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Dew Point

This blog is dedicated to sharing my every-day discoveries of how the light and beauty of Islamic spirituality can be part of a modern, well-rounded way of life.

Month

July 2011

The wealth of charity

(A version of this article was carried by the Huffington Post

Ramadan starts next week, which means it is time for me to cleanse my pocketbook. No, I’m not planning to embark on any shopping sprees during the Islamic month of fasting. But I do intend to spend a lot more money than I would in other months of the year.

At one point every year, Muslims are obliged to purify their wealth by calculating 2.5% of their assets – including money in bank accounts, shares, investments, pensions, gold, etc – and giving it to those less fortunate.

This is known as zakat, often loosely translated from Arabic as ‘charity’, which should go toward helping orphans and the poor, as well as assisting people in debt, suffering from illness or facing numerous other financial struggles. Zakat, one of the pillars of being Muslim, represents the minimum amount of charity that each individual is obliged to give as a virtuous human being who considers the welfare of others. In this sense, everyone is in a position to pay forward a standard amount of their wealth and everyone is credited for doing so whether affluent or not.

Like many Muslims, I determine my zakat at beginning of the month of Ramadan, and strive to pay it before the month ends. Ramadan is a great time to cleanse our wealth since we are already focused on purifying our bodies and thoughts. When reading the Quran, the significance of zakat appears to be equal to prayer as an expression of faith. The two are often mentioned simultaneously in the symmetrical rhythm of the Holy Book’s verses.

“It is righteousness to believe in God, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, and the Prophets; to give of your substance, out of love for Him, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveller, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity…” Quran 2:177

In the past, if I offered a couple hundred dollars each year to charities I felt I was doing enough as a young, middle-class professional, with a number of financial commitments of my own. I did not follow any formula, and when I started to properly calculate zakat, I realised that I tended to give much less than I should.

The 2.5% minimum is a small enough sum not to place a major dent in your savings, but large enough to make a difference. For every $10,000 of your assets, for instance, you should filter out $250 each year to purify this wealth and give it to those in need.

So, if you have $50,000 in savings, the zakat you owe is $1,250, and if you have $100,000 you should pay no less than $2,500, and so on. The more wealth you acquire, the greater your responsibility becomes. Someone with $100 million must pay $2.5 million of it every year to charity.

There are rules in giving zakat. For instance, it is important to give priority to relatives and members of your community in need, which is why I will focus on giving my zakat in Egypt.

To understand the concept of zakat properly, you first must abandon the idea that the money in your bank account belongs to you. All of our money and possessions are temporary and in a sense function as tools of our worldly existence. Each of these tools belongs to God and He has entrusted us with these resources in order to examine how we will distribute, divide and share them. Once I embraced this concept, I understood why paying zakat is so crucial. It is God’s way of ensuring the adequate re-distribution of the wealth He has placed in our possession. It has the ability to balance disparities between people and possessions; as every single person has equal access to God in all moments, there should be no barrier preventing individual assets that belong to God from flowing between people.

I suppose it is something like the process of diffusion, which describes the spread of particles from regions of higher concentration to regions of lower concentration; zakat is a process that should become natural for a Muslim in order to promote a greater equilibrium in the world through a just distribution of wealth.

I like to think of humans as God’s agents or ambassadors on earth. We are here to make choices that represent Him and one of our foremost duties is to be very sure that the tools He bestows are continually distributed as blessings for others. So even if we have only a little savings, it is our duty to contribute our share to the grand formula.

Disparities in wealth distribution occur when too many of us take full ownership of our assets, sometimes taking on unsustainable debts in order to gratify our desires, which can skew the balance out of favour for those less fortunate.

Realising that the money in my possession belongs to God has helped me spend it more wisely and give more generously. It also has the power to change your motivation for earning money. As you become more successful and wealthy, you become an agent with a wider reach to re-distribute.

