A Special Post to Celebrate Syzygy

“You’d better make it a special post!”, said the son. He is the one who is ardently fanning me in on, and keeping tabs on whether I am writing enough these days. His natural state of calculating kicks in, and he says “So, if you write another post in the next 36 hours then…”, and I have to remind him that it is not like that. One does not have to follow a punishing rigorous schedule for a hobby. That I will write and when I do, it feels joyous and good. Not laborious and like finishing up an arduous task for the sake of doing so.

There must have been a natural syzygy (aligning of the stars) when I started my blog seventeen years ago. The time it takes for a wizard to come of age in the magical world. I must say, the blog has given me an excellent magical education. I may not have graduated from Hogwarts in this time, but I certainly have learnt a thing or two on the magic of persistence, the seer of light in a dark universe, or any number of things.

Herbology: My specimens may still not be thriving, but as a chronicler of the natural world, I think Professor Sprout would gladly have me in her graduating class.

“Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life. It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more,” 

Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

Read: A Celebration of 🌎

The Joy of the Natural World

Astronomy: Professors Carl Sagan and his many many friends have been amazing companions in the starship of the night. Comets, moon cycles and changing constellations not withstanding, there have also been the amazing journeys through space on light ships designed and envisioned by Johannes Kepler.

Ancient Runes: Professor Vector has opened thine eyes to many wonders of the Mathematical world and how they help us find a structure to our days. A way to find the incontrovertible truth if you will.

Changing Mathematics from a computational discipline into a beautiful, abstract philosophy.

Pythagoras of Samos (580-500 BCE) who continued the philosophy of: 

Transfiguration: How else does a serious minded member of the software engineering firms of the world transform into a magic seeking writer who will arduously work out a sentence structure sometimes tens of times to get that laugh?

Potions: Professor Snape, Dr Oliver Sacks, Paul Nurse, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Ed Yong, and so many more professors have taken me under their wing and spent many enjoyable hours explaining the joy behind reactions.

Care of Magical Creatures: Hagrid, Gerald Durrell, Sy Montgomery and numerous other writers of the natural world have introduced and opened my experiences to the world of creatures around us. Snail tales, pelican and duck friends, and so many instances of the world around us.

Writing & reading have sustained and enthralled me every step of the way, and it has proved to me how remarkable life’s moments are – even in a seemingly unremarkable life such as mine.

Like Sy Montgomery says in her book, How to be a good creature: 

Thurber taught me this: “You never know even when life looks hopeless, what might happen next. It could be something wonderful is right around the corner.”

Sy Montgomery – How to be a good creature

It usually is in the form of a new book, or a new idea that magically transforms an ordinary day into an extraordinary one. The power of fleeting thoughts that can take flame, grow and sustain in a wholly positive way, weaving magical moments and learnings. What can be better than that?

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

George R R Martin in A Dance with Dragons

Here is to more years of fruitful occupation, magical meanderings and posts that entertain and hopefully enlighten. This is my 1000th post.

Thank you, my readers, for being with me on this magical journey. Of course, the blog owes its very existence To My Family & Other Animals – who are frequent and oft quoted celebrities on this blog.

What is Life?

Even as stock markets plunged, and corporate kingdoms were made and unmade, it was heartening to read about the grander scale of Life. When I read Paul Nurse’s essays, after a day in which we spent our days more than usually examining choices, news, reactions etc, I must say it makes all the difference in perspective.

For instance, when one lives in the pulsating center of changing corporate fortunes, one cannot but help muse over the seemingly innocuous line by Paul Nurse:

“Over the long term, the most successful species will be those that can maintain the right balance between constancy and change.”

Paul Nurse – What is Life?

There is a certain philosophical musing to it all.

When one is fighting a cold in the head, it does help to think of Louis Pasteur looking at all the different chemical reactions in the microorganisms he was studying and saying:

Chemical reactions are an expression of the life of the cell.’

Louis Pasteur

It would be better if the expression happened without the head cold. But there it was – the cold was proving the expression of life. 

Or reading about Vitalism – the one thing that has fascinated philosophers for ages. For Vitalism comes down to one thing: What is Life? 

