The son was excited, and it showed. As I walked to school that day, I told him that I usually do not hobnob with the likes of him, and he chuckled. ‘Good one Amma!’
His Halloween costume had arrived just in time. His super-hero backpack clashed with his bright pirate’s costume, but it didn’t seem to bother him in the least.
I have no idea whether pirates were this brightly dressed in the days of pirating, but mine looked like he had borrowed an idea or two from a parakeet. His pirate T-shirt and matching socks were a bright blue, while the rest of his ensemble was an even brighter red and black. His eye patch and head bandanna were skewed and he looked a happy, if somewhat studious, pirate.
We walked into the school grounds, and my heart rose with the number of astronauts, super-heroes, and princesses. Even though, Halloween was a muted affair in school this year(There was to be no Halloween Parade because of the pandemic), these children had ensured they dressed up, and the morning chatter was louder than usual. Masked mermaids and cats whisked around – their eyes revealing their true excitement. There were no parades this year, and I felt a little sorry for the children and for myself.
I wanted to revel in the over the top costumes of young children. I wanted to admire the creative ones who took an idea and created something marvelous. I remember a chap a few years ago who came dressed up as a washing machine, holding a detergent can in his hand. All with the help of some cardboard boxes. One time, I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw a cow chatting amiably with Cleopatra in the parade.
“At least they let us dress up for school.” said the fellow spotting the silver lining, and I agreed.
Tomorrow is Halloween, and I hope the frenzy to decorate and trick-or-treat will be with us again.
For those who have been feeling life’s frenzies and the earnestness of its many demands, I hope you have a spot of Halloween fun!
“I like that quote and plan to use it on my blog!” I said, sitting down in front of the teenage daughter’s wall of quotations, though I was feeling luxuriously wet. Summer had collapsed into fall just like that! How these writers find the exact sentiment!
“Hey! That is my quote.”
“Looks like Oscar Wilde’s to me.” I said and she laughed. I looked appreciatively at the quotes she had pinned up. She has some saucy ones, some spicy ones, some warm ones and some ‘meh’ ones as she calls them.
The rains had set in with a whim and the day in my mind was magical. It was a Sunday, and for a change we had arranged life so that nobody had anywhere to go that day. A rare luxury. Marvelous days of rain and clouds with no list of engagements can be quite liberating, and I had taken myself on a walk with a friend who was willing to bear the elements. We may have had a few close calls in which the umbrellas insisted on flying off with the winds, or the rains lashed in at an angle not expected, but overall, it was a marvelous walk. I felt alive, wind-whipped, cold, wet, and all the smells of nature mingled and tingled my nostrils.
“Do you remember that little book, A Rainy Day Adventure, that you both loved as children. Your grandfather was quite sick of it. The one where the elephant, tiger, and monkey went to shelter under the tree from the rain, and when the elephant was dry, the tiger wasn’t; and when the tiger inched in, the monkey was wet?” The pair of them laughed at that story. They did remember. It was a sweet book that had served many an afternoon adventure for them. The tiger did not like getting wet at all, and consequently takes off in a huff to find shelter elsewhere. Read in their grandfather’s stentorian voice, it was always accompanied by an hilarious laugh, when the tiger falls into the river and gets completely drenched, and is pulled out by the elephant and monkey.
I sighed happily. “I didn’t exactly plop into the river like the tiger, but I was quite wet. I felt like a little girl in Lovedale again, the winds, the rains, and the scents of eucalyptus and pine were just so. The ducks were having so much fun in the fast flowing waters of the river swollen from a mere stream to a gushing river in the rains.”, I said rapturously.
The daughter had a moment of indecision. Should she, or should she not? Finally, she said, “You paint a promising picture of the rainy day adventure, it sounds fun! Maybe, I’ll try it.” I whooped with joy and then went downstairs to get her set up with a sturdier umbrella and some boots before sending her on the way.
I went upstairs to change, and for the first time cursed the double paned windows that were touted as a marvelous feature when we moved in to the new nest. Mostly, I appreciate them, for there is no outside noise that percolates into the home. But today, I wanted the noise to percolate into the home. I wanted to hear the wind buffeting the dear home, I wanted to hear the gurgling waters as they sped towards the gutters cleaning up the months of summer dust with them, I wanted to hear the momentous crash that sent half a sturdy tree crashing down in the front. But I heard none of that.
