Bee Blossoms

Out on a evening walk one day, my heart rose. The corona virus may be taking the world for a spin of its own. Days seem to be blending into weeks, and weeks into months. There are times, I sit up and notice the weekend is here. Some other times, I sit up and wonder where the week-end went. All of life seems to be one long news cycles of confusion & anxiety. What is a good time to reopen, should we reopen?

Human-beings may be in a state of confusion and anxiety.  But Nature around us has no such doubts. She brought on Spring just in time. The leaves sprouted in one marvelous unified stage opening. I stood mesmerized under the fresh, new leaves, sometimes glinting with dewdrops, and other times, filtering the rays of the sun beautifully around. Early tulips bloomed, spring snowflakes made their hearty show.

Then slowly, and just as surely, the temperatures rose, and the hills near where we live browned in the suns. But that meant, it was time for the summer flowers to take the stage. The jacaranda trees took their cues from the receding spring snowflakes, and assured them that the show must go on. On the evening walk, I noticed the beautiful purple flowers blooming against the green leaves, the early oleander flowers are revealing their pinks and whites, and roses everywhere are out on their annual romps warming hearts and lifting spirits with greater sincerity this year.

The son and I stood watching bees buzz from one flower to another taking with them the memories of a thousand blossoms with them, slowly but surely nurturing the circle of life. I was reminded of Ray Bradbury’s saying:

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”
― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

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When I watch the dew drops glisten on the spring snowflakes,
When I watch the rainbow makes up its mind and throw itself like a garland across the skies
When I watch the eight-legged marvels creations catch in the sunset
When I watch the waves lap and play with the sandpipers

I feel hope stir in the spirits
I feel decisive and conviction in Being
I feel solitude’s gift can be tangible and needs to be nurtured for its fragile state
I feel engaged with the planet and all its gifts

There is beauty in knowledge of the changing seasons, and wonder in anticipation.

Mother Earth is preparing for the Summer!

To Nourish & To Cherish

This May marks 15 years of nourish-ing &  cherish-ing. I started the blog out as a sort of a personal journal with embarrassingly personal posts. But over time, the journal took on a life of its own. It has helped me find my voice, helped me resoundingly answer the question, “What is your friend?“, and has definitely played an outsize role in the family joke circles.

My family and friends have been marvelously sportive about starring in the posts, reading them and encouraging me. Over time, the nourisher became the cherisher, and vice-versa. Fiascos were looked on with amusement knowing it will take on a life of its own and pave  the way for amusement. Travelogues are interwoven with family  drama, and it makes it all the more memorable.

When I am out in nature stopping to admire the butterflies flit between flowers, 🌺 🌸 , I think of how I would capture these beautiful images in the one place I nourish and cherish. I have a phone filled with images of family, friends, travel destinations jostling along side the everyday wonders of sunsets, lakes, rivers, butterflies, mountainsides, grasses, flowers and trees, and still the photographs seem to lack a narrative. A narrative that words round out.

“To walk on Earth and fall in love with it. “, as Mary Olivers would say.

When I am reading books, I stop and wonder about particularly  well written passages. Books take us on incredible journeys and some of them, I manage to write down to nourish later on. Some books open my mind in ways I did not imagine possible, some others reiterate what I had nebulously known, while some others do the most marvelous job of soothing and calming the mind. For every article I do write related to books, there are probably 15 others that I didn’t get to finish writing.

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A friend of mine once asked me how I stumbled upon writing as a passion, and I found to my surprise that I had no clear answer. I remember a marvelous childhood filled to the brim with absolutely stunning and inspirational personalities, joyous friends, beautiful nature, dance, music, reading and writing complete with toppings of marvelous reveries and journeys into the make believe worlds. But somewhere in my early twenties I lost touch with it all. I meandered in the corporate world spending almost all my waking hours pursuing work and my part-time post graduate degree simultaneously. What time I had for reading was dedicated to academic work, and all other times were dedicated to learning and unlearning technologies to continue work.

