When the Stars Shine Down

You know how William Blake said something about Wonder? I had forgotten, but luckily the Internet is there for souls like me who wonder vaguely what was it the bloke called Blake said about Wonder and Voila there it is.

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand 

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 

And Eternity in an hour.”

William Blake

You can use your sense of wonder for a great many things: To marvel at the bunk beds as the daughter and her friends did, or at the restrooms as the son did on our recent camping trip.

The husband and I fulfilled our sense of wonder by watching the night sky. Where we live, the stars are dimmed out by the lights of civilization, but even then, we set out every now and then to star gaze. Every time, we are a little farther away from the lights of civilization, we look up and admire all those generations before us who studied the skies and named the constellations. What a gift it is to us! One truly realizes the value of accumulated wisdom when one gazes upon the limitless night sky, does one not?

On that warm summer night, as we sat around the campfire after an exemplary meal, it was with that feeling of humility and gratitude that anything to do with the stars brings on, that we gazed. As we sat there, every now and then, we would detect a satellite moving across the sky. We even saw a few shooting stars in the sky. Conversation turned to how even the campfire’s lights can mask the true glory of seeing the Milky Way.

Time wore on and we turned in for the night.

We may have retired, but the son’s mind was still reflecting subconsciously on the wonders of the automatic flush or the blinking red light in the bathroom, I would never know. What I do know is that he got up enthusiastically every few hours to get a whiff at the wonderful restroom. It was at his 3:15 a.m. marveling session that I decided to make the best of it.

Stars Shine Down
Stars Shine Down

Maybe, this was nature’s way of granting me the joy of seeing the true beauty of the Milky Way.  I slipped out and stood under the stars inhaling the grandeur of it all. The mortal sufferings, the pain humanity goes through, the agonies we endure everything seems to stop for that moment when the stars shine down. It is as beautiful as it is therapeutic.

I came back yearning to see the beauty of the night sky again and found this trove of beautiful pictures of the night sky:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2664460/Our-amazing-skies-Beautiful-pictures-astronomy-photography-finest-competition-attracts-record-number-entries.html

Everybody should get themselves a dose of the night sky every once in a while, even if it means visiting the restroom fifteen times with a wonder-filled toddler.

Advertisements

The Polite Goggles

The summer heat beat down on the grasslands, the ranches and the river flowing nearby with a kind of fierce energy, determined to show us both how hot and long it can go on, on the summer solstice. We were out on a camping trip, and I cannot imagine how it would have been had we been pitching up tents and hitching it in the heat. As it turns out, we went in for cabins with full blast A/c and bunk beds that provided hours of entertainment to the bendy amongst us. The children want to climb something. If trees are not available in the searing heat, the bunk beds were just fine too.

Reminds me of this cartoon I saw at http://www.afuntab.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Funny-Quotes-about-Camping-2.jpg

Source: http://www.afuntab.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Funny-Quotes-about-Camping-2.jpg
Source: http://www.afuntab.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Funny-Quotes-about-Camping-2.jpg

The campsite was near a river and the thought of flowing fresh water nearby is always a calming influence.

Camp River

We played by the river for some time.

Water-playing

Then someone suggested that we beat it to the swimming pool instead. So, we did. I had brought along a pair of pink and blue goggles and the children were remarkably well-behaved around them.  When I had the extra one in my hand, one child asked me politely whether they could please use it, “By all means!” said I beaming. A few minutes later, another mermaid swam up to me and said, “Could I have the pink ones please?”

I beamed again and gave the pink one. This is when things started getting complicated. The mergirls and merboys were having a go in the swimming pool and every now and then, one of the merfolk would splash up to me and ask, “Aunty, can I use the pink goggles?” I’d say ‘Of course’ and go on chatting with my friends. A few minutes later, another merchild would ask “May I use the blue goggles please?” and I’d nod my consent to that too, little realizing what my little assents were causing inside the pool. It turns out that there was a fierce war raging around the goggles. One group wanted to use them and the other did not. The game had me fogged when the details emerged. So, every time somebody came up to me and asked me whether they could use the goggles and I said ‘Yes’, the folks went to the opposing lot and said that I had allowed them to use the goggles and the rightful owner of the treasure was their team. Then, another one would come up to me and I would nod again and the drama would start all over again.

