The Dream Weavers Web

It had been a few years since we had taken the magical pill. When the daughter was younger, she was enamored with Disney movies, was obsessed with unicorns and mermaids (the mermaids still hold sway), but the general euphoria with Disney has come down somewhat, or so we thought. It turns out, magic may be dormant, but thankfully not absent. When those Mickey ears came on, so did the smiles, the magic, the ridiculous mixed with the plausible, the tales with long tails, the myths and legends, everything came bubbling up in one hot cauldron full of fun and adventure.

I must say I was thrilled too. The day to day living tends to routinely pound magic out of us unless we make a concerted effort to keep it. The schools manage to do so for the children. There are Dr Seuss weeks, there are Read-a-thons, crazy hair days and crazed sock days to keep it all intact. But as the business of earning a living and adult hood takes on, there is a brush working in the background to make us more even keel, more predictable and less whimsical.

Reading children’s books keeps it for us in some ways.

I had expected to have a good time at Disneyland. I manage to put my whimsies on with a delight, and get the children going too. So far so good. But there are serendipitous surprises lurking even in the most magical of places. The Disney World in Florida was even better than I had expected. There was Animal Kingdom, in which I expected plastic hippos and lions made to scale. Consider my surprise then when we went on the Kilimanjaro safari to be taken into the hinterlands with animals in relatively free reign. It is marvelous to see a bloat of hippos, a tower of giraffes, a something of warthogs, and a blush of pelicans roaming freely. When a white horned rhino waddled across our path, we simply waited for it to move quietly. Even the children, though looking awed, did not utter a sound. There is majesty in nature.

One of the best surprises for me was the onus on conservation of our beautiful planet for the years to come. There were green houses showing us the marvels and possibilities of vertical farming. It was apparent to those of us floating in the boats by the lazy river taking us through these green houses, that many of us had never seen plants of many vegetables and fruits before. One excited child pointed to an eggplant plant, and squealed – “Look the eggplants are hanging from them!” I could see it was a beautiful revelation for the child who had simply assumed you picked it up in the grocery aisles of the supermarket, while making a passionate case for a Hot Wheels toy car at the billing counter.

Saturated with the magic of life on this beautiful planet, we spent a day amidst the shots to space. Kennedy Space Center. The past merged with the magic of fairy-tales, the present beautifully thrumming with possibilities for conservation and conversation, and the future hits among the stars. Looking for possible planets for us to expand into.

It is marvelous to see we are on the cusp of a decade that holds so much promise. For among the young I saw in the parks, there will be quite a few starting their careers in the coming decade.

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The whole time, I was absorbing the atmosphere around me, little words were forming themselves into sentences. I was making my journey on the river of time and I was grateful for so many things. Some good sentences disappeared because I had not written them down, but I didn’t fret. It is often like this – playing with the words to relive my experiences.

Imagine how I felt then, when I read Ursula Le Guin’s essay on Writing. I felt the sage author’s words like balm, and nodded along. Writers are creators, but unlike potters and weavers, our products are less tangible. Our dreams are webs weaved in the magical recesses of the brain, and not all of it worth reading or sharing.

“Writing is a risky business. No guarantees. You have to take the chance. I’m happy to take it. I love taking it. So, my stuff gets misread, misunderstood, misinterpreted, – so what? If its the real stuff, it will survive almost any other abuse other than being ignored, disappeared, not read.”

When I read this piece in the essay though, I was grateful. I have written 800 posts over the past 14 years, and I would never have done that if not for the encouragement I have received from my dear friends and readers. It is magical. Encouragement like Love, is so fuzzy a thing to try to describe. For both the forces have the power to gently nurture, nudge, and poise for acceptance.

Thank you for all of that. Let the magical dreams weave on in the coming decade as well. Happy New Year and Happy New Decade – May the River of Time course on gently.

The Gingko Trees 🌳

“Did you know about the Gingko trees?” I said, knowing fully well the reaction it would elicit from the daughter.

“Oh Please! There is no need to tell everyone you meet about the Gingko trees you know?” she said.

“But there is! Maybe I will write about it.” I said. The gingko trees have given me no end of pleasure , and I must say, a certain amount of anticipation tinged with a spot of trepidation, during the past few months. The one interesting fact I know about them has been beaten to mythical status and back like the shedding and revival of the seasons.