Shoshin was in short supply.

Life in the meanwhile had brought me to the shores of the United States, opening a whole new world of possibilities. When I became a mother, something beautiful happened. I came in contact with the marvelous feeling of youth. Being an immigrant, the children’s books were all new to me, and with the children, I read and devoured books alongside them, reminding me of Kenneth Grahame’s note on the Wind in the Willows.

“A book of youth, and so perhaps chiefly for youth and those who still keep the spirit of youth alive in them; of life, sunshine, running water, woodlands, dusty roads, winter firesides, free of problems, clear of the clash of the sex, of life as it might fairly be supposed to be regarded by some of the wise, small things that ‘glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck’.”

With all the supposed ‘achievement’ of being in the big world, there was a niggling dissatisfaction though. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was missing my link to Art. When eventually, I stumbled back to Art forms, albeit in a much reduced fashion, I started feeling whole again.

“The most regretful people on Earth are those who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither time nor power.” – Mary Oliver

My hope and wish is for everyone to nourish and cherish their own creative powers to the extent possible.

 

The Noble Accolades

The sun was up briskly rousing all of nature’s non-nocturnal creatures to rise and shine. I opened my eyes – the sun had nudged me half heartedly wondering whether I was to be classified as nocturnal or non-nocturnal that beautiful Sunday morning. I had after all spent a good part of the night reading several books late into the night. Covid-19 has wrought a strange change in reading habits and I found myself yearning for some uninterrupted time in which to get my reading done. I devoured two short stories by P.G.Wodehouse, read some tidbits of 3 other books and finally settled in for a long-ish snuggle with Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks.

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I felt strangely alive – with that beautiful feeling of youth-ish rebellion stealing over me as I read on. How long had it been since I had defied reasonable bed-times and gone on reading late  into the night? Moreover, I was reveling in the boyhood of the great Oliver Sacks – a boyhood steeped in Chemistry and his experiments with them.

But, there is a reason for such pesky things as sleep times. As a teen, the body shrugged off a night like that with a spot of tea, but I found the intervening decades did not take so kindly to this sort of treatment, and I was being given by the stink eye by the neurons in the brain that refused to wake up.

I dragged myself from bed the next morning and set some dish-pots on the stove for the afternoon meal. I don’t know what I plopped in there it terms of ingredients. I moped and moaned, “Oh with Covid, all these folks are posting these amazing pictures of their culinary adventures in Facebook, and I don’t even know what I am making!”

“Aww! Don’t worry ma! You always manage to make it palatable except when you get creative and experiment and stuff!” said the daughter eyeing me drooping over the kitchen counter. She shuddered and said, “Remember that bread pudding?!”

I maintained a dignified silence for post-bread-pudding, most people had to do the same as the pudding seem to get their jaws stuck. While the pot bubbled, I flopped over to the Uncle Tungsten book again, and started  reading. The chapter was about Eve Curie’s biography of Madame Curie. The book was given to Oliver Sacks when he was a ten year old boy by his mother and he had savored the copy over the years. 

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 I seemed to finally awaken as I read the passage below aloud to the children:

Eve Curie’s biography  of her mother – which my own mother gave me when I was ten –   was the first portrait if a scientist I ever read, and one that deeply  impressed me. It was no dry recital of a life’s achievements, but full of evocative, poignant images- Marie Curie plunging her hands into the sacks of pitchblende residue, still mixed with pine needles from the Joachimsthal mine inhaling acid fumes as she stood amid vast steaming  vats and crucibles, stirring then with an iron rod almost as big  as herself; transforming the huge, tarry masses to tall vessels of colorless  solutions, more and  more radioactive, and steadily concentrating these, in turn, in her drafty shed, with dust and grid continually getting into the solutions and undoing  the endless work.”

The book is full of footnotes, and annoying as this can be sometimes, this particular footnote was fun. 

