In Shiraz, I was able to make pilgrimages to the tombs, gardens, and shrines of two great Persian poets - Hafez and Saadi. I had been looking forward to visiting the tomb and shrine of the great Hafez. This is one place, I had been assured, in which the soul of Persia shines forth palpably.
A member of our delegation, Bill Wolak (who graciously took so many of the photographs you see in this blog) is a scholar and translator of Persian literature. He helped deepen my appreciation for Hafez' unique use of language, his irreverent attitude toward pious religionists, and his not-necessarily-always-merely-metaphorical use of the classic mystical metaphors about the beloved and about wine.
Hafez is said to have awakened at the age of 60, after a forty-day vigil (quite like a prolonged vision quest - he drew a circle, and didn't leave it!) On the morning of the 4oth day, which was also the 40th anniversary of his meeting his Master, Attar, he drank a cup of wine that had been given to him by his Master. According to the story, he promptly and permanently awakened into mystical God Realization. His poetry began flowing more freely than ever before, and more than half of the poems (for which he is beloved around the world) were composed after his awakening.
I had been told by a wise friend to make sure to spend time in the teahouse behind Hafez' tomb. So I had brought five of my favorite poems by Hafez with me. The teahouse is an open, indoor-outdoor gathering place for lovers of mysticism and literature in which patrons sit on carpets and cushions set on raised covered platforms.
Graciously multilingual waiters in stunning traditional dress offer patrons their choice among fragrant tea, scented tobacco to smoke in ornate brass ghelyans (hookahs,) pastries, and/or delicious rosewater ice cream. I was lucky to find a few enthusiastic English-speakers with whom to talk and share the poems, so was able to sit in the seat of the divine Hafez, intoning his ecstatic words:
"When the one I love accepts the wine,
The time of the false idols is over..."
Upon leaving the teahouse, while approaching Hafez' tomb, my eyes were drawn to a Dervish, in traditional dress, who solemnly circumambulated Hafez' tomb, walking clockwise, just as Sufis of his order have been doing for almost seven centuries.
And I was left to contemplate the flocks of birds dancing in the evening breeze, playing their shapes across the expansive beauty of the big skies of Shiraz, the city that Hafez so deeply loved.