About two weeks ago, some generous friends invited Mahmoud and me to share a cabin with them in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I had just wrenched my ankle badly and probably should have avoided a walk along the stunning white sands of Lake Superior. But the call of the water, the rhythmic waves, and the sandy white beach were far too hypnotic to resist.
So, I found myself hobbling along the edge of the water, bending down to collect as many colorful, sparkling, water lapped rocks as my pail could carry. Then suddenly I remembered the precious gift of a rock that a colleague had found at a nearby beach and thought of me some years ago.
It was a small, brown stone with a cool, smooth surface. Except, of course, for a few indentations—a few well-placed strokes left behind by nature. Even before I had made the connection, Nan explained what was strangely familiar about it:
“Looks like some kind of script—maybe Persian or Arabic?” Nan asked me. It just looks so cool and I thought you should have it.”
Sure enough: On the face of the stone these nicks and scratches somehow bore a striking resemblance to Persian (Farsi)! (If you'd like a preview, scroll down and take a peek at the bottom.)
It was a gift in my day that I hadn’t expected—all the more because Nan looked as excited as I was. Here was a colleague, a kindred spirit, who regarded this “treasure” with the same eyes that I did. After thanking her warmly for what she had “bequeathed” me, I wrapped it in a tissue to take home to Mahmoud.
I really wasn’t sure what would come of it: I mean, a Persian message on a Michigan rock? Its Eastern script like appearance should have been cool enough . . . but when Mahmoud told me he could actually read something (?!), I morphed into a kid who believed in magic again.
“So what does it say?” I asked eagerly (and a little impatiently).
“Well…what do you know? I can just make out words that read ‘Emdad gheibee' (امداد غیبی),'' he offered. “Translated, it means something like ‘Help from Beyond.’”
"Help from Beyond"! Could this really be possible: A genuine message . . . with a touch of mystery to it? I truly wanted to believe in the magic—but I wanted confirmation from other Iranians.
So I showed the rock to four other people--and what do you suppose happened? Every Iranian read something different and wonderful:
--The first one saw اسد الله ("Asad Allah"), which means “Lion of God.”
--The second one saw اسرار ("Asrar"), translated as “secret.”
--The third one saw دسر ("Deser"), the word for “dessert.”
. . . And the fourth one ended up seeing a picture: a woman on each end with two kids in the middle!
So, how to explain this perplexing mystery? The "script" was just clear enough to appear to be readable--and at the same time just vague enough to require some interpreting! It's a wonderful reminder of yet another mystery: how we can view the same "picture" and yet see it quite differently! How aptly this describes the learning curve I experience at times when learning to see things from another culture’s point of view! (Of course, people from the same culture often view the same picture and see it differently as well!)
So the "mystery rock" now awaits your interpreting, whether or not you are Iranian! If you would, please tell us what you see "inscribed" on it. A photo of Nan's gift is presented below, along with the script interpretations already mentioned above.
امداد غیبی' Help that comes from beyond
اسد الله Lion of God
… plus the image of two women with two children in between!
So, thanks for letting me be a kid again!
And happy future hunting of your own “mystery rocks”!
Dr. Leslie Ahmadi discovered her intercultural calling in her parents’ home at age four--where between the jazz, the spirituals, and the rock ‘n roll music, she heard folk songs in languages from around the world. Thirty years later she had a doctorate in foreign language and culture education--and her folk song guitar never far away.