A few minutes later, the daughter crashed into the home, looking like a battered duck that flew into a tree, and said to the husband. “Amma here! She really ought to be checked. The way she spoke about it, I thought it was mild to moderate rains, and you can just listen to the pitter-patter of rain-drops against the umbrella. Nothing like that! I was almost swept off my feet several times by the winds, the umbrella turned inside-out at least 3 times, and all this in a 15 minute walk inside our community! Look at her looking so happy after being soaked like this!”
I laughed heartily, and said, “Well, I did tell you it was a good rainy day adventure. I never extolled a gentle stroll. I called it an adventure! That is what it is. Come! Admit it – you loved it.” She threw her hands up in the air and shook herself to dry like a dog does. A few minutes later, I found her holding a large cup of hot chocolate that she had made for herself and her little brother. “I am going to my room, lighting a scented candle with pumpkin spices, listening to some music, curling up with a good book, and sipping hot chocolate. That is what you are supposed to do on a day like this, not take off on sloshy walks.”
“I heartily agree. “ I said, calling after her. “Admit it! You appreciate this all the more because of the rainy day adventures.” She laughed in spite of herself.
I recognized the wisdom in her words, and did the same. The coziness of a rainy autumn day is heavenly indeed.
I’ve written before about how one of the best gifts of growing up in a different world from the one I inhabit as an adult is the marvelous gifts of literature that keeps on giving. For instance, this week, I am contending with my love for Anne of Green Gables and its TV show, Anne with an E, juggling the arrival of our in-laws from India, Greek myths that ebbs and flows like the tides with the children and their interests, a full Navarathri season, a pile of books begging to be read, a craving for some quiet, and a few entirely new Dr Seuss books.
All of these things seemed to reiterate the one thing that Virginia Woolf said,
“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.”
The children thought it might be a good idea for me to watch Anne with an E. Seeing that I am not much of a Television person, a profile was created for me on Netflix. Every one else’s profile was given their own names. Mine was touchingly called ‘Amma’, and it had one entry in the ‘Continue Watching’: Anne with an E.
This tickled the son every time, and he showed it off to his friends, who all shared a chuckle with him. The series is beautifully rewritten by Moira Walley Becket, and is based on the original book series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The series boldly irons out some aspects that could have been better in the books. A number of side stories and characters have also been added (some I liked, some I didn’t).
Ever since my first acquaintance with Anne of Green Gables, I have a yearning for the Canadian countryside. I would love to visit Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island one day ‘with kindred spirits’ to take in the October beauty.
I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers
– Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery
I must admit Anne with an E rekindled the love for the series, and I started reading the series again. Accordingly I went to library to look up Anne of Windy Poplars, and found the rest of the series on the shelves, but the one I was looking for. I asked one of the librarians putting some books away nearby and went to ask her if she knew whether there was another copy somewhere else. Her eyes seem to light up when I asked after the Anne of Green Gables series, and I smiled inside my mask. She acknowledged that the Windy Poplars one was not there, and I thanked her, and went my way.
I meandered around the library and when finally I washed up at the checkout desk, she came up breathlessly, and handed me a well-loved copy of Anne of Windy Poplars. “I knew there was another copy for you somewhere!”
I thanked her profusely. I cannot tell you the joy I had in curling up with Anne that night, reveling in the quiet way in which the old rivalries between Anne and Gilbert blossomed into a companionable friendship, and then into love.
I said so to the daughter late that night when she found me reading well past midnight. Her eyes crinkled with laughter, and she said,”Amma! Look at you. Aren’t you just a little bit embarrassed to be fan-girling like this?”
“Well…since you ask, Just A Little Bit!” I said, but found myself laughing. “I can’t help it, I seem to like it, and well, makes me think of Appa & me a long time ago.”