“Living organisms stand out because they are things of action; they behave with purpose, reacting to their surroundings and reproducing themselves.”

Paul Nurse

In 5 essays, Paul Nurse’s book on Life is a light read. It is just the sort of book that is easy for a non biologist to understand. It was also a good book to accompany the rather heavy going The Emperor of all Maladies – by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

A week-end spent reading till mid-day in bed can’t be a bad one can it? It would have been nicer to read about lighter subjects but such as it was, I was determined to finish reading a book that had been with me for weeks now. And if it took falling ill to tide one over a book like that, so be it.

 Starting with the times of the earliest recorded instance of Cancer, the book walks through humanity’s struggle and Science’s understanding of the disease.

I am clamoring for a light read after this one though.

The Human Experience

“You could be listening to anything at all, and this is what you choose to listen to?” , said the daughter.

I chuckled. We were driving through the Great Plains of the Mid-West between Wisconsin and Illinois. Snow flakes were flurrying lazily across the windshield, which was amusing to watch, since I could feel the car shuddering with the winds sweeping the plains. The great windmills on either side of the freeway were moving and converting the wind energy, while the snowflakes seemed to be dancing lazily and flitting across the plains. To see the flakes against the depth of the vast plain fields was mesmerizing enough, but to have Dr Indre Viskontas’s lecture accompany the scenes outside made for a new appreciation. 

I was listening to the excellent Great Courses lectures by Dr Indre Viskontas. In her energetic voice as she talks about how we hear and see, the world becomes magical again. 

Listening to Dr Indre Viskontas speak about the faculties of seeing and hearing, makes those of us given these two abilities more appreciative of all that goes on beneath the skin to make these happen. 

12 Essential Scientific Concepts

How we perceive light, hear the frequencies of sound that are audible to us, make for our human experience. The frequencies heard and seen by each creature on Earth itself is different. From the magical birds who sense the Earth’s magnetic field for their migration journeys to the fish who are able to navigate by the position of the stars from deep under the ocean, we each have our own unique way of living. Of Life. 

In Dr Oliver Sack’s book, Musicophilia, he says:

“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.”

Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia

Dr Indre Viskontas is also an Opera performer, and her joyous voice brings out the polymathic abilities she possesses. Truly, as she regales cognitive neuroscience and how our brains understand better, I am reminded of some wonderful musings with our dance teacher at school. In between rigorous bouts of dance practice, she insisted that her students were all bright, athletic, and doing so much better than we would have without dance. And, in the energy of youth urging us towards our better selves, we wanted to believe her. Could that have been a belief that spurred us on? We would not know – for good teachers, coaches and mentors all excel in that subtle balance of belief, discipline, and inspiration.

But maybe the musicality and the dance do make for better neurological experiences. As Dr Viskontas says in the lecture above, 

Art and science are after the same thing. The goal is to understand the human experience. Science does it by extracting general principles about the world, and art uses individual experience to highlight what is universal.”

Dr Indre Viskontas

Why is it that we are moved by a piece of music to visualize a god vs demon war on stage, or the haunting love-lorn calls to one another? Because music, like whales can attest, can evoke worlds in our imagination. 

“Music can also evoke worlds very different from the personal, remembered worlds of events, people, places we have known.”

Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

And so, I wanted to say to the daughter, “When I could be listening to anything at all, I chose to listen to the lectures trying to understand the human experience in a vast, barren landscape, made unbearably beautiful by the beauty of the symmetrical snowflakes, and the gushing of the winds against the car. “

What I did instead was laugh, and let her call me weird. ‘Weird’ I am beginning to understand is one of the best compliments that a teenaged child can give you.

We Should Dance!

Today is International Dance Day. To those of you who did not know: my nieces danced their way into our hearts last week with their marvelous Arangetram (Dance performance signaling they are ready for the stage). The pair of them have been dancing for about a decade, and enthralling those around with their nimble movements, naughty smiles and joyous outpouring of dance.

They freely share their gifts of the garb and their dance with those around them: The younger one who even now occasionally cartwheels as she is talking to you, & the older one who lovingly gave us a painting of a dancer for our new home.