Footnote:

In 1998 I spoke at a meeting for the centennial of the discovery of polonium and radium. I said that I  had been given this book when I was ten, and that it was my favorite biography. As I  was talking I became conscious of a very  old lady in the audience, with high Slavic cheekbones and a smile  going from one ear to the other. I thought, “It can’t  be!” But it was – it was Eve Curie, and she signed her  book for me sixty years after it was published, fifty-five years after I got it. 

The pot I had set on the stove sizzled over, and I charged to take control. When the dish was salvaged, I said, “See what all can happen when Eve & Madame Curie worked together dear? Madame Curie won the Nobel prize, and her daughter chronicled her! Imagine all that is possible if we were work together more sweetly in the kitchen together? I plop, you stir, I salt, you pepper. Maybe we could have our picture posted on Facebook as two smiling chefs who were never happier than when cooking together, and you can post the dishes-finale in your Insta account!” I said. 

The child did not even have to think before she shook her head. “Mom and daughter working together with chemicals and stuff! Oh they must’ve fought plenty. Besides! Think Mother! Is a Facebook photo worth all that?”

“You think!” I retorted. I have always been quick with dumb repartees.

She laughed and tousled my hair – she is now fully a head taller than my head and these days when I need to give her ‘the look’, I get the feeling of a meerkat peering at a giraffe. I suppose my noble culinary marvels will just have to wait for the Facebook accolades.

The Art of Hair

Haircuts, when we were children, were a treat in themselves. As a girl, I watched my father’s hair being snipped and pipped many times. Over time, his bald pate emerged more and more, but our barber never seem to think any less of his job just because he had a balding pate to work with. We lived in a small schooling community, and sometimes the school barber, Velusamy, a sweet, gentle mannered man, stopped by when he was free.

Velusamy set himself up in the garden, fussing over his instruments which he lovingly stowed away in his steel case. He set the chair facing away from the direct rays of the sun, so his subjects need not squint into the sun as he worked his magic on them. He filled a bucket of water, and set his mug near it. He wiped his scissors and blew on his clippers. The wind rustled the trees around us, the bees buzzed, birds chirped, and the good barber trimmed. There was a ritualistic feel to the whole thing: clearly, Velusamy was a man who enjoyed his work. 

Once the setup was done to his satisfaction, he wrapped a cloth around his subjects and set about the task of shearing the sheep clean. The sheep sometimes snoozed in their chairs, and it was imperative to tell the man before hand how much to cut. For the gentle mannered man acquired a gleam when he picked up his tools. He ran his lawn mower over the heads at his mercy without any mercy. 

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When he was happy with his task, he held up a rickety mirror, polished clean, at various angles for the subjects to inspect. Rarely were there any adjustments to be made. Sometimes, an involuntary yelp would be emitted seeing the amount of hair gone, but Velusamy would give one of his flattering smiles, and assure them that the hair would grow back. What was there to worry about? There wasn’t much to be said against such sterling good sense. He then cleaned up behind him. His rituals complete, he would accept the flowing gratitude from all in the family for coming all the way for a personalized haircut experience, and after a gentle chit-chat over a cup of tea, he left with a good-ish tip. The men of the house looked spruce and trimmed for days afterward. 

But there were times, when Velusamy’s services were scarce – especially during the school holidays. People attempt all sort of things after watching you-tube videos these days – we did the same after watching Velusamy a few times. You see over the years, my sister and I have rather prided ourselves on the haircuts we have given the little brother when Velusamy could not make it. We were happy for days afterward whenever we saw the little fellow, even though in some places, it looked like a rat had gnawed at his hair. 