“All right – TMI!” she said. (TMI for oldies as I was lovingly enlightened means Too Much Information)
But she nodded approvingly before adding, “I like that you are reading and watching Anne of Green Gables ma! Gilbert Blythe indeed!” Her back registered indulgence as she turned and left me to my reading. I chuckled, and became a little girl enjoying the twist of the trees, and the way the moonlight danced on the waters, till the mystical realms of dreams claimed me.
“Bike ride?”, said the husband. He had that smile twitching at the corner of his mouth and I clutched the line like a drowning sailor. Solitude is a luxury. Especially so, during Navarathri season.
I quoted Walt Whitman as I wheeled the bike out from the garage.
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Song of the Open Road – Walt Whitman
Had we gone on a walk, we might have been tempted to talk. But as it was, the bike ride was perfect. We biked along companionably, grateful for the riverside along which we pedaled, taking in the sights of the setting sun. Birds flitted effortlessly. The wind against our beaks were making cycling hard going, and every now and then, I glanced up at the hawks, geese and smaller sparrows and warblers, apparently holding their own, but probably wisely using the wind to their advantage.
We stopped for a breather near the marshes nearby, and only then did I truly appreciate the scene before me. Dozens of pelicans took flight into the sunset heading towards the bay in the west. They rose courteously, together. With every scoop of pelicans that took flight, one of them flew out in a different direction from the others. It was curious at first, but they may have had a smart reason for doing so, seeing that their knowledge of aviation is certainly superior to our own.
Countless times, I’ve stood admiring their coordinated fishing. If that isn’t dancing, I don’t know what is. Gracefully, beautifully, they duck in and out, in and out. Floating along seamlessly together, good naturedly taking in their fill. I especially love to see that little hump in their beaks. I thought it was a curiosity – something that reminds us that perfection lies in these little imperfections. But as it turns out, the hump only appears during breeding season and disappears thereafter.
The pods of pelicans near the lakes and bays of California are a source of eternal joy, and though I feel I could never do justice to the marvelous creatures like Aimee Nezhukumatathil does in her book of essays, World of Wonders, my homage is nevertheless as heartfelt.
Where was I? Yes – cycling and watching the scoops of pelicans take flight into the sunset. Instinctively moving into formation so they conserve energy and stay together. There are very few experiences in life that compare to an evening like that. I suppose spiritual seekers feel the same way after a pilgrimage. Satiated, renewed, and grateful for life on this beautiful planet among beings we love.
On the way back, we cycled in the same direction as the wind, and we found the going much easier. Slowly, companionably, we headed towards the social life of human-beings.
We have had slightly colder days the past few days. The clouds seem to be making an appearance and the wind rustles and bustles through the precocious maple trees starting to turn crimson. I have been looking happier and more wind-swept than ever before after my little walks, and I said so to the folks I met.
“I hope you are pulling my leg somehow.” said one of them with a smile when I confessed how much I love windy cold days after the placid hot days of summer sunshine. But I was not. Californian summers are marvelous, and glorious no doubt. But they do have a tendency to go on for just that extra bit of time. If they got on their horses and rode off with the autumnal equinox, it would be marvelous, but they don’t. They linger and surprise us with hot, hotter and even hotter days well into October.
One afternoon, I had come back from an impulsive afternoon walk, in which the strong breeze was billowing everywhere. One of the best places to take in the beauty of a strong breeze on a sunny day is near a pine tree. Every pinecone delights, every sliver of pine shines a different color, and every whiff of breeze sends a contented sigh that ripples through the trees. It is like watching the tree laugh – great hearty laughs in waves.
How can one feel anything but joy when a tree laughs: slowly, deliberately and wholly?
I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers
– Anne of Green Gables, Lucy M Montgomery
I whole heartedly agree with Anne of Green Gables. I believe autumn does trigger warmth of the soul even as the world around us starts getting colder. We roll through Octobers and arrive at Thanksgiving in November with the beauty of the world surrounding us.
California has been enduring a particularly dry summer. The past few days, however, have ushered in the clouds, and my heart has been lolling up amidst the soft fluffy beds of moisture. Soaring high over the hills and dales; idly drifting past rivers and lakes; taking in the sights of a parched Earth, with summer flowers fading; and the more precocious among the maples starting to turn color.