“Are you seriously telling me that you haven’t written about the blasted Gingko trees yet?” the daughter’s voice was tinged with laughter and embarrassment. The conversation was happening in front of her friends after all.

If you really want to embarrass your teenage child, please take them for a walk explaining obscure horticultural facts along the way. Touch the leaves of the Gingko trees, tell them the scientific name is Gingko Biloba, take them back to the time when the dinosaurs roamed feeding off these very leaves and the time travel is bound to work wonders on them.

Only the teenager most proud of their parents is bound to glow like the dew drops glistening on a Gingko tree at the first rays of the sun. Mine looked like a cross between a beetroot and a maple 🍁 . I stood there poetically exclaiming that the beautiful Gingko trees had shed their golden tresses after all; happy that the interesting fact had been borne out truly by the sturdy trees.

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Months before, as the colors of the leaves changed from olive green to golden yellow, I had told her about the fact that Gingko trees shed their leaves all at once.

“Don’t they all?!” she said being clever, but I had my answer ready.

“No they don’t as the crunch parties we have all of October and November show you. But the Gingko trees in the vicinity all shed together on one day in November apparently.” I said. “It is like the day of the party, and they somehow decide the day between themselves. Nature’s signals are truly quixotic!”

“Did you also know that Gingko trees have been around from the days of the dinosaurs?”
“And how do you know that?” the family asked looking at me curiously, as if my age was finally becoming clear to them. I did not like where this was going, and hastily assured them that paleontologists seemed to have found fossils and put their necks on the line with that fact.

Ever since, throughout November, we watched the Gingko trees with fascination, and self with a tinge of dread, for I had bored the family stiff with tales of the Gingko tree ever since I read the essay by Oliver Sacks in the book, Everything in its Place. He wrote of his learnings from the Horticultural Society of which he was a part, and he had said quite categorically that the Gingko trees party was one day in mid November.

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Mid November came and went, and the yellow leaves swung their tresses proudly as the cold winds coursed through them. Rains lashed at them, and they swished them some more. Haughty Princesses they’d make, I thought to myself.

Thanksgiving came and went, and the family was now baring their fasts at me. “After all those months with the blasted gingko tree, if they don’t shed, you’ve had it Mother dear!” they said. I said that November in New York probably meant December in California, but I also prayed a little. You see, I had made a bit of a pest of myself over the past few months, and I knew it. Oh the horror if they didn’t!

December came, and I went out of the state for a couple of weeks. I cannot say that the Gingko trees were in my thoughts for very long during this time. Year end work-travels don’t give time to think of Gingko trees.

I came back, and I had come for the walk with the girls, when the Gingko trees swam into my thoughts again. Luckily for me, Oliver Sacks, was an astute man. Though, I don’t know whether they had all shed their leaves on the same day, when I saw them, all the Gingko trees in the vicinity, young and old, were bare. Their leaves lay in a heap around their trunks, and I looked vindicated. Thank you Oliver Sacks and Thank you Gingko Trees! I said privately heaving a sigh of relief.

I told the girls about the whole thing: the pest I’d made of myself, and how the solid trees had helped me after all, and they laughed heartily. “I told you my mom is a nature kook! ” said the daughter, but there was laughter there – I seemed to have redeemed myself in front of her friends.

I am not sure when I will be willingly invited next: I’d better get going on some Spring facts to dazzle the lot.

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Book: Everything in its Place

By: Oliver Sacks

Essay: The Night of the Gingko

The Chrysalis of Clouds

Long flights are a time for introspection and solitude. Maybe given how little I get of this precious time unconnected, and alone, I am doubly appreciative of these spots of solitude gifted to me.

It is strange to think I am surrounded by sentient beings on a flight amidst the clouds. It was cramped being surrounded by people, but yet, free enough to let my fancies roam the beautiful worlds outside. The stars that I stare at from down below seem closer, and more familiar without the forms of the lit urban landscape to obscure the view.

Squinting into the night, it is faintly possible to remember a world swirling below and worlds swirling all around us, and worlds in which our problems are just that – fleeting wisps of cloud.

It is also rarely that I get to indulge in the beautiful meditations afforded by looking out the window. The tinkling lights of spots of civilization below make me think of how our problems look from above. I can think benignly of mankind just as I can do so when I am atop a mountain looking down at our lives.