When did I catch on, you ask. Well, to tell you the truth, my school teacher parents would have detected the war a mile away, but I was so intent on chatting with my good friends  and it had been such a long time since I spent a summer teaching children, that it took a large-scale splash party in the pool to make me stop and think. What helped was that two folk were swimming up to me in great speed clearly trying to get to me first. The moment I had nodded my assent to one, child 1 whipped up a victory splash and whooped in joy. I saw the crest fallen Child 2 and only then realized what was going on.

This poster should have come to my mind a little earlier, but it didn’t.

Camp girls

Well, if anything, despite their struggles to get all the goggles to their own teams, they had been exceedingly polite and had maintained the quorum of splash-envy, and so deserved a goggle each whether they wanted it or not.

The waters don’t always show the currents and depth, do they?

Pictures: Courtesy one of our friends

How to Pack, Write and Other Things

The world is full of nonsense if you will just open your minds up to it.  For example, one of my news feeds once thought it relevant to show me an article on how to pack when you have children and are going on a flight trip. Now, that is a nice title, knowing how we travel with children, and how often we have done it in the past with our own brood.

Maybe an example would help here. If you see us go on a week-end trip somewhere close by, you know drive for a few hours and get back sort of place, you would understand why I clicked on this link to read what novel piece of advice it had to give me. You see, once we had the car packed with the following among other things like suitcases and books:

1) Shoes (1 extra pair each for each member of the family)

2) Jackets (1 for every member)

3) 2 strollers (We only have one stroller rider, but I packed one in and the husband packed the other.) Both of us looked extremely proud of ourselves and told the other, “Ha! I packed something very valuable. The stroller. “

“What?! I packed it too. The red one.”

“I packed the blue one.”

Packing
Packing

I know what goes through the brain at this point in time. The stroller isn’t exactly a button. How then, does such a large thing get lost in the trunk? Well. Now, you know how we pack. If the place we are going to, has an attached kitchenette, the trunk gets fuller. Suddenly, rice cookers are jostling for space beside shoes and the curry powder is nicely sprinkling its aroma on the jackets.

Flight trips are another saga altogether. (https://nourishncherish.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/never-awaken-a-sleeping-tiger-cub/) For, we manage all of this and more within the prescribed baggage limits.

We are planning on a small trip again and I wanted to gain the foolproof method of compact packing. I had enough of the  “pack everything you need, may need or may one day need during the trip” doctrine.

To be honest, it astounds me that tripe like this gets clicked on, read and paid for. There isn’t a single thing of note here.

http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/things-parents-forget-plane-trips-kids/story?id=23102623&singlePage=true

But, such is the world of news and writing. The unimaginative jostles with the trite, the run-of-the-mill nudges the novel aside, while a few pieces of inspired writing sprinkles its splendor on the web.

PS: I read this wonderful article a while ago, on how story telling is the best method to activate our brains. (http://lifehacker.com/5965703/the-science-of-storytelling-why-telling-a-story-is-the-most-powerful-way-to-activate-our-brains), and another one on how the brain relates the linguistic with the musical (http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/digital-and-mobile/6091974/computers-classics-and-cadenzas-making-math-music-from)

Maybe we need a story around packing while traveling with children and background music to match the process.

Happy Science Days!

There are some mechanics whose work I admire. They have an orderliness about them. They take out things packed in 30 mm space, spread it out over 100 sq metres and put them back in 30 mm with minimum fuss and mess. I have always admired such souls of toil. So, when the father and daughter were pandering upstairs with a laptop lying open on the desk, I went up a couple of times partly out of curiosity and partly to keep the toddler son away from the table. (The son thinks he is helping out on the task and gets sorely disappointed when told that he can’t place his toy cars on that convenient hole inside the laptop where the hard disk used to reside. ) Halfway through the task, I saw the pair of them chattering about something and come downstairs. “Commencing after lunch!” said the mechanics. “But you just had coffee and chocolate milk!” said I. This was received with a chuckle and no retort. A moment later, the pair of them switched on the Television.

“Going to watch Television? “ I asked in that tone that mildly encourages one to finish up the laptop work. Among other things I was worried that a small thing will go astray and I will be called upon to get down on all fours and search.

“TV Amma. Not television. Television sounds so formal and then you don’t feel like relaxing with it.”

