Madrasah al-Kamaliyya

My in-laws are from a small isolated village mostly preoccupied with growing coconuts. It has only between 50-60 homes, two small stores selling basic necessities like sugar, rice and fermented shrimp paste, a primary school …and three mosques. One of them is Madrasah al-Kamaliyya, a surau lying about 150 meters from my mother-in-law’s house. Madrasah […]

Mawlid ar-Rasul: Surau Darul Rahman

Prophet Muhammad’s birth was commemorated last wednesday night throughout the muslim world. The tiny corner of it that I inhabit was no exception. Surau Darul Rahman held an evening of learning and celebration. I feel extremely fortunate to live two blocks from our neighborhood surau.        A surau is a prayer hall just like a […]

Don’t Be Fooled by the Rocks That I Got

Last I wrote, my brick and mortar wall was winding its wobbly way to completion. I finished that and proceeded to backfill it with topsoil. Now the only one who can see its flaws are my neighbor. That’s the irony of landscape work: most of the work you do lies buried, the good and the […]

The Yard: Cekur Udang Gamit

Great, so that makes about as much sense as nursery rhymes can be expected to make. But what on earth is cekur, you ask? Maybe you’re not all that sure what turmeric is either, for that matter.<

Open-Air Museum

By Adrienne Rich Ailanthus, goldenrod, scrapiron, what makes you flower? What burns in the dump today? Thick flames in a grey field, tended By two men: one derelict ghost, One clearly apter at nursing destruction, Two priests in a grey field, tending the flames Of stripped-off rockwool, split Mattresses, a caved-in chickenhouse, Mad Loy’s last […]

Henry James and Ailanthus

Ailanthus must have been widely planted by New York City in the 19th century. The great American author Henry James mentions Ailanthus in his description of Washington Square in the book of the same name (1880), excerpted by PBS. The ideal of quiet and of genteel retirement, in 1835, was found in Washington Square, where […]