Covid-19 has certainly given a lot of people renewed respect for a lot of professions. When barbers open up shop again, I am sure their clientele will flock back to them with gratitude in their eyes. Over video conference calls, there has been a steady rise in the length and density of hair. Seeing people over the past few weeks over Video cam, there came a time when most folks on the video calls seemed to encounter  an obstacle like poor Earl Emsworth did in Blandings Castle:

“Lord Emsworth passed a hand over his chin, to assist thought, and was vaguely annoyed by some obstacle that intruded itself in the path of his fingers. Concentrating his faculties, such as they were, on this obstacle, he discovered it to be his beard. It irritated him. Hitherto, in moments of stress, he had always derived comfort  from the feel of a clean shaven chin. He felt now, as if he were rubbing his hand over seaweed.”

When I read this a few days ago after a day spent trying to discern faces from the ‘seaweed’, I burst out laughing, and could not stop. The men in the family looked at me like I needed to have my head examined. I brushed the mane of my flowing hair, and said while my tresses never looked better, theirs needed some work. The husband leapt backwards clutching his mane, and I gave him a pitying look. Really! One would have thought we were unskilled at hair styling the way they shied away. 

So, I decided to play the trump card. “Oh please! We used to cut my brother’s hair sometimes when he was a kid, and he looked marvelous!” There was some mumbling at this, but I let it slide. 

On a video call with the brother a few  days later, I peered through the foliage and said to my son, “See this guy? Your maama – he was given a perfectly good haircut by me when he was your age. Look at him now.”  The brother mumbled that some scars ran deep, and hence his reluctance to have his haircut even now. I ignored this and said, “Some modest successes under my belt you know?” 

The brother beamed as he said, “I knew she would try to flaunt her success”. I  did not care much for how he unflatteringly put the word success in quotes thrown up in the air,  “But don’t let that sway you. You are better off having your head shaved off little fellow. She is lousy at it!”

I what-what-ed at this treachery. Really  – this brother of mine has a most inconvenient sense of  integrity. “Those haircuts were pure of heart and generous!” I cried stung.

The brother said “Oh! No one doubts your heart or your intentions  – both were as you so rightly say, pure. We are only  discussing results here.” he said and gave into a full throated chuckle that his nephew joined in with heartily. I huffed and I puffed, but the call seemed to have an impact  on the son. He seemed to think that his maama was a nice enough man even though he had endured haircuts from his mother in his youth, so how lasting could the damage be? Maybe it was okay to attempt after all. 

Quiet courage shows up in multiple ways – The men, to our pride, acquiesced to having their hair cut by the daughter and myself.

That is how you saw the men of the nourish-n-cherish household looking slightly uncomfortable as we spread garbage bags on the floor, and clucked away with our scissors. 

 

The Music of Guttural Sounds

“What happened?” I said the concerned mother note seeping into my voice when I heard a guttural moan. The sound I heard started with a low pitch , and then increased in volume and intensity towards the end of the gut-wrenching sound.
Uuurrrgggghhhhhh!”
“What?!”
“What happened?” I asked again for teenagers do not take kindly to having to reply in full sentences after they have felt the need to emit guttural sounds like the one just described.
“Are you missing your friends?” I asked by way of sparing the child the need to speak.

guttural_sounds

“Nooooo..” said the g.sound emitter.
“Well, glad to hear that young lady. I will just send an insta to your friends.”
She laughed because one does not use Instagram to send certain kinds of messages apparently! But the laugh loosened up the neurons controlling speech, for she went from uuuuurrrrgggghhhh to garrulous in 3 seconds. A Ferrari could have taken lessons.

“You know? I really thought high school would be more fun! Like, all these TV shows and you-tubers make it seem. I mean you know how they keep telling you about how kids are on high scale social mode? Parties and stuff.”

“What do you mean?” I asked concerned that a Freudian moment was approaching. Was the child having trouble of some sort? I tugged my super-mom tights on in my mental image (I always imagine super moms wearing Elastigirls costume, and I got to tell you those tights don’t sit well on my short-ish, mother-of-two frame), and waited for her to continue.