Their Arangetram on you-tube has nourished me and fulfilled me in so many ways throughout the week. It has been an interesting week in the corporate world for yours truly, and watching pieces of their performance on you-tube in the morning or in the evening before bed has made all the difference. To the chagrin of the daughter, I have taken to leaping across kitchens with even more energy and dancing at odd hours of the night. 

True art transcends time and space. Their performance this week took me back to my school days all those decades ago. Thinking back on our school days, I remember dance being woven into our very  being.  Our dance teacher remains the sort of creative person who can take up a stage and transform it into the warring fields of the Gods Vs Demons, or the romping gardens through which Lord Krishna traipsed or the love-lorn gardens of any maiden pining for her Lord. 

I remember all the rehearsals, watching as a young girl, and then being excited to be part of the dance dramas as I grew older. It was beautiful to watch her choreograph, adjust according to our abilities, but pulling us along, and pushing us to excel with every dance. 

I remember thinking even as a child who had the immense pleasure of learning from her that being inside her brain must be marvelous: forever creating, forever forging higher connections and all with that wonderful laugh and personality.

I was itching one evening on a linear walk to dance – the rain had stopped, the sun was breaking through the clouds and a brilliant rainbow was in the making, and a moment like that makes your very Being yearn to dance. Why could we not transform into peacocks at will? Then, no one would scurry away looking worried when one breaks out into a spontaneous dance on the trail. Children prance when they feel like it, adults do not. Children cartwheel as they talk to you on the video call, we do not. This growing up business is all most confusing.

Why do we not dance more as a species? Together – all of us regardless of ability, age, sex. Dance and music are the yearnings of the universe in us after all.

Reminds me of this beautiful book on dancing I found a few weeks ago at the library: I Will Dance. Written by Nancy Bo Flood and illustrated by Julianna Swaney, this book is a beautiful reminder of why we all need dance in our lives.

Quote from the Book’s About page:

Like many young girls, Eva longs to dance. But unlike many would-be dancers, Eva has cerebral palsy. She doesn’t know what dance looks like for someone who uses a wheelchair. Then Eva learns of a place that has created a class for dancers of all abilities. 

I Will Dance – By Nancy Bo Flood, Illustrated by Julianna Swaney

I Will Dance – By Nancy Bo Flood, Illustrated by Julianna Swaney

Dance enables the soaring of the spirit, to unleash the inner peacock in us whether we are peacocks or not. 

A Whale of a Time

“Just read some book that is interesting, but not too interesting. Shouldn’t make me laugh too much, or make me say.”Oooh! That is interesting right?”, but make me sleepy in 10 minutes.”, said the son.

I said I would try. 

The strange specific request was because it was well past bedtime. The lights were off, but the young fellow was having trouble falling asleep. I could hear him chuckling at the conversation in his sister’s room, and getting up every few minutes to dart across and contribute. The rambunctious older sister and father were given a sober talking to so bedtime rituals could commence and I looked at the stash of books by the bedside trying to find one that would fill this vaguely specific request. The written world did not disappoint, and pretty soon, I had in my hands several books that could help.

However, the book on Whales seem to fit the description perfectly. It was interesting enough, the illustrations beautiful and the content remarkable yet not thrilling enough to keep one awake at night. It was like listening to Whale Song.

There is something remarkably therapeutic about the color blue.

Whales – by Kelsey Oseid

Seeing the pages in various hues of blue, with the lovely pictures of the most beautiful and interesting creatures on Earth made for a magical few minutes. It is no wonder that the daughter loves doodling with blues, and drew numerous pictures of whales.

The daughter’s drawing of Whales

The light blue on the pages lulled one to sleep and before long, the fellow drifted, and I tiptoed out with the book. 

Reading about whales on a weekday night is strangely relaxing. I kept going. Spreadsheets, documents, planning, working, cleaning – everything seemed irrelevant in the face of these creatures. The feeding, bubbling and the many aspects of the whales is beautifully shown. The illustrations in the book make it a relaxing artistic phenomenon – I have spent many nights since looking at the pictures in the book. 