Other than zakat, which is obligatory, people can also offer voluntary alms known as sadaqah. Virtually every month of the past year I’ve been motivated to give sadaqah to help families struggling in Egypt, Yemen and Libya due to political instability, people devastated by a tsunami in Japan or the heart-breaking famine in Somalia.

Living in Dubai, I often come across young men separated from their families in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan or India who are struggling on very small wages to provide for families that, in many cases, they haven’t seen in years. If you stop and listen to their stories, you find many reasons to give generously.

Embracing Islam, which describes a state of mind in which a person lives in submission to God, has turned on my sensors and me made more aware of my duties toward my community. Being charitable has also shown me that the proverb ‘the more you give the more you get’ is absolutely true.

In the past year, I have given far more charity toward various causes than I did at any point in my life and yet it has not reduced my wealth in the least. When I sat down to calculate my zakat this week I was surprised to discover the amount I owe has nearly doubled compared with last year.

It is hard to describe how, but giving generously and with the right intention in no way diminishes your wealth. Somehow the wealth finds its way back to you in material and spiritual ways. Your money has greater baraka in it. The Arabic word meaning ‘blessing’, baraka implies that your money goes further; you sense that you waste less and save more.

In essence your assets are replenished through generosity. So even though the act of giving seems like a loss of something, the profits somehow find a way back to generous hands.

The parable of those who spend
of their substance in the way of Allah
is that of a grain of corn:
It grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains.
Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases;
And Allah cares for all and He knows all things. (Qur’an 2:261)

I’ve learned how much power I have as an individual to make a difference in my life by establishing a direct relationship with God and being in tune with my community’s needs.

On several occasions, I have read that when we are handing someone charity, it first passes through the Hand of God before it reaches the recipient’s hand. I always imagine that when I give, it helps me do it with greater humility. Holding wealth truly is an immense blessing that comes with great responsibility and untold reward when we pass it along.

“By no means shall you attain righteousness, unless you give of that which you love.” (Quran 3:92)

You can calculate your zakat using this calculator.

Blueberries, cherries and lots of muffins

 
Berry selection at a farmer’s market in Richmond, British Columbia

I went blueberry picking this week with my mom for the first time in years. There are numerous berry farms about a ten-minute drive from our house in Richmond, British Columbia. When I was in high school, we were leasing a house not far from where we live now that had three large blueberry bushes in the backyard. I used to spend hours in the summer months collecting the blueberries once they had ripened. We would freeze bags of them in our large deep freezer and pull them out throughout the year to bake muffins and cakes. I also love eating blueberries on their own, either fresh or frozen.

 
Me picking blueberries

The rain and cloudy weather this year has delayed the peak of blueberry season, which usually happens in July. This year, blueberry-picking season is likely to peak in early August, according to the owner of the farm we visited. Nonetheless, we were able to collect about one and a half kilograms of big, plump, sweet berries. How better to enjoy fresh blueberries than in big blueberry muffins? I share a great recipe below.

While we’re on the subject of delicious muffins, I also have to share a fabulous cherry bran muffin recipe that I tried last week after a neighbour gave us a basket full of fresh dark red cherries picked from a tree in his back yard. I replaced raisins with cherries in a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com. The muffins are incredibly soft and moist, and so healthy and delicious. Really great for breakfast.

Enjoy these great summer-time treats!

FRESH BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla powder or vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries

Optional topping

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2  teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 200 degrees C. Line muffin tin with muffin liners.

COMBINE flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

BEAT butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Combine eggs and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Add egg mixture to butter and sugar and beat until smooth. Add flour mixture to the large bowl and mix well. Add milk and combine until smooth. Fold in blueberries.

To make crumb topping, mix sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon until well-combined.

FILL muffin cups. Sprinkle the mixture over the muffins. For larger muffins, fill the tins to the brim.

Bake for about 20 minutes in oven until done.