Helen_Parr
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57814521

“You know?!” she clucked impatiently, and I was glad to see her brisk impatience make a show again. “All these you-tubers have you think that high school is one long party, and that you just cannot manage all the different parties, and still find a way to study!”

“Hmm…Corona put a stop to that?” I asked. Friends have been sharing topics on loneliness and mental health during these times.

She gave me a pitying look.

“Gosh! Nothing of the sort – we go nowhere, and this is not even Corona-times. I am talking like normal times. I mean, come on! I sometimes take a walk with Shrubs (the nickname she has for her friend) around the neighborhood, sweet talk you into getting me a boba tea sometimes, go to classes and come back. Where is all the partying?” she asked with such sincere yearning that I burst out laughing.

“Well you sometimes go to make stuff for your clubs and such right? In any case, do you want to have that lifestyle?”

“Well .. not exactly. But it would be nice to have that kind of life once in a while, don’t you think? You know – not know which party to go to. I mean I love my little group of friends – but just think! Well…you know what? Having that sort of non-stop fun must be killing those folks right now. This Covid stuff must be really hard. ”

“Isn’t it hard for you though? Do you miss hanging out with your friends?” I asked.

“Sometimes! But this way, I get to hang out with those I want to anyway on FaceTime, and I don’t have to hang out with those I don’t want to. ” and she shrugged.

I have always admired how children adapt and respond to situations.  They wore masks because it was what you had to do. They stayed indoors for the most part, apart from a social-distancing walk.

“You poor things. Why don’t you come and play with me – we’ll play a nice little game tonight.” I said magnanimously offering our company. I should have known better after all these years.

“Nope! Rather moan about stuff! And amma! One more thing. Stop acting like you are on a summer vacay or whatever okay? We have so much work to do. I mean teachers are just getting better and better at assigning stuff to us. ”

“So was that what that uuurrrggghhhh about? I thought you had a pig in labor in your room!” I said.

She guffawed at the simile and said, “Oh that is because we had to correct our Chem test and how! We have to write what we got wrong, why we made the mistake in the first place, and write out the correct answer! ” she said sounding indignant. “Really! Teachers think they have to keep us busy and go on assigning more and more stuff! They can chill right?”

I chuckled. What a warming thought for Teacher Appreciation Week she had?

‘You want to chill? Or you want them to chill my dear?”

“Well…both. How about we chill with a boba tea?” said the sly vixen.

I gave in, and the pair of us sipped the tapioca pearls with a satisfying slurp and emitted a ‘glllluuuuuggg ggguuullllppp’ topped with a giggle. Guttural sounds are musical.

Teacher Appreciation Week

I hovered near the bookshelf – like a child hovering around the glass-pane of the candy store, Looking for that perfect piece of sweet : something familiar, good and a slight twist to wake up your cells every time.

It has been a long and stern day filled with purposeful adults, all filled to the brim with the cares of living, earning a living, and forgetting to live. My brain looked for a release, and a mode to thrive.

I picked up a book of short stories by one of my favorite authors: P.G.Wodehouse.

18-carat-kid

Eighteen Carat Kid and Other Stories: I opened the first page and was pulled in like an elephant to the early morning waters in the forest.

Paragraph 1:
There is something always going on in a private school.
Beyond breaking up fights, stopping big boys bullying small boys, preventing small boys bullying smaller boys, inducing boys of all sizes not to throw stones, go on the wet grass, worry the cook, tease the cat, make too much noise, climb trees, scale waterspouts, lean too far out of windows, slide down the banisters, swallow pencils, and drink ink because somebody bet them they wouldn’t, I had very little to do except teach mathematics, carve the joint, help the pudding, play football, read prayers, herd stragglers into meals, and go round the dormitories at night to see that the lights were out. ”