Sample page to show the beauty of the illustrations in the Whales book by Kelsey Oseid

Whales also gently reminded me of my recent folly: It has been sometime since I went on a children’s book reading spree. So, I went about rectifying this immediately. It is no wonder the old spirit has been feeling jaded lately. Nothing like a dose of magic, art, laughter and childlike stories to rejuvenate the spirit. Sometimes, when we make a Whale of a Mistake like that, all it takes is a trip to the library to invite the guardian of the spirit to visit again.

I look forward to reading this lot, and having a whale of a time.

Children’s Books

The Role of Journalism in History

In his section on Opium in the book, This is Your Mind on Plants, the author Michael Pollan writes about how his first story that was to appear in the leading newspapers in the 1990s was redacted and cut after a legal review. (The entire essay is printed in the book that was published 20 years later). This essay seems to precede the opioid crises in America that was to surface just a decade later. But it was apparent that the undercurrent was already at play. The world just had no idea how it would pan out. 

This is your mind on plants – Michael Pollan

His sentence on journalism and its bearing on History resonated on so many levels, that I noted it down then and there. 

“There’s a parable here somewhere, about the difference between journalism and history. What might appear to be “the story” in the present moment may actually be a distraction from it, a shiny object preventing us from seeing the truth of what is really going on beneath the surface of our attention, what will most deeply affect people’s lives in time.”

Michael Pollan – Our Mind on Plants

Later in the book, when he is talking about caffeine, he mentions this piece of Asian history that emerged from the tea-drinking habit of the British. By the 1800’s tea drinking had become a normal routine of English life. Jane Austen refers to tea in her books published in the early 1880s. In the book, Alice in Wonderland, published in 1865, tea parties are galore. 

“Yes, that’s it! “, said the Hatter

with a sigh, “it’s always tea time.”

Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland

Here is the excerpt of the section on the British East India Company’s tea trade with China.

Since the company had to pay for tea in Sterling, and China had little interest in English goods, England began running a ruinous trade deficit with China. The East India Company came up with two clever strategies to improve its balance and payments position: it turned to India, a country it controlled that had no history of large-scale tea production, and transformed it into a leading producer of tea – and opium. The tea was exported to England and the opium, over the strenuous objections of the Chinese government, was smuggled into China, in what would quickly become a ruinous and unconscionable flood.

By 1828, the opium trade represented 16% of the company’s revenues, and within 5 years, the East India company was sending more than 5 million pounds of Indian opium to China per year. This helped close the trade deficit but millions of Chinese became addicted. After the Chinese emperor ordered the seizure of all stores of opium in 1839, Britain declared war to keep the opium flowing. Owing to the Royal Navy’s vastly superior firepower, the British quickly prevailed, forcing open 5 “treaty ports” and taking possession of Hong King in a crushing blow to China’s sovereignty and economy,.

So here was another moral cost of caffeine: in order for the English mind to be sharpened with tea, the Chinese mind had to be clouded with opium.”

Michael Pollan – This is your mind on Plants

The adage ‘History is written by the victor’ does ring true in most cases. How many perspectives of every narrative are there? How does one classify a good side or a bad side? The perspective of time lends a helpful lens. For instance, when Madeleine Albright, the first woman senator met Vladimir Putin in the 1990’s, she was asked of her opinion of him. She recognized him as a despot in the making, and one who was preternaturally occupied with the idea of a United Sovereign States of Russia (USSR before it disintegrated into Russia + all the other smaller countries). I suppose this is an example of a seed taking root in one’s mind and growing and festering with time. The war on Ukraine is but a step in that direction.

More importantly though, what is current journalism missing for the larger picture today? Whether it is in the reporting of Covid, the Ukraine crisis, or the larger commodity of people’s attention spans. Our future generations would point to this day and age of our shrinking attention spans in an attempt to capture our attentions, and see the arc from some place that humanity had reached. Would it be a virtual reality universe designed to give us more options to escape from life, or will life itself change? Nobody knows. But in order to see how it pans out, we need our critical faculties about us. 

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ said Alice.

‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the cat. ‘We’re all mad here.’

Lewis Carroll

What’s our hurry?

