Monday, February 16, 2015

Damascena: The Tale of Roses and Rumi by Holly Lynn Payne - A Fascinating Tale of Love and Forgiveness... Added to Personal Favorites!

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد رومی‎), also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (جلال‌الدین محمد بلخى),Mawlānā (مولانا, "our master"), Mevlânâ, Mevlevî (مولوی Mawlawī, "my master"), and more popularly simply as Rūmī (1207 – 17 December 1273), was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi's influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions: Iranians, Tajiks, Turkish, Greeks, Pashtuns, other Central Asian Muslims, and the Muslims of South Asia have greatly appreciated his spiritual legacy for the past seven centuries. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages and transposed into various formats. Rumi has been described as the "most popular poet" and the "best selling poet" in the United States...--Wikipedia

Morning light poured through the rounded arched galleries of the caravanserai and across its open courtyard, where camels stood like golden statues tethered by long hemp ropes, their drivers against the walls, slumped and drooling, still asleep.
Be silent, he heard,
Spring is here.
The rose is dancing with its thorn
Beauties have come from the invisible
To call you home.
Rumi followed a group of small boys tending to the men just waking, delivering coffee in small white cups and tea in tulip glasses. The clanging of cups and small nickel saucers, teaspoons and sugar bowls, sounded like music. It was the first time in a decade that he had not come here seeking news of his beloved friend Shams. He missed the energy of the caravanserai and marveled at the distances these men had traveled, transporting sugar from Egypt, silk from Iraq, cinnamon and cumin from India. Stacks of silver candlesticks and chessboards carved from mother-of-pearl glinted in the early light.  A boy in a colorful wool cap carried a copper tray of fresh simet. He stared wide-eyes at Rumi and rushed toward him. "Fresh, fresh, Mevlana...  They stopped talking and parted when Rumi appeared. Grown men, like the boy, immediately prostrated themselves to the old man. Rumi gently tapped them on the shoulders, resisting the urge to sigh. He was not weary of their reverence; he only wished it were for God, not him. "Please stand," he said gesturing for them to get up off the floor. "You will ruin your knees on me."
There was only one man among them who did not get on his knees. A man, his face unshaven, dirt-smeared, stared transfixed at the girl wrapped in black wool. This head was shaved and he wore the threads of what appeared to be a monk's dark brown robe that had been cut and frayed.
Rumi recognized him as a Christian without the arrogance of a crusader. He was moved by the monk's connection to the girl, as if they had known each other for lifetimes and shared the same heart. The monk trembled when Rumi stepped toward him.
"Do you know her?" Rumi asked, looking down at the body in black wool.
The monk lifted his head to the old man. His mouth opened but no words came. Rumi looked into his mouth and saw that his tongue had been partially cut out...
Rumi met the mond with a gentle gaze.
"Did you travel with her?"
The monk nodded.
"Is she your sister?"
The monk looked wide-eyed, stricken.
"She is your Sister," Rumi concluded gently. Aren't we all spiritual siblings, he thought? "She is my Sister too," he said, and studied the girl, doubtful the monk had given her the cloak." The black wood cloak was not part of the order of any monastery, only the Sufi orders, which was why Rumi, of all people, had been called to help with her funeral...

The Tale of Roses and Rumi

By Holly Lynn Payne

This author presents to her readers a strange, mystical life drama surrounding the poet, Rumi. Many have heard of him and his teachings, but to read a beautiful story and enter into his life...and the young girl who is the main character... brings to us all the opportunity to learn and absorb the love that surrounded this blessed man...

The rose speaks of love silently, in a
language known only to the heart.

How Rumi meets the young girl is brought to us in the Prologue, and happened in Konya, Turkey, in 1270, but the girl had been born more than a decade before that. At first, I thought the story was going to be a fairy tale but it soon became apparent it was written so that the literary characters become much more real, as if this was a true story of a young girl, living at that time, albeit in a much more humble, difficult situation than the average... You see, her mother's mother had sent her daughter to a monastery to have and leave her child. She and her daughter were both indentured to the king and there was no use to try to get out of that role, except they could save the child...

Rila Mountains, Bulgaria 1256
The girl was born beneath the shadow of a dance on the sixth day of the sixth month in the year 1256. Hers was the first birth in the monastery and it riled the young friar, Ivan Balev, to have to clean up her mother's blood. He stood inside the chapel door with a mop and bucket, fingers stiff with the chill of dawn, and he could hear, between the woman's screams, the laughter hissed by the monks who had assigned him this duty.
He was eighteen and assumed they wanted to test him, to see if his massive body stiffened when he saw her breasts. He felt nothing more than astonishment and disgust--not at her body, but at what her body could endure. He had known no man, other than Jesus Christ himself, who had suffered more, and he wondered if giving birth was akin to a crucifixion. If it was, he wanted to know why there was only a son of God. He figured there ought to be a daughter of God, too, if she had to go through this...
Ivan Balev had no curative powers, no hands that could heal, no true way of knowing if he could ever bless anyone, and for this he felt like less of a man watching the woman struggle with her baby. He wanted to carry her out of the chapel and into a proper bed, but he could not move. Not because he was terrified of what he had just witnessed, but because the moment the baby entered the chapel, the smell of roses leaked from its walls. He pressed his nose against the door and smelled roses in the wood. He tested the sleeve of his robe, expecting the smell of dirt and sweat, but it, too, smelled like roses...

