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Poppy Field in Mt Damavand

Until the poppy exists, you should live.
                                                               Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980)

Poets have poems about short lives of flowers, usually roses; but the least transient of them are poppies. If you pick a poppy the petals will wither in less than an hour, so better watch it on stem in soil than making its short life shorter. It's the only flower you can't see in the florist shop, it should live wild and free. Watching the blood-red petals under the sun is so mesmerising.

In Persian literature a poppy is the symbol of a lover's burnt heart. The black dot in the middle of the flower resembles a mark on a lover's heart, as his/her heart has been burnt and marked with love. In the last three decades it became the symbol of a martyr, the dark red petals are the symbol of the martyr's blood. Means when a martyr dies and their blood covers the ground, poppies will grow there. This symbolism became popular in Iran Sacred-Defence literature, i.e. during and after Iran-Iraq war to value martyrdom and defending the country by the government and pro-government poets and writers.

In the UK, on Remembrance Day (11 November) poppies are also used as the symbol of those who lost their lives in WWI. So Iran is not the only country using this symbolism for war and martyrhood. Though the "martyrhood" concept is mainly emphasised by Iran's government to encourage the youth to take part in the Iran-Iraq war to go to the warfront and defend the borders. Untill now, when they want to refer to this war on the state television or national newspapers they refer to it as "Sacred Defence" or "The Imposed War" instead of Iran-Iraq war. There's also a religious belief behind being a martyr: If you defend your land against enemies attacking it and you die, God will forgive all your sins and you would go to Heaven. If you show something like this to any Iranian they have seen it at least 100 times on Iran state TV or some other national media!

In Iran, each year the outskirts of Mount Damavand during late spring are covered with these beautiful flowers. The poppies don't bloom till June, as the weather is colder there than Tehran. I've been in many places near Tehran, but the weather near Damavand Mountain is the best. Fill your lungs with as much oxygen as you can, you need it when you get back to Tehran! And enjoy picking some herbs there, like thyme. I saw many locals picking herbs, probably to use it in their food or sell in on the local market. Once my mother picked a plastic bag full of thymes. Back in Tehran we dried them and it was better than any other thyme we bought from herb shops ever. The pleasant smell filled the cabinet for some weeks. (Thyme powder is used to be added to yoghurt, on the salad or on the pizza, it makes food tastes so good).

For going there all you need is a flask of tea, something to eat, a camera and a sweater to keep you warm as a cold wind blows there even during the hottest summer days. Wait till June comes and then... what are you waiting for?

One of my dearest friends sent me a postal card of poppies from her country. It's so refreshing to look at them each time I open the envelope. So on here I'd give her these poppies in return. I painted them four years ago, not a piece of art but I still like them, hope you like them too:


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