This week, however, there seemed to a slight turn towards autumn. I stepped out into the nippy morning and felt the keen clean air fill the lungs. “Oh! The bliss of a fresh morning!” I cried as I sniffed the roses in bloom. The daughter tcha-tcha-ed her way past me, and said something to effect of rose-smelling not being an excuse for being late to school.
I demurred. “Rose-smelling seems like a far better excuse than traffic. Where is the romance in traffic? “
She gave me a critical look, and said, “Don’t you have work to do?”
This little tete-a-tete done, we each proceeded to our call of duty but the morning scene stuck with me.
I took my cuppa out to peek at the clouds, and had clouds had ears, they would have heard the divinely song bursting forth from the deep bowels of my soul. Even the withering roses bravely held on to their freshness for another day.
As Anne of Green Gables used to say, Isn’t it marvelous that we live in a world with Octobers in them. In California, that resplendent autumn arrives in November, so I suppose I will have to change my sayings to: Don’t you love an Earth with Novembers in them, but the sentiment still holds.
As I merged into the screen, throughout the day, the early morning effervescence waned somewhat. The incessant humming of work related business drummed out the quiet of the morning. I marched and wrestled with my to-do lists and all the calls of business and duty. By evening, I resolved to catch the evening sunshine, and snapped the laptop shut.
Jupiter and Venus were both illuminating the evening skies. Dusk was creeping in. The sight of our familiar planetary companions is always a welcome one. The first ones to illumine the skies, and visible long before the stars can be seen, these wanderers are a delight. The red atmosphere of Venus, the thunderous black ones on Jupiter, and the beautiful bluish velvet earthly skies make for a magical time.
Later that night, after loads of laundry, dishwashing and cleaning were done, I sat on a park bench nearby and gazed up. Jupiter looked brighter than all the other stars, and I found my thoughts drifting. I read somewhere that the red spot on Jupiter depicting its great raging storm looks fiercer than ever. I could see none of that from my park bench millions of miles away of course. That night, the reflected light from the sun was just soothing, and in some ways alluring. The great mighty giant with its storm raging for 3-4 centuries spinning, quietly keeping the solar system in balance, and dealing with its own destiny is strangely fascinating. Are there extremophiles on its surface? Any micro-organisms that only thrive in the storms? Maybe we would know one day.
As I went to say good night to the son, we fell to discussing the skies (one of our favorite topics as regular readers know). I told him that I read about Jupiter’s storms being stronger this year,
“Ha! Our global warming affecting the storms on Jupiter? “ he said and the pair of us chuckled at the joke.
“Did you know if you put 90 Jupiters together, you still won’t have a star?”
“Yeah?! How many would you need?”
“ A hundred.”
“Let me guess – Kurzegesagt?” I said, and he nodded.
That channel has some of the most amazing content, and the son gets excited when a new video is released.
“If 100 Jupiters came together, we could get a star like the Barnard’s star. We cannot see, but it will be a star. ” . I had not heard of Barnard’s star, but there it was capable of going on as a red dwarf star for the next 10 trillion years. He charmingly said 1-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0 of course, and I was wondering what the number is – fogged after a hard days’ work, this child’s 1-0-0-…-0 can be a bit much.
So, there was another close neighbor to the Earth – a star that was not as visible as Alpha Centauri, but there nevertheless, 6 light years away. This red dwarf has made its way into science fiction with the possibility of harboring life in the planets around it. The dwarf star is too cold, and though the planets orbit at an optimal distance, it is too cold for life as we know it. But human imagination, while marvelous, is also limited in some respects.
Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
Apparently, the Barnard’s Star is known as one of the fastest moving stars – a little dancer in the skies, moving slowly regally among Jupiter & Venus in the evening skies. This one’s movements are not as visible in one lifetime, but is visible over a century. To marvel at this kind of generational wisdom being passed down always makes me grateful for the little part we all play in this mighty universe.
As we sat in our pajamas talking about the stars and their planets, I thought about the beautiful marvelous gift of star-gazing.
I don’t know what the future holds for mankind, but I hope gazing at the stars is one that is always possible. A source of dreams, conjectures, possibilities, and solace. That is my wish for all sentient beings,