To Infinity & Beyond!

Remember the sermon about Serendipity? Don’t go by it. Take it and toss it to Tinker Bell, the fairy, when she flies over you. Because none of that works at Disneyland. Strategy, planning, timing and speed are the keys to a successful visit.

On regular days, you may not see the husband and I dancing a jig together in the middle of the road to catchy music, but in Disneyland, we do. I buy the hot cocoa for the kids, while he dashes to Adventure Land for that Fast Pass. He gets in line for the food, and I tackle the task of getting us seats to eat in. One gets the space to watch the Parade or the fireworks, the other takes the children to the restroom. Hectic? Maybe. Pleasurable? Mostly. Tiring?  A little. Together? Not always. Magical? Of course!

You know how they tell you no two children are the same? Well we always knew the son and daughter have quite the dissimilarities. But never was it more apparent than at Disneyland. This is the first real visit to Dis . for the son where he did not blindly follow everything his sister does. Previously, each time, when we meandered into Tomorrow Land, we found ourselves washed out again towards Fantasy Land or Adventure Land within minutes.

This time, however, we spent more time in TomorrowLand than in any other land. Given the recent Star Wars movie release, the whole place was Star Wars themed. There were rides and museums catered to Star Wars fans. Jedi warriors marched up and down holding their parents hands on one hand and a light saber on the other. We found ourselves posing with Storm Trooper and Fire Trooper and Yet-Another-Helmet-Wearer. (They all looked the same to me and wore helmets. ) When I mentioned this aloud to the husband, he shushed me swiftly and hissed, “You are in Star War Geek territory. I mean, that could start off a serious fracas.” he said half-amused.

Boys! I tell you. The son has not even seen Star Wars, yet Tomorrow Land fascinated him enormously.

Which brings me to the question of why we are as a species so intent on knowing what the future holds for us. It is because the past is immutable and what we know doesn’t really interest us anymore?

I recently read a beautiful book, An Acceptable Time, by Madeline L’Engle in which a time portal opens up and the protagonist is able to step back in time by almost 3000 years. It was a fascinating read with time tesseracts and inter lapping time circles.

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It got me thinking that if we are here now from the future, what would we change? Global Warming, industrialization, population control, disease control or some other thing that is trivial enough now, but avalanches into something bigger?

Butterfly or Humming bird effect. (https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/10/20/how-we-got-to-know-steven-johnson-hummingbird-effect-time/)

In the meanwhile, we have no idea what the future holds and whether we are making the right choices. Time alone will tell. To Infinity & Beyond – let’s find out.

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How is the Hot Water?

Things started off normally enough on our recent trip to Bishop CA: I had strained my neck, slept badly, refused to let the husband drive and rest the shoulder, and was playing with snow on the frozen lake. Though I could easily have iced the area, I did not. The children were throwing snow up in the air, and so was I, yelping like an puppy being beaten every time, but enjoying the snow all the same.

The husband looked at me being an obstinate ass, and decided to take things in hand. “Maybe it is time we went and had something hot to eat.”, he said and smartly frisked all the red-nosed snow saddled simperers into a log cabin that boasted of hot soups and sandwiches.

Things that usually happen in a restaurant happened. We asked for water-no-ice, deftly spilled a glass and mopped the contents, apologized to the table, asked for more napkins and settled down to eat.

I find this a bit trying while dining at restaurants, but waiters and waitresses come up to you during the meal, usually when you have slobbered a bit of sauce on yourself, or stuffed your left cheek to goading point, and ask you how the food is. Now really! Can you not see we are busy tucking in? Must you ask how the food is?

Well… the truth be told, in this particular case, it was horrendous. The pasta was not cooked enough, the vegetables were soggy and the olives did not really go with the sliced jalapeños and certainly not on pasta. Also, it was a bit much using the same condiments on the nachos (s.jalapeños & olives) in the pasta, and passing it off as vegetables in the pasta.

But …..

(a) The poor thing smiled in a rather disarming manner, that I hadn’t the heart to lay the truth out for her.

(b) It was hot food in a cold place and I could well appreciate the logistics of running a restaurant in such a place.

(c) She wasn’t the chef. What could she possibly do? She’d probably tell the chef the food was sub-par, and the chef, if he or she were a temperamental one like Anatole, would behave like a dish pot and spout steam at her.