Both my parents were teachers (my father was a teacher in a residential school – public schools as they are called in India, private school in the US & UK) I sent the snippet to him, and he heartily took a trip down the memory lane and agreed in his booming, hearty voice that addressed assemblies without mikes, that there never was a dull day in his teaching career. Being a vegetarian, he did not often have to ‘carve the joint’ , but that apart, pretty much everything else was true, he said. It is always to good to hear the joy of being a teacher coming through.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I thought of sharing this essay the son had written for his 3rd Grade essay:

Topic: Imagine you are a teacher taking your class on a field trip to Baltimore National Aquarium

The Baltimore National Aquarium

At the Baltimore National Aquarium there is lots of life. This is one of the places where humans and marine life see each other as fun things.Anyway I brought my class with me because the principal wants the kids to experience new things, which I can understand. When we got to the nearest exhibit, I did a headcount of all the students. We were missing 6 of them.Thankfully, I found them near the water (where the animals are) and I gave them a good talk about not leaving the group. Then when I turned around all the other children were scattered. I thought to myself, “This is gonna be a long day.” After that, we went from exhibit to exhibit in the huge aquarium. As we were about to go to the display of skeleton from a dinosaur, we found another class. The kids merged together and the other teacher and I had the same expression: “Kids!” We sorted everything out and went to the dinosaur. I read from the brochure “This is the Shaustasourus, the largest marine dinosaur ever.” After many more mishaps we got back on the bus. For the first time, we had a full class. When we got back none of the kids thanked me for not losing them. Sometimes the world really isn’t fair, but that’s okay. I guess I had lots of fun too.

I guffawed at this piece of writing.

People who imagined the teacher’s job to be putty, are having to re-evaluate their assessments – their puddings of pie children weren’t such darlings when the Mathematics had to be taught by their parents anymore.

This is Teacher Appreciation Week in the US – really what would we do without the steady, positive influence of teachers?

May the Fourth …

“I AM YOUR FATHER!” the son comes yelling into the room. His excitement has woken up the megaphone in his vocal chords and he startles his father as he professes this sudden revelation of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker and all the rest of it. I turned around startled, as the pair of them babbled on about Star Wars – Return of the Jedi, Force Awakens. 

I knew my time was up.

I have hitherto flitted about the world confusing Star Wars and Star Trek – they looked like the same thing. There are spaceships, battleships, people wearing masks, everyone looking and sounding important, as they take their noble part in inter-galactic warfare. Every  time the husband tried to explain, I happily let my brain flit to more important things, like rose gardens, ducklings, sore thumbs, or dumplings.

Comparison of Star Wars & Star Trek

I could totally identify with Penny in Big Bang Theory as she said:

“There is absolutely no difference! But they get cranky when you mix the two up.”

My days of star-innocence however are coming to an end. The son has taken to watching Star Wars. He now painstakingly explains Jedi warriors, storm-troopers, and with a shining face awaits us as he says, “Oh my goodness! Revenge of the Sith blew my mind away! Everything suddenly made sense, right?!” 

As a treat to me, he sat next to me and made me watch Revenge of the Sith (the prequel that was taken after a considerable number of sequels were taken) in which it is revealed who Darth  Vader is. He sat like a little shining moon-let watching my face to see if it had the appropriate reaction as Anakin Skywalker is christened Darth Vader.

Sigh.

He uses his magic wand that is doubling up as a light saber these  days as he fights his imaginary battles. I tell him he needs nothing of the sort to fight inter-galactic battles – all he needs to do is fake-sneeze. He snorts with derision and guffaws with laughter at this Covid-humor, but good naturedly battles on armed with a wand or a rolling pin as the case may be. This Jedi shall stand by Obi-wan Kenobi!

To raise a geek, one must not be weak, or meek. I pick up my rolling pin, that I am making pooris with, and join in the fight. Your wand against my rolling pin – our light sabers emit energy, noises and most importantly memories.

Amy Farrah Fowler: “If you are going to compare hammers and wands, I can’t even take you seriously!”

May the Fourth be with you! The spaceship galactica takes off to a galaxy far far away…

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