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The rain bearing clouds were floating heavily as I surveyed them longingly from the airplane window. There is a strange uplifting feeling in being up among the clouds. When you are up there for hours together just quietly admiring the clouds, and the various lights that illumine them, there is cosmic beauty there. A calm beauty that words cannot do justice to. The idea of a soaring high atop a large thrumming bird watching the moonbeams light up the clouds is magical.

Watching the sun rise from above the clouds is even more magical. The transformation between dusk to night and from night to dawn is amazing. When on a long flight like that, it is doubly interesting to note that it is hard to imagine trees among the clouds. There is just a white/grey world tinged with silver, gold, yellow and orange against a black or blue sky. Where are the greens and purples that the eyes yearn for up there?

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Flying among the clouds, there was a strange sense of being transient. Aren’t we all transient beings, here among the clouds for a while? This world. While it feels beautiful to experience this fleeting sensation, it is also bourne upon us about the fragility of our beings. We are in pressure controlled vessels , being looked after by flight attendants with food and drink that our peculiar palates can accept.

As the flight announcements came on about our landing, I felt an unease. A return from the lands of fancy above to one tinged with reality. Was this how adventurers felt? Maybe it was because of the chapter I was reading in The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen as he wraps up his 6 month trek in the Tibetan Dolpo region on the lookout for snow leopards:
“To emerge gradually from such a chrysalis, drying new wings in the sun’s quiet, like a butterfly, to avoid a sudden tearing of the spirit. Certainly this has been a silent time, and a hallucinatory inner journey too, and now there is this sudden loss of altitude.”

The transcendental nature of flights,  watching the moonbeams, suns-rays and so on illumine the fluffy worlds below is a gift indeed. A time of mellifluous thought,  the landing to the earth is seldom smooth – do birds feel that way?

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A Poem From The Clouds:


The rain bearing clouds shimmer over the city lights below

Giving way to a darker journey where

The stars keep me company as they twinkle over the wing

Blinking and twinkling their friendly greeting as my eyes fathom their shapes.
The sun’s rays across the wing span creep in, slowly

Ushering in a new world

The same world blanketed by the stars

Or is it?
A billion diamonds replaced by one

One Star that outshines everything – The Supreme Star

Till Time takes charge at dusk again

A reminder that Time alone endures.

The Paradox of Philosophy

One evening, the husband was yawning loudly. The kind of yawns where after a few of these, you worry for your loved one’s jaws. The children and I exchanged knowing smiles. “He must be reading that Philosophy Book of his!” we said in unison, and started laughing.

The husband decided that to uplift himself, he must invest in a book of Philosophy. If ever there is a soporific cure for insomnia, that seems to be it, looking at the effect it has on the husband. The Philosophy book has him floored regardless of time of day. Whether at 9 am or 10 pm, within minutes the man is snoring much like the philosophers say the man with a good life should. (Only he hasn’t got to that part yet).

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In an attempt to retain enthusiasm in the text, he has taken to explaining things to us. It hasn’t gone well so far, for we scent his Philosophy lessons from a mile away, and scuttle like that turtle Achilles is supposed to catch up with. According to Zeno, Achilles would never be able to catch up with the Tortoise since the Tortoise would always be ahead of Achilles albeit by a smaller margin.

Achilles & The tortoise
Zeno’s paradox of motion

The husband has evolved and now solicits our attention on walks and hikes. Zeno would have either been proud of us during these evening walks, or been utterly shocked at the frivolous way in which we were treating his treatise on paradoxes. Known as Zeno’s Paradox, old Zeno does not seem to be a guy known for this love of exercise. He preferred to spout philosophies on how it must be quite impossible to get to one place from another. (Hence the paradox, since we all know that we can get to one place from another in a finite amount of time).

Zeno might have been offended, but not the husband. No Sir! He ran after us trying to explain Zeno’s paradox, while we ran even faster – “See, this is why Zeno’s Paradox doesn’t work. We are running faster than you, and unless we slow down or you speed up, which seeing the state of your dinner plate is not possible, you cannot catch up with us!” we said panting. The somewhat heavy dinner protested inside us – “Hey!Hey! You said mild walks to calm the system down. This is not a mild walk. This stroll is a Paradox is what it is!”

To be fair to old Zeno, his philosophies were laid out about 2000 years before Calculus was invented.