Simply no point. So, I turned a regal eye upon her (my neck remember?),  and said it was good, in my best hauteur. I hoped that would send a message enough. But it didn’t, so I asked for a cup of hot water instead. She recoiled. All waitresses do when I ask for hot water. They simply don’t know what to make of this simple request. She looked at me questioningly, but my neck helped me with my aura, I stiffened the upper lip with the neck, and smiled curtly not backing down.

She bobbed up with the hot water in due course, and asked us how the food was. I simply could not answer. I was fighting pasta battles of my own.

Maybe that was the problem. She was back with us again. Within minutes. It seemed like every time I managed to turn the upper torso, there she was at our elbows asking how the food was. I mean – really! I was trying to cook the pasta in my mouth with the hot water.

“The hot water is wonderful! Can I have another glass?” I said. Catty? Perhaps.

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Just as an experiment, I must say what I really think and see what happens. I can already see the husband squirm uncomfortably, and make secret plans to move to another table.

The Art of Serendipity

Do you remember how a word clicks in your brain? I hear a musical and satisfying clink of a cheery bell knowing that I will love the word as long as my brain serves me. We keep adding to our vocabulary sub-consciously. Some words come to us, leave us and then come back when you are least expecting it. Serendipity. (That was one such word. It had been tucked off in the recesses of the brain somewhere and I had not put it to use much over the years, then one day over a warm dinnertime conversation with friends, it snuck back in, unobtrusively, into the conversation and I heard the chink in the brain again.)

Serendipity is what provides the zest for life. Try as much as we do to schedule our lives, it is the serendipitous moments that we remember. For there is a thrill, a certain lack of regularity that led us there in the first place. This beautiful word can join forces with creativity and help us take leaps into our imagination or makes connections that were hitherto eluding us. Our own mini-adventure, if you will. If only we are willing to let go.
It is part of the reason why I don’t plan our vacations too much. We have a rough sketch of what we wish to do and let things happen. It is marvelous.

It is why I remember the time we ran around New York after missing the last scheduled bus out of town and tried to get on the last ferry with parents and the then-2 year old daughter. I can close my eyes and see the two-year old looking happy and contented as she looked at the receding shoreline – she had thoroughly enjoyed the last few minutes. She had a unique vantage point after all. To get her out of the way while we were figuring out alternatives, the husband had carried her on his shoulders. Then, we all scrambled, ran and tumbled into the boat just as the planks were raised from the shore.

There was something satisfying in catching that boat.

It is also why I relish this photograph. We had mistakenly taken a side road, only to find ourselves alone. The snow had been cleared a few days earlier, but the roads still has generous amounts. It was slow and slippery going. The sun was setting, and the silence of the snow held sway for several minutes. Even the boisterous children fell silent for a few minutes.

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The article below is a good read on how to cultivate the Art of Serendipity:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/03/opinion/how-to-cultivate-the-art-of-serendipity.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Read the Humming-Bird Effect or the Butterfly Effect too:
https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/10/20/how-we-got-to-know-steven-johnson-hummingbird-effect-time/

Spiritual Mysticism or Spiritual Naturalism?

As we walked into our standard Best Western’s breakfast room near the Inyo Canyons, there was a transformation. The walls were plastered with what looked like pictures of movie stars. Apparently, this was Hollywood’s favorite location for filming cowboy scenes, and the hotel wasn’t going to let that one slide any time soon.

The surrounding Inyo canyons were looking like that I admit. The horizons widened, the rocks and foliage blended together in beautiful sandstone with broccoli-like vegetation everywhere. The canyons had miles and miles of rock. Flat plains stretching on before hitting the mountain ranges. Pink, red, orange and sandstone. It took us some time to appreciate its beauty. Life seemed sparse yet the possibility of life here seemed abundant. I tried imagining a time in Earth’s history when the place was teeming with life, maybe large dinosaurs spotted the plains with winged creatures careening overhead, and possibly a lush, green surrounding rather than the pink-ish desert looks that were in front of us now.

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I tried imagining the place a few hundred years from now – would it be a city, or a settlement of some kind? Would there be more visible forms of life and humanity? How about a few thousand years from now?

It is definitely heartening to step out of urban life for a brief spell. It is also when you are most capable of doing what you want. Do you want to sing a song? The rocks are your audience. Go for it. Do you want to jump in the middle of the road, the mountains are your witness. So, we spent the day in near by cowboy locations acting out like cowboys and cowgirls. Only these cowboys & girls wore woolen caps and gloves and heehawed like donkeys.

