Friday, May 14, 2010

Sufi dergah is the place to be?

Prentice and Alex Greetings from Sidney Center, New York, in the Catskill Mountains. I am spending roughly 24 hours at a Sufi dergah, which is a rural area where spiritual people chant, pray and raise animals, under the guidance of a sheikh. My friend Alex (pictured) lived here to varying degrees for several years. He currently resides in Fort Worth but is planning to move back to New York, his favorite city, this summer. He's here to visit me and his friend Prentice, also pictured above.

Alex maks naan. I bet I've heard the word dergah more than you have, because Alex spoke consistently about this places for the duration of our 2 1/2 year relationship. I imagined it as remote, which it certainly is, and rustic, which it certainly is. We spent yesterday morning making naan and lentils for the dozens of people with whom we dined last night, guys from all over the world. And I say guys because the women exist separately, so I haven't met any of them, although I imagine they, too, are from all over the world.

Spirituality is explored.After dinner, we retreated into a room infused with incense where there was a great deal of chanting, standing, kneeling and bowing. I sat in the back because I didn't know what was going on, and the repetition made me so drowsy I had to slink out to nap in my car. I figured that was more respectful than snoring. My car was parked on top of a muddy hill, and I was frequently awakened by the sound of howling winds and shrieking animals; the dergah has donkeys, horses, sheep, turkeys, ducks, goats, cows, and I'm sure more.

Later today we'll be off to New York City, and tomorrow I'll be checking out my summertime residence in Queens.

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