Jumping over the fire

I was born Hıdırellez morning. The day before I was born my sister burned her long light curly brown hair and my brother burned his short white blond hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. I grew up by listening to this story from my mom. My sister and my brother were just kids, having great time, while I was coming into the world. It was just a funny story for me. It was part of a tradition, all the kids were doing it, at least in our neighborhood. Children were regardless of their ages, sometimes adults were jumping over a fire.

5th of May was a big celebration. Many Izmirian celebrated in the streets, making small fires, jumping over them, make wishes. Some would go to gardens, draw their wishes on a piece of paper, tied up to rose bushes. Some would make clay figures, ( mostly baby dolls – wishing a handsome husband, a cute baby ) represents their wishes, such as a house, a car, a baby so on, whatever they want to have in future, they would wish for it and prey about it. Some would take their wish papers , throw into Izmir bay. The would bring some of the paper back to the shore if the wind was blowing towards the land. You would see before the sunrise people walk by the sea, look at wish papers around. If theirs reached the shore or not. They would believe if they found their paper, their wish would come true. I must admit, I never cared for the making wish part. However I loved being out, jumping over the fire, having good time with other people. Izmir was a friendly city, you could go any street, join a conversation with neighbors or play with kids. This was about 30 years ago, now life styles changed quite a bit. People are much more reserved.

In these days people celebrated Hidirellez in the streets with joy dancing, singing, playing games, jump over the fires, listening music from local bands. Often municipality would bring local bands, give free concert all night. For me Hidirellez was nothing but happiness. I enjoyed being part of a big party. I thought everywhere in Turkey, it was celebrated that way. I did not know many other cities never celebrated Hidirellez, let alone jumping over the fire. How odd it was I thought. Why would they miss a chance to have great day and night, feel the spring, enjoy being outside? I was a true Izmirian, we do not miss any opportunity have fun, find an excuse to be in the streets. I thought other people would do the same, I guess I was wrong.

When I moved to US, I learned that in Portland Oregon, there was a celebration on May 5th. Cinco de Mayo celebration. So I was happy to go to Mexican restaurants, eat bean burritos, drink margaritas. I was glad to see cheerful May celebration. Until this year, I was not thinking so much of jumping over the fire. I guess deep in my heart somewhere I was longing for it, without even identifying much.
When Rob asked me what would I like to do for my birthday, I told him, “let’s go make a fire, jump over it! “
He blinked a couple times, looked at my face. In that look I could read his question: was I going totally nuts…
Maybe living in a rainy city too long ( 10 years, can you believe it? ) was effecting my thinking pattern dramatically.
“What fire?” he asked.
The funny thing about being married someone, or living together or knowing that person so close, easy to get confused. My past, is my past, not his! I was the one celebrated Hidirellez, not him, he had no clue about how much fun you could get by simply jumping over a fire.
So I told him, “you know it’s Hidirellez, we need to celebrate spring and my birthday”.

He repeated slowly “Hidirellez?”
Oh, that’s right, he does not know. But how come? Split of a second I am thinking, how can you not to know?
Wait a minute, he has never been in Turkey.
It was time to tell him the story of Hidirellez.

He liked to idea of making a fire. Although we had small issue. We live in downtown. I do not think they would like to see a small fire in the city. So we decided to go to desert Kah Nee Ta for a trip.
I believe anyone can create a new tradition. Why not making a fire one? It sounded entertaining.
We packed the car with the gears, telescope, ( we could observe stars in the desert much better ) cameras, lenses, my scale mode figures and other gadgets.

I was thinking Kah Nee Ta is about 300 days sunny, Portland was grey and rainy, it would be wonderful to feel sunshine on my skin.
From Portland to there is about 3 hours. As we got close to the desert grey clouds were scattered around. The wind was blowing. A couple of times, I got out of the car and took photos. It was cold. When we were passing by the hills, forest area right before entering the desert, I was looking at black trees. All burned trees, some cut off, some just lying around as dead black logs. Pretty sad looking. There I was thinking, maybe not a wise idea make a fire around half burned forest area!

I told Rob, maybe we should go to yellow or blue trail on the hill, make fire there. I should just stay away from the trees. On these trail mostly there are sage bushes and rocks around, I would not cause any problem I thought.

Next day, we climbed the trail. The wind was blowing quite harsh, even though I had a lot of layer, I was feeling cold a bit.
As we were climbing to the top, clouds turned into black. I knew it was going to rain pretty soon. I just could not think I could manage to make any fire there under that strong wind. I had to change plan. OK, if I could not make a small fire, what about a tiny one?

Jumping scene a big rock

I gave the matchstick to Rob, told him, we would be making pretend fire. He had no idea what was my plan.
I found a large rock. Collected a few small dried sage bushes. I made a tiny pile. I took my fireman figure out of my backpack, staged next to the fire. I told Rob to lit the matchstick, while I was taking close up photos.

Small fireman figure on the scene

He did. One of my photographer model figure is a girl. She could represent me. She could jump over the fire, so I could take picture of her. What a brillant idea it was.
I told Rob make her jump over the fire. The figure is so small. It’s 2.1 cm ( almost an inch ) , under the strong wind who knows where would it be fall? So Rob tried the hold it till last moment, my eyes were glued the view finder. While I was taking photos of the scene, I saw his finger, I was telling him, let it go , let it go, I could not take photo of it yet. He did. Well, almost he did, then I saw the huge fingers caught the model in a second. The wind was blowing the stage away. I could not see the model, then I saw in front of my view finder. Oh no! There is no half of her head! The flame burned the head of her.

Here is the fire and the accident occured

My poor model’s top had white stick only. I did not know these models can be burned that quickly. Here I was yelling in anger, “you burned her, you burned her”. Rob was apologizing not to catch the model on time, before burning.
I was very disappointed. Then it started to rain on us. I put back the small figures into my backpack. We head to down.
I was all grumpy. There was no sunshine, it was cold, the model’s head burned in the tiniest fire, now it was raining.
Was Murphy following me on the desert even?

My poor photographer girl lost the head!

On top of the hill, there were a few juniper trees, we sat down underneath one of them. Waiting to rain pass. Sam ( the American Indian waiter works at Juniper Room ) would still say “it’s all good”.

I was cold and shivering, going to sauna could be a good spring celebration, that would be a wonderful new tradition even I thought.

Hıdırellez (in Turkish: Hıdrellez or Hıdırellez) is celebrated as the day on which Prophets Hızır (Al-Khidr) and Ilyas (Elijah) met on the earth. Hıdırellez starts on May 5 night and falls on May 6 in the Gregorian calendar and April 23 in the Julian calendar. It is celebrated in Turkey and some other Turkic countries. It celebrates the arrival of spring.