———————————————————–

MOIST CHERRY BRAN MUFFINS

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups wheat bran
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup diced cherries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
  2. Mix together wheat bran and buttermilk; let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Beat together oil, egg, sugar and vanilla and add to buttermilk/bran mixture. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into buttermilk mixture, until just blended. Fold in cherries and spoon batter into prepared muffin tins.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Walking amid wildflowers

This past week, I’ve been absorbing the beauty of nature around me in British Columbia. Sometimes spending time away from home helps you appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. I’ve been away for two years.

During my walks and while cycling, I have been astounded by the number of varieities of wild flowers that bloom in parks, along the river banks and in the grassy fields. Below is a photo gallery of some of these flowers, which I will build on in the coming weeks.

Finding spirit in a school field

Just steps away from the front door of our house in Richmond, British Columbia there is a giant grass field surrounded by trees that have grown tall and dense over the decades. The field is situated between an elementary and high school and is used extensively by students playing soccer or the American variety of football.

When it is not raining outside, residents of the neighbourhood walk their dogs along the pathway encircling the field, which on one side extends toward the Fraser River.

The other day I decided to go for a brisk walk around the field to get a bit of exercise.
It had been raining all morning, but by late afternoon the rain had stopped and while clusters of clouds continued to dominate the sky, patches of blue sky and sunshine began to appear. The air was as crisp and cool as I imagine it should be on a perfect spring day, although it is July. A rainy day is never far away in Vancouver. Only a day earlier the sun was beaming hot and not a cloud could be seen in the sky.

It was perfect weather to be outdoors, especially so for me. I spend most of the year in a desert climate in the United Arab Emirates, so it is always a treat to soak in the fresh breeze, rich colours and lushness of nature when I am visiting my hometown.

As I began my quiet walk along the paved pathway, I quickly increased momentum, tightening my leg muscles and swinging my arms back and forth in sequence. I paced my breath, inhaling and exhaling evenly as my attention focused on the leaves of the trees swaying slightly in the breeze.

While my body moved rhythmically, I expected my mind to wander in a dozen different directions, as often happens when I go for a walk alone. Thoughts of work, responsibilities, family issues, relationships and other troubles flood my mind in no particular order and often simultaneously. Generally when I exercise I enjoy listening to music in order to stay focused, but on this occasion I did not have my Ipod with me.

But for some reason my mind did not wander. Instead, as I watched the clouds peaking through the leaves and absorbed the colours and sounds of nature around me, I found myself starting to pray.

I hadn’t planned on praying, it just happened suddenly and naturally. Under my breath, I began reciting some verses of the Holy Quran that I have memorised, some shorter, some longer. Reading from the Quran in Arabic is melodic; each verse has a perfect, poetic rhythm to it that is sometimes lost in translation. As I circled around the field, my body and thoughts moved to steady beat, leaving me feeling light and at ease.

In the Quran, God makes numerous references to how nature is in perfect balance and all the world’s vegetation and animal life – apart from humans – are constantly obedient to Him. Nature operates exactly as the Almighty ordains, the birds glide through the sky and make their homes in trees, which sway in the wind in perfect rhythm. The clouds move apart and together, the rain falls and stops, the sun rises and sets according to a divine order.

Humans, on the other hand, often lose their connection with Allah, the Arabic word for God, and fail to grasp His presence in every corner of every neighbourhood in the world. One who is spiritually Muslim, who has surrendered her/his self to God, experiences glimpses of the Divine in everything.
“Do you not realise that everything in the heavens and earth prostrates to Allah (God): the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, and the animals? So do many human beings.”

(Quran, The Pilgrimage, 22:18)

I suppose in some small way as I walked, prayed and paid attention to the trees, grass, sky, clouds, birds, bunny rabbits, raccoons, bugs and occasional dragon fly and butterfly, my motions became part of the rhythm of nature that would have been drowned out if I had a song blasting in my ear. I felt peace of mind and had a dumb smile on my face that must have puzzled the occasional person jogging past me or walking a dog.

