March 4, 2009: Grist for the Mill

Yesterday at lunchtime, I bought the new U2 CD, No Line on the Horizon, and listened to it with my friend Larry in his office. He just listened while I read the liner notes, curious about the lyrics, and as I was reading, I noticed something.

“They misspelled minaret,” I said.

“They did?” Larry said.

“Yeah. Really badly.”

“What’s it say?”

“M-I-N-O-R-E-T-T-E.”

“It’s shorter right?” Larry said as I said, “It should be M-I-N-A-R-E-T.”

Which prompted us to tell our minaret stories. Larry occasionally talks about his soujourn in India — yesterday, he told me that the minarets at the Taj Mahal lean just a little bit away from the mausoleum, so that if there were ever an earthquake, the Taj Mahal wouldn’t be damaged by falling minarets.

I talked about the way minarets are part of my childhood. When I was a kid, I lived on a U.S. Air Force base in Turkey. The playground of my elementary school was bounded by a chain link fence; beyond the fence was a thick stand of trees, and rising from the trees was a minaret. Every day I would hear the call to prayer. I didn’t know what it meant, but I loved the sound.

Overall, my childhood was not a particularly happy one, but the years in Turkey were good ones. The music from the minaret is woven through those years, one of the threads in a fabric of happiness. So when I hear it on TV, I think of contentment and safety; the sound makes me happy again.

Because I am a writer, I will use this. I use everything — my own experience, information I gather from books and newspapers, emotion evoked by art, ideas sparked by stories I hear or read. Nothing is off-limits; everything, all my stories, is grist for the mill.

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