“Well, what happened to the laptop?” I asked.

“We watched a you-tube video on how to do it Amma. Relax. So, I know everything. We just could not do it because Appa wants to take another backup of the disk now.”

I launched into what I call my Science Teacher mode. “You can learn more by doing than by watching you-tube videos. “ I went on in this vein for a few sentences, and then let the thing rest.

A few days later, I caught her again and told her about the Science experiments that the President lauded, and how these children had taken simple problems and solved them.

http://www.indiawest.com/news/global_indian/article_5de64612-f01a-11e3-afbe-001a4bcf887a.html

It was a lovely afternoon chat, and I asked her what I could do to help her along in her ambition to become a biologist.

“You can buy me a pet!” said she before I had completed my sentence.

“WHAT?!”

“What amma? You just said that I will learn more by doing than by reading books or watching documentaries. So, in order for me to become a biologist, I think a pet would help me nicely. Maybe a dog, or a duck or a parrot.”

“I like snake.” said the toddler son playing with his toy cars.

“Or how about some fish?”

“I want bumblebee Amma” said the son.

Pets : Bumblebee, Butterfly, Parrot, Dog, Duck, Snake
Pets : Bumblebee, Butterfly, Parrot, Dog, Duck, Snake?

I want respite.

Happy Science Days to all of you.

Fantasy : A Necessary Ingredient to Living?

The list of things that keep us up at night has become more bizarre as the days go on.  I chronicle what was the state of affairs about a week ago because I just let time slip by me.The son had a spot of a cold. He spent a few nights sniffling and having trouble taking in those deep, fulfilling breaths so essential to sleeping fitfully through the night. The humidifiers have been called to action and Herr Mozart has been making his nightly appearances to induce sleep in the child and mother to poor avail. After the third night of this grand party, I was looking for ways to get the husband to gallantly step forward and take on night duty and made a few pitiful noises. But it was sadly lost in all the noises around the home, and elicited no response whatsoever.

I looked around to see the husband sticking to his laptop like a frog to its lily-pad. You see, over the past few weeks, I have been noticing the sincere man bent double over his laptop with a serious, worried expression on his face. Me being the supportive w. and all that, I decided to give him the time to think and delve or whatever it was he was doing. I obviously assumed it was something to do with his work. You know? The noble task of putting food on the table kind of work. Slowly, however, I noticed that this mysterious work had a way of popping up during after-dinner dishwasher time or the before dinner all-hands-on-deck time or getting-the-daughter-to-school in the mornings time. Very shifty the whole thing was.

“I have an early meeting tomorrow morning – a fitful night’s rest is necessary I think.” said the husband before I could beat him to it, making a point of stretching his arms in that tired manner that induces sympathy. If I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep myself, what of it?  I bade him a good night’s sleep and sent him to the guest bedroom and sought the assurance of the humidifier and Eucalyptus oil. It was about 3 a.m. when the son woke up sniffling again and cried for the 6th time that night.  Thinking that a hot cup of milk will probably do the trick, I set out amid the mists of sleep enveloping the night air that was thick with sleep to the kitchen downstairs. It was when I was creaking up the stairs again that I saw a faint light emanating from the guest bedroom. I went in to see what happened. I mean, the important-meeting-goer needed his sleep right?

There he was, squinting into his girdle-shaped phone with that same mysterious expression. It was too much for me. I asked him what the matter was. There was a sheepish expression on his face and I caught on  like a blood hound and said, “Confess now, my friend! What is going on?”

The story came tumbling out. Apparently, the husband had been playing in the Fantasy Leagues of Indian Cricket and since the matches take place in Indian Standard Time, he has been getting up at all sorts of hours and checking his players, switching out his teams and what-not. He evaded the glare on my face and said, “You should be proud of me. I have come up to the second position from the 8th position solely by  strategic planning and thinking.”

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to summon pride at 3 in the morning at a man who is proud of his victories at the Fantasy League matches. But I bravely reminded myself about Dr. Seuss’ words :  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient to living.  I smiled at the husband and told him as much.

 Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living Dr Seuss quote

I then, did some strategic thinking myself and gave him the warm milk to take to the crying toddler. My fantasy was to get into the snug bed in the guest bedroom to catch a few hours sleep.