About 30 minutes into my walk, I recalled the last time I had felt that same sense of focus of mind and unexpected closeness with God. It was two months ago, when I was on the other side of the world – literally – visiting the Enlightened City, Madinah, in Saudi Arabia. Madinah is the site of the mosque and burial spot of the Last Prophet, Muhammad .

I had written then about my visit to Madinah. Praying in the Prophet’s Mosque is akin to meditating for me because I was able to clear my thoughts of everything and concentrate my energies on worshipping God. One feels the love of God all around in Madinah, where millions of Muslims visit each year to pray in this blessed city.

On the surface, Madinah and the school field outside my house in Richmond have nothing in common. Madinah is in the middle of the desert; everywhere you turn is a shade of beige or brown. But Madinah literally means the Radiant or Enlightened City in Arabic because of its crucial role in the enabling God to share His guidelines to human beings through Prophet Muhammad , the last in a long line of prophets. The Divine presence in Madinah is, not surprisingly, intense.

Where I am walking now is about as far as you can get in distance and time zones from Madinah. There patches of lush green grass and areas where the sun has caused it to yellow or brown. The grass is full of dandelions, weeds and clovers, most with three leaves. On the trees, the leaves vary from dark green to light green to reddish-purple. The sky is a deep light blue and the clouds are as white as milk. There are no holy sites nearby me here in the Lower Mainland, no calls to prayer can be heard nor mosques found within walking distance.

But walking in the field near my house, close to the school where I once studied, I also felt His immense power and proximity in the exquisite nature around me.

That for me is the beauty of submission to God (Islam). We have the intellectual capacity as humans to feel and react to God’s presence and see and interpret His miracles anywhere. If we are willing to pay attention to the language of our surroundings we can become more receptive to His quiet answers wherever we are.

Is He not best who made the earth a stable ground and placed within it rivers and made for it firmly set mountains and placed between the two seas (sweet and salty) a barrier? Can there be another god besides God?
No, but most of them do not know.
(Quran, The Ant, 27:61)

Fasting to feed the soul

Since Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, ended last year in September, I’ve tried to fast at least one time a week on Mondays or Thursdays. On these days, I will refrain from eating or drinking from the crack of dawn until sunset. In addition to performing regular prayers, I strive to be extra attentive of my emotions and how I react to annoyances that arise at work, in my personal life, or even while driving or shopping.

I get asked on occasion why I fast frequently outside the month of Ramadan. I usually hesitate to answer honestly to avoid sounding like an eccentric weirdo.

If I said in all honesty that I fast because it feeds my soul, a non-spiritual person is likely to be slightly discomfited, especially if I mention that my guardian angels present my good and bad deeds to God on Mondays and Thursdays so it is auspicious to fast on these days. This reasoning is particularly fazing and people are sometimes restrained in their reply, as if I am someone who still believes in Santa Claus or a childhood fantasy, and they don’t want to tell me it isn’t real.

Believing in angels and performing acts of worship for God are often perceived to be at odds with modern society rather than nurturing its balance. We are constantly persuaded to enjoy and live life through the value of ‘things’. By consuming, earning, buying, selling, indulging, owning and exchanging things we are pursuing a full life.  The concept of being rational and being spiritual are seen to be contradictory.

For me, it has only been since turning on my spiritual intuition in the past two years that I have been able to see life clearly and live a more balanced, fulfilled existence. Regular fasting, like regular prayer, has been crucial in helping me achieve equilibrium in my life.

When you’re full of food and drink, Satan sits
where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue
in place of the Kaaba
When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
-Jalaluddin Rumi

While Ramadan is a time when all Muslims will refrain from food and drink for a month, we have the freedom individually to make fasting part of our spiritual routine throughout the year.

Fasting is about discipline and worship. It is something we can do exclusively for God as a symbol of gratitude and appreciation. It requires the development of patience, self-restraint and self-discipline. Like any art or skill, it is about practicing and refining an ability to do something well. Along with prayer, charity and good deeds, fasting allows us to feed and nourish our souls any time of the year.