Of course if old Zeno were to be around today, he would be shown the following you-tube video
The Essence of Calculus – (3blue 1 brown)

To which the old fellow would have said with good humor and grace, “This is so cool!” and he could go back to come up with other interesting questions in life

It is indeed refreshing to find hours of lectures, the huge books written by all and sundry summarized in a children’s book, Carl and the Meaning of Life.

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Carl, the Earthworm spends his time underground, digging, tilling and keeping the soil soft and fluffy. When asked about his purpose in life, Carl is unsure and sets out on a quest to find out his purpose in life.

Sadly he returns to where he started from after finding no answers to his purpose of being and finds that the ground has become hard and dry. Vegetation has dried up, and the rabbits are moving elsewhere in search of greener pastures. It is one of the most joyous things for the poor earthworm – he realizes then what his purpose is. He burrows underground and spends months, raking the soil and turning it upside down.The flowers start to bloom, the rabbits linger on and therefore, so do the foxes, and all of life thrives again.

I read the book out to the husband one day to save his jaws and his guffaws sent the earthworms in our backyard scuttling back to work. He flung his Philosophy book, and leapt out of bed and said his purpose just then was to not fall asleep and watch 2 hours of television in which he hoped to finish 10 different movies.

I laughed. Maybe the meaning of life comes to those of us who do not think too much, but do.

Charming Blooming Murmurations

It was a lovely morning before the rains set in. The hillsides definitely looked like they could do with some rain. The parched Earth still looked beautiful in the early rays of the sun. We saw a hawk at such close quarters eyeing a trip of rabbits down below that I felt a surge of its power course through the hills.

We were out on a hike and the son was ebullient. The morning air had lifted his spirits, and he was happily talking of this and that and taking us up steep hillsides.

On we went, through troughs and peaks, listening for the sounds of animals, birds and inhaling the fresh air. On top of one of the peaks, we stopped to catch a breath. I mock held my hips and said “Oh have a heart and give your old mother a break!” He guffawed and pointed out the next steep hill with gusto. I smiled, and held a finger to my lips – it was as we were standing there atop a hill overlooking a bay that we heard the murmur above. A susurration of starlings flying this way and that, forming and reforming beautiful circles in the sky.

A group of starlings are aptly called a Murmuration of Starlings.

I don’t know how often we have stood close enough to hear a whole flock of birds wings flock together – if you haven’t, it is truly magical.

A few days later, we were heading to Monterey Bay Aquarium? After tucking into their mac-n-cheese, which is apparently the best, we meandered our way through the place. Marine biology, research, conversation of species and all the noble things follow a splendid Mac N Cheese. The clouds were out gamboling in the blue skies. They had reason to. They had been grey and full of themselves for the past few days, They had made terrible whooshing noises as the rains thundered through the Bay Area. Having taken their load off though, they looked lovely in the skies.

“Hey amma! Do you see that one? Just the top of it looks like a dog!”
“Whoops! Now it is changing shapes to become a shark!”

Watching a billow of clouds is always a magical experience.

Later that day in Monterey Bay Aquarium, Nature showed us beautiful species of fish that could collectively shoal and swarm forming beautiful shapes as they swam in large numbers together.

Clip from Wiki:
During the sardine run, as many as 18,000 dolphins, behaving like sheepdogs, herd the sardines into bait balls, or corral them in shallow water. Once rounded up, the dolphins and other predators take turns ploughing through the bait balls, gorging on the fish as they sweep through. Seabirds also attack them from above, flocks of gannets, cormorants, terns and gulls.

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By TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) – sardines / 鰯(いわし), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7998525

A bloom of jellyfish is enough to fill one’s heart with joy for hours – floating seemingly aimlessly, their pulsing, electrifying bursts are nothing but therapeutic.

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A Charm of Goldfinches by Matt Sewell is a marvelous book outlining why we have the collective nouns that we do. Why do a Trip of Rabbits thrill us? Why are Charms of Goldfinches so charming?

With beautiful illustrations, it is a charming book indeed.

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I remembered a game we played on a car trip some time ago. It had to do with the one big super power we could wish for. While there were things like Lightning Blasters, I think the one that took everyone’s fancy that day was Shape Shifters.

We are so corporeal in our bodies that we rarely of even think of things we can shift into. But this kind of species shifting shapes at will collectively and in a coordinated manner is not just fascinating, it is mesmerizing.

Watching clans of humans though, not so much!