"Grow cuttings from the seeds and plant them
on the first full moon. If she wants to know
where I am, tell her I will always be in the roses."
There were many supernatural components to the birth that frightened Ivan, the priest who was assigned to care of Rasa.  As soon as the birth was completed, the mother, Rasa, pulled out a silk sack of rose hips, directing that her name was Damascena...from the rosa damascena...

Ivan accepted the rose hips, but never planted them as he was instructed! That was the first cruel decision he made...

Even though Ivan was upset with having to take care of the child, even praying that an angel would take the child, when her mother later came back to claim her, he would not let her take her! He also refused to pass on her letters to the girl and merely told her that she had been left at birth and her mother had run away...

And then the stork came...and would sit watching, as if making sure the little girl was being taken care of...Soon, she learned to call him, Bird...

"Bird," she cried, her tiny voice
struggling beneath her sobs...
Ivan grabbed her small chin and slapped
his hand over her mouth. The girl
shrank under his touch. "Bird," he hissed,
regretting the girl's first word and the
pure love with which she spoke of the
"The bird will not save you and neither
will these!"
Ivan refused to believe that the stork was any indication that the
Heavenly Father of All Beings heard Ivan Baley's plea. Ivan considered giving up. So what if he never told Damascena about the roses? So what if he told her that her mother was dead? The words sounded smooth in his mouth, about the creamiest of lies he'd ever tasted. No one would ever know. Or care...

And so she continued to live at the monastery serving Ivan and the other monks, working to
clean the monastery, with little to eat or give her happiness, except the stork--until she started becoming the beautiful woman she would become...
It was dark when Damascena opened her eyes. At first she saw the twinkling of stars through the canopy of trees arched over the trail. She could make out the sliver of moon and the silhouette of a stork that flew just then across the night sky.
"Bird," she called out, her voice strained, throat dry.
She pushed herself off the ground and sat up, feeling dizzy and disoriented in the darkness. She closed her eyes, feeling the familiar weight of a hand on her shoulder and froze, taking in the musky, sweet scent. When she opened her eyes, she saw the hooded man standing before her...
"Where are you taking me?"
"Home," he said. His voice was flat and direct, quite different from the lyrical whispers she had heard coming from another man.
"I have no home," she said, unwilling to explain anything to the stranger.
"Everyone has a home, child. I will help you find it."

The back cover alludes to the Sufi dance that Damascena learned, so I am not giving anything away to share more about that particular mystical experience she ultimately had...

Certainly, Damascena paved the way for women to join this beautiful and spiritual dance...

Payne takes the spirituality of God, the mysticism of Rumi and his blessed words, merges it with a fantasy that could only occur as part of the times in which Rumi lived...and, perhaps, Damascena may indeed have been there with the touch and smell of her roses which, by now had been turned into oil... Surely there was much pain and loss in the life Damascena led, but I can't help but conclude that it is a truly lovely story that I am honored to recommend highly to you.


Holly Lynn Payne is an internationally published novelist in ten countries whose work has been translated into eight languages. Her new novel, DAMASCENA: the tale of roses and Rumi, unravels the mystery surrounding a gifted orphaned girl who meets the great Persian poet and mystic Rumi in the 13th century and discovers the secret of the rose. Dutton/Plume published her first two novels, The Sound of Blue and The Virgin's Knot, her debut novel, selected as a Discover Great New Writers and Border's Original Voices book. Her third book, Kingdom of Simplicity was nominated for a national book award in Belgium and was named to the mandatory reading list in Ghent. It has also published in the Netherlands, Taiwan and soon China, and is the winner of a Marin Arts Council Grant, first place winner of a Benjamin Franklin Award 2010 and won Grand Prize for the Writers Digest Self-Published Book Awards 2011. Payne studied journalism at the University of Richmond, where she received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010. She earned a MFA from University of Southern California and has taught throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, serving on the faculty at the Academy of Art University, California College of the Arts and Stanford. She lives in Northern California with her young daughter, and serves the literary community as a writing coach, publishing strategist and volunteer producer for Litquake--the West Coast's largest week-long literary festival held each October in San Francisco. When she's not writing or coaching other writers, she enjoys getting dirty on a mountain bike. You can read more about her coaching and retreats here: or follow her on Twitter @skywritertribe.

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