I go about my normal everyday life, every once in a while I am told or
see or read about something that interests me. I keep a mental list and
four or five times a year I spend an afternoon finding out more about
Last year on a warm and colorful fall afternoon I walked over to the
university library to read up on a wonderful Spanish building called the
Alhambra, a kind of movie star dinosaur called the Raptor, and a writer
of dry humor named P. G. Wodehouse.
I had finished my investigations and was walking home through the back
alleys of Clarion when I came upon a curious scene. There behind an old
Victorian mansion was a rug merchant with his wares spread all over the
lawn. I could hardly believe it! Here were rugs from Turkey, Iran,
Persia, Afghanistan and India laid out flat on the grass as a sort of
For years I have gone to fine furniture stores every once in a while to
see the oriental rugs. The rug makers are generally followers of Islam,
a religion which discourages decorations which include realistic
pictures of people, animals or plants. For this reason oriental rugs
tend to be very geometrical. The labels on these rugs tend to be
jawbreakers like Ghiordes, Shiraz and Karabagh. These are the names of
the places where the rugs was made, or of the tribe that made them.
Now I wandered about the lawn looking at the wonderful rugs glowing in
the fall sunlight. I tried to imagine the people who make a Seraband rug
or a Tashkent rug or a Ladik rug, but I found I could not. Then came the
rug man to ask if I saw anything I liked. I told him that I liked
everything but that sadly I wouldn't be buying a rug that day. Then I
went on to explain about my fascination with symmetry, and he told me of
his fascination with rugs.
Jacob Stein was twenty-five years old and, like his father before him
and his father's father before that, Jocob worked in the rug trade. As a
young man just starting out, Jacob had thus far been concerned only with
the selling side of the business here in America. He traveled around to
furniture stores to promote his wares, which is how I happened to find
him in the back yard of Erma's Place, our local fine furniture store.
Soon things would change for Jacob, however, as he was about to go to
Turkey for the first time to see rugs being made and to purchase dozens
of them for his firm. How I envied him his adventure!
Together we strolled the rug strewn grounds and talked of our interests.
Jacob learned something about the symmetry of his rugs and I learned of
his life and dreams, and began my next list of interesting things to