The following narrative is by Bita Mohammaddoust, a student in SmokeLong Quarterly’s creative writing workshop in cooperation with Roshan Learning Center in Jakarta Indonesia, an organisation who provides long-term educational solutions to refugees.
The sunset of a snowy day is always heart-rending, but also pleasant; the white branches of the firs, the white dress benches wear—all these make an artistic picture of nature in my eyes.
The sky now has not one colour, but many; blue, orange, yellow, red, purple. The sun’s warmth is not enough to melt the snow sitting everywhere. It is saying goodbye to us, leaving, giving its place to the moon, the leader of the night. The weather is misty, as if the smoke of joy filled the air while there was nobody there. How come?
The sun went lower, hid behind the mountain at its own pace like a child getting tired and trying to go for a rest. I was behind a woody barrier which surrounded a wooden house. I glanced at the house and the landscape really looked like a painting, a painting full of emotions; a tired sun, a sleepy fir waiting for the spring to wake up, a bench waiting to be used as a gatherer for a happy family, foggy weather desiring people to smell the odour of joy.
The sound of the wind caressed my ear, red from cold, the bitter cold it brings. I took my hands out of my pocket and immersed them in the snow, I slowly took my hand out and I saw the palace of my hand on which a piece of white cloth was engraved. Clouds became as dark as a shadow of despair, the sun had disappeared and given its place to the moon but the moon was also hiding behind those angry clouds. I started pacing back home. I looked behind; I could see my footsteps on the ground, from where I had started until now.
A light shone over my head in the darkness of night, and it was so dark that only the circle lit by the lamp was visible; the circle that surrounded me. I was not able to see the pure white colour sitting everywhere, but suddenly the dancing wind blew through my hair bringing the sound of a melody by itself. In that moment, I could hear the sound of the music the firs were singing. I stopped under the light and I pictured myself as a leader of an orchestra, in my fancy. I could hear the sound of sorrow, the sound of glee, anxiety, amour…The air was an admixture of feelings.
Ouch! My hand hit something. I came out of that fancy, but still heard the rhyme, the trees playing the song and the wind whispering the song. When an element of nature stopped, another would start. The wind wrapped those musics around the area between the green and the white trees, above the beauty lying down on the lawn.
We can all hear it. Just close your eyes and open the sight door of your brain, and thus you can feel it. Nature is alive; it can also feel you just as you can feel it. Have any human beings ever listened to it?
People define the winter as a bluish season after the autumn—a yellowish one—but I define it as a pure, white-dressed season which carries people’s innermost feelings through the cold song it sings.
Smoke and Mirrors with Bita Mohammaddoust
Interviewed by Jemimah Wei
The sun’s warmth, the bitter cold, the empty landscape, the desire for joy – there is so much push and pull between opposing images in this piece, within which the heart of the story resides. Have you always been drawn to these tensions in everyday life?
I have always been looking for nature and everything around us and thinking of what they might mean in a specific way and how they might be related, and I noticed that everything can be relevant to each other with your point of view. For instance,you are able to relate a very pleasant or beautiful thing to something that everyone might think as unpleasant. so I tried to use what I have been looking at in nature and making up a picture in order to give it an expression or explanation.
I also love the way you take classic images and infuse them with new meaning. Can you talk a bit about how you decide to isolate specific images, updating their traditional associations with meaning specific to your piece?
I believe every single thing in this world will become meaningful by the definition you give them and their meaning also changes when you change your perspective about that particular thing, therefore I tried to give my own interpretation about the elements around me and the association of the pictures descripted in the piece had rigon in my personal thoughts.
As someone who has gotten frostbite from immersing her hands in the snow before, I couldn’t help but be especially drawn to the moment where the narrator does the same under the moonless sky! The confrontation of the uncomfortable, the close brush with hurt – for you, is writing a space of safety? What does it mean to you?
Writing means sharing images, definitions, opinions and feelings that spin in your brain with words. I do find writing a space of safety because it is like a world all in your own hands, you can control everything in it, and while I am not really good at expressing all my personal emotions and I may not directly write my feelings, but put them into relevant words or phrases that might convey the feeling. My purpose by “immersing my hand in the snow” was to make the reader truly find the sense of snow and coldness along a good sense.