vegetables, meats, and cheeses hanging from the ceiling so they could be dried or not spoil, and the candlelight that illuminated them. 

Wood had to be used to build a fire. How did it come about, and how many people made it possible to cook all these varieties for a common dinner? The efforts to build the fire, to control it, to balance its density, and to turn it into embers to get the heat needed, must have been ceaselessly matched with the efforts made to match them with the cooking time of the ingredients. 

Wood came and ashes went beneath the smoke that blanketed the entire kitchen; meals were probably not tasted without the smoky smell she craved now. She thought of the service and the cost of the system to keep the stove at the desired temperature for as long as was needed, even in these pandemic days. These were all questions she asked herself over and over again during these days when she locked herself in the house.

How the daily time was shaped by the constant change and transformation of elements and components. Until recent times, everything functioned with reliance on the seasonal harvests that followed one another and the way we interacted with them. How revealing was the persistence of waiting for the unique time of each creation! At this time, people should feel more empathy with their surroundings. Perhaps she could wait for the time of the present, keeping pace with the immanent rhythm of being there, rather than chasing momentary pleasures. She could find her own inner time, her own routine. 

Now she felt there was another way to deal with all these blocks, instead of adopting an outer discipline and giving in to her fears. However, in order to feel that way, environmental factors were also needed to change that way. This meant that one could not be so independent of the outside world. It was as if she realised she had to rediscover and reinvent the methods of this path. She seemed to have found the resistance to fueling and balancing the fire within herself by timing each of her desires with the energy emanating from it.

She remembered the smell of eaten orange peel rising from the bin where she stood to sharpen her pencil in class. In the midst of all these controls, efficiency devices, and disciplinary punishments, the activity of pencil sharpening was like a free moment to stand up without permission. Pencil sharpening was like trying to drill a hole in the middle of the block.