“Deeds of people are presented (to God) on Mondays and Thursdays. So I like that my actions be presented while I am fasting,” the last Prophet, Muhammad ﷺ, is cited as having said.

I decided to try it out following Ramadan last year. After a number of weeks of fasting once or twice a week, it became part of my routine, like eating, exercise, socialising. My father passed away on the second day of Ramadan last August (God rest his soul/الله يرحمه), so I fast also with the hopes of benefitting his soul. I will often dedicate my fasts to him.

If a week passes and I have not fasted, I sense something essential is missing in my life. I’ve been able to fit worship into my routine; I keep a prayer outfit in my office, and plan business lunches around my fasting schedule.

When I became more conscious of my intrinsic connection with God, particularly after reading the Quran for the first time a little over a year ago, I found myself quite naturally wanting to do more to nurture my personal relationship with Him. I did not want to limit myself to remembering God only on Fridays, or being conscious of Him only during Ramadan. So I consistently began praying five times a day and fasting regularly. Each day we receive so many gifts and blessings from God, whether significant or subtle, so it is important also to give back that energy by devoting time each day to remembrance.

Ramadan begins in two weeks and I feel spiritually ready for it because I have kept my connection with God turned on every day of the past year. Ramadan is a rigorous spiritual exercise that means far more than refraining from food and drink, and gathering for meals with family and friends. That is the easy part for me. After a few days, most people are able to adjust to the fasting schedule quite well.

It is the other responsibilities that demand greater dedication. For instance, it is favourable to spend greater time in prayer, with many Muslims praying more than an hour longer than usual each day of Ramadan. Special and optional congregational prayers known as taraweeh take place each night of Ramadan and, over the month, the Quran is recited in its entirety.

We are also encouraged to read the Quran’s 114 chapters on our own during the month. Quran is an Arabic word meaning ‘The Recitation’, referring to the verses revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The Last Prophet was literally asked to recite the words of God to humanity as a verification for those who deny the existence of the one Almighty God and a promise of redemption for believers.

Quranic lessons on prayer, giving ample charity, doing kind and righteous deeds, being patient, modest and humble, and remembering and being thankful for His blessings offer a beautiful, as well as encyclopaedic guide to living.

The first of these verses was revealed during the month of Ramadan, which is why the month is so important for Muslims, those who have submitted themselves to God. I am looking particularly forward to this Ramadan because I have devoted so much individual time in the past year to fasting and prayer. Ramadan is a time to share the same spiritual experience with the community.

There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you’re full of food and drink, Satan sits
where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue
in place of the Kaaba. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon’s ring. Don’t give it
to some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you’ve lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
A table descends to your tents,
Jesus’ table.
Expect to see it, when you fast, this table
spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages

-Jalaluddin Rumi

Bread baked with love

Just a few days into my summer holiday, and my mom is baking bread for one of our neighbours whose family is visiting Denmark this week. She is always up well before 8 a.m. on these days because baking bread is a several-step process and each one demands time and patience.
Throughout my life, my mom always baked bread at home: traditional Egyptian white and brown pita bread, bagels, buns and rolls. She was born with a flair for baking; never picking up a cook book yet somehow instinctively knowing how much of each ingredient to use in cakes, cookies and pastries.
When she first moved to Canada from Egypt, mom was troubled to find that most of the bread sold in grocery stores and bakeries contained lard of pig fat, often used as shortening, which Muslims are forbidden from eating. Growing up in a majority Muslim country she never had to concern herself with the ingredients of basic food items like bread. But in Canada, many freshly baked and packaged breads and biscuits contained lard, which she had no intention of starting to consume.
So as a practicing Muslim, she decided to start baking bread at home.
This week, as she knelt over the big plastic mixing basin she has always used to firmly knead together flour, milk, salt and yeast, I asked her how she learned to bake bread. She responded intuitively in Arabic, ‘life taught me ya Daliah’.
My mom often gives that response when she is unable to pin down exactly how events transpired. In this case, it is completely true. She did not learn from any book or person how to bake bread, she just followed her instincts in the kitchen and reacted to the needs of her family. In addition to avoiding store-bought baked goods containing lard, baking at home helped her save a good deal of money as my father finished his university studies and struggled to start his career.
As a child, my mom would watch her mother prepare the dough for traditional Egyptian pita bread. Then she and her sisters would take the uncooked loaves to an open fire-powered oven in the neighbourhood for baking. I suppose watching her mom bake bread somehow sparked her talent, but my mom learned how to bake many varieties of bread all on her own. She often experimented with new varieties using milk instead of water, adding raisins, sesame seeds or spices.
My favourite bread is my mom’s classic brown pita bread made with white and whole wheat flour, which is especially irresistible when drizzled with butter as soon as it comes out of the oven. My mom bakes dozens of loaves at a time and freezes them so they can be consumed for many weeks.
I cannot imagine baking bread myself. The process is quite daunting and requires a great deal of elbow grease and patience. After vigorously kneading together flour, fresh yeast, salt and milk, mom covers the large heap of dough with several thick clothes to allow it to rise.
After about an hour, she takes hand-sized pieces of dough and rolls them into balls, setting them on the counter and covering them for an hour or so until they rise further.
Depending on the type of bread, she will roll out the dough into a flat circular shape if she is baking pita bread. Otherwise, she’ll mould each small mound of dough into rectangular buns or bagels. These are placed in oven pans and then covered again to allow them to rise once more before baking.
The scent of freshly baked bread is something that consistently reminds me of home, which is why waking up to find my mom diligently kneading dough this week was a delight because I haven’t been to our home in Canada for two years. When she visits me or my sisters she doesn’t bake bread; it is one of her routines only when she is in her kitchen.
This week she made her delicious white buns kneaded with milk to make them fluffy and rich. As soon as the first batch was ready, mom filled a basket with fresh rolls direct out of the oven and took them over to a neighbour’s home for his family visiting from Europe, along with a basket of fruit and a cake baked with fresh local strawberries.
My mom is one of those neighbours who would lend you her heart if you asked. She loves baking and sharing, happy to receive only a smile of gratitude in return.
These days, there are many varieties of bread available in grocery stores made from vegetable or beef shortening rather than lard. But mom has become accustomed to baking her own bread.
We don’t mind, her bread is distinctive and delicious. Luckily this week, after sharing bread with a few neighbours, there were plenty of buns left over for the two of us. Nice to be home.

Painting a moment of my history

Painting by Mandy Merzaban, Oil on Canvas, 2011
I received the greatest birthday present of my life last week. My younger sister re-created a moment of my childhood in a painting depicting me as a baby celebrating my first birthday with my mom and elder sister. The three of us are kneeling before the living room table of our apartment in a suburb of Toronto, Canada. My mom had covered the table with a selection of fruits and pastries placed carefully upon a table cloth, which she always did when we had guests over.
It is a painting rich in colour, detail and memory. For much of my childhood we had this bright, flower-print red couch with two matching side chairs bought when my parents first immigrated to Canada from Egypt in the late 1970s. My father was completing his Master’s degree in electrical engineering and my parents were living in a small apartment in Ontario, where they had their first two daughters.
The couch was my mom’s first furniture purchase after marriage and she recalls being very excited with it. As we moved from one city to another with my dad’s changes in employment, my sisters and I wore down that couch, which my parents gave away about 10 years the birthday party depicted here. But in this painting, it was still brand new, much like I was at the time.
It was wonderful to watch my younger sister recreate this moment on a canvas with oil paints, paying attention to many intricate details – my mom’s lovely features and thick auburn hair wrapped in a braided bun on the side of her head, the table cloth that appears in many photographs through the years and is still stored in a dining room cabinet.
Rather than being tucked away in a photo album that is rarely opened, this moment of family history will now be framed and hung in my own living room to become part of my present and future.

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