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The fact that we are miniscule in the scheme of things is never more stark than when gazing at nature’s grandeur. I tried looking for that feeling of oneness, and could come up with no better words than Spirituality and Nature. The internet spewed articles on religion and spirituality. But that was not what I felt there. There was no religion except when the cold got a bit much and I said, “Rama! It is so cold!”.

My grandmother would have approved.

Sometimes, Lord Ganesha kept us company. (We saw rocks shaped like dinosaurs and elephants.)

There was awe, humility, peace and the sense of security that our valiant car could provide transport and warmth.

That night after the heehawing in Inyo canyons, I had vague and hilarious dreams of my grandmother running after a donkey in a 9 yards saree. Who is to say that a mouse did not really pull a wooden trundle with Lord Ganesha seated on it across the canyons that night? Spiritual Mysticism? Maybe.

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Does the cold make you Deaf?

I was blissfully lost in wonders, natural and man-made for the past week. A trip to nature, (to nature or with nature?), is intensely refreshing. As the car made its way upwards into the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, I could see a large orb hanging from the sky casting a golden glow upon the stark outline of the rising mountains. I was wondering whether it was some sort of industrial light. But it turns out that large yellow orb hanging like an overturned lantern in the sky was the moon and the unusually bright, twinkling objects in the sky were the stars. Yet, the very same objects seem somehow diminished by urban lighting, when I gaze upon them at home.

I must say that I felt a keen kinship with nature there. Like Earth beckoned and embraced its children again. The car held up well against the steep inclines and the atmosphere inside was toasty and warm. We glanced at the dipping temperature gauge in the car every now and then, but continued to admire the night sky.

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It was when we reached Lone Pine, CA, and made for our hotel room that the cold hit us. It was teeth chattering. “Oh! I know I rue the relentless march of civilization and all that, but I quite welcome these advances”, I said through clenched teeth and fists as I switched on the room heater, and let the warm bursts of air swirl around the room.

The days were not much warmer. As we drove on the next day, there were vast expanses of nothing but mountains and desert plains. Stark and beautiful. There were times when the temperature gauge sat looking dismal at 14F.

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We wrapped ourselves in layers, only to find the cold finds a way to seep into the vulnerable spots somehow. We were playing on a frozen lake when we met the kind couple, who, I am afraid, thinks I am a demented owl.
“Where are you from?” they asked.
“We are from the Bay Area.” I said, to which they beamed back and said, “Oh! That’s nice. We are from there too. We have been coming up to these mountains for 41 years now.”
“I can imagine that.” I told them looking sincere, and I am sure they thought I was alright then. “This place is beautiful and I can imagine it becoming a place that we would want to visit now and again. Where are you from?” I asked them smiling in a way that hopefully belied the fact that my jaws could not move out of its smiling position once I got it there. The cold locked my jaws in.
“We are from Mountain Dew” said the lady.
“Oh where is that?”
This is when she looked like all logic had bottomed out of the conversation for she said, “Bay Area!” and looked at me as though surveying me for known defects.
“Oh! really? Okay, I don’t know the place. By the way, do you have a pair of scissors or a knife?”
“A knife?” I could see a slightly worried expression cross her face, but she was nice enough to go on, “Well…no. What for?” she said.

I showed her a pair of brand new gloves that were quite useless because it was all packaged so thoroughly. Really, what do these factories in China expect us to do with their brilliant packaging? Do they expect people with numb fingers, broken jaws and barely functioning faculties, to find a saw to get through the packaging in the snow?
“Oh no…we don’t have really have any on us, but here is something you can use for the little one. It was my grandson’s and he has grown out of it.”

I thanked her profusely with that bizarre grin on my face, and headed back to the car, wondering why they looked so down when I did not know where Mountain Dew was. After all, everybody cannot know every place.

It was after the teeth had stopped rattling like windowpanes in a thunderstorm,  after the jaw loosened up with the heat, and unlocked my bizarre smile, and well after feeling seeped into my fingers and toes, that I realized the lady had probably meant “Mountain View, CA.”, not Mountain Dew.

Do you think the cold makes one deaf? Well, if I run into her here, and if she doesn’t run away from me, I suppose I shall explain.