“Oh! How I love the fiery glow of the sunset and how I missed our quiet garden“, I said leaping out of the car after my long dredge of a commute back into the office. It has been two years since Covid shut office spaces down, and I cannot say that I missed the crowds on the trains, the noise of the city, or the snarling traffic inching along at peak times.

“I am so happy to come back to this suburban paradise from the hustling, bustling city!” I said sighing happily and taking in deep gulps of fresh air. I flitted to the rose buds starting to form, flew to the jasmine bushes sending wafts of jasmine-ly scent into the evening air, and lovingly tousled the lavender bushes. I suppose butterflies when let loose in a meadow from a bottle do the same.

I looked up to see the daughter giving me that look: the one where she is wondering whether it is prudent to have my head checked for bumps.

I am such a country mouse my dear!” I said by way of making conversation.

“I wouldn’t want to be a cat in a world that you are a mouse, that is for sure!”, said she, never one to falter at smart quips. 

I straightened my shoulders haughtily and wanted to retort. Sharply. With sarcasm, speed and humor. 

Nothing came. 

I shook my head and tried to fetch some quip, anything. Nothing.

I stood there fumbling and stammering. Maybe the pace of the day had taken it all out. So, I finally laughed. 

It was while I was out sauntering on a mild spring morning a few days later that I remembered the study on the pace of life in the book, In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman. 

In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman

In the book, Alan Lightman writes of the study where people’s average walking speed was measured across a decade. The speed was measured in suburban places, cities and bustling city centers. Apparently, the walking speed had increased considerably. An average woman of today in San Francisco city walks faster than an average woman in the 20th century. Makes us pause and think doesn’t it? What are we hurrying towards?

Excerpt from the book:

A momentous study by the University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with the British Council found that the walking speed of pedestrians in 32 cities around the world increased by 10% just in the 10 year period from 1995 to 2005.

How did we arrive at this point in the history of the world?

First, there is business. The pace of life has always been driven by the pace of business, and the pace of business has always been driven by the speed of communication. In 1881, in a book titled American Nervousness: its Causes and Consequences, physician George Beard noted the increase of nervousness and stress in the public caused by the new communication technologies of the day: The railroad and the telegraph. Today, its the Internet. 

In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman

It is no wonder that spending time in Nature is such a soother, acting almost like an analgesic. The pace of nature hardly varies. 

Like Lao Tzu says: 

Nature never hurries, yet accomplishes everything.

Lao Tzu
Bryce Canyon National Park

Plant Influences

March is a beautiful time where we live. The spring equinox is approaching, the moon is waxing and the beautiful luminous joy it brings every evening has to be seen to be believed. It is also the month of the great flowering. All around us, the Earth seems to be bursting into bloom. One evening after a particularly beautiful walk admiring hillsides with golden poppies, I came home and picked up the book, ‘This is Your Mind on Plants’ – By Michael Pollan.

This is your mind on plants – Michael Pollan

The book is split into 3 sections: The mind soothing, mind enhancing, and mind altering 

Morphine in the opium poppy; the caffeine in coffee and tea; and the mescaline produced by the peyote and San Pedro cacti. (In short, it deals with sedative, stimulant and hallucinogen classifications of plants) 

After reading the first introduction I could not get the image out of my mind. How could that beautiful flower innocuously growing on hillsides in the wild, the relatively common poppy be associated with the Drug Wars? How did human beings even pick up these things and figure out what the effects are. The simplest explanation points to humans observing the calming effect of poppy eating cattle and trying a bit for themselves. I was curious to read that poppy tea was served at funerals in the Middle East as they were known to help induce feelings of happiness and thus dull the grief of death. Could the beautiful, innocent loving flowers be responsible for the opioid crisis that have resulted in the death of thousands in America in the past decade alone?

California poppies

Finding the use of a sedative would have been one of the first things human beings checked off their evolutionary list. In fact, some of this knowledge may even have been handed down to us by our ape cousins. 

For instance, apes make trips of miles to procure certain herbs to cure themselves of stomach upsets. When I read it in one of Jane Goodall’s essays, I was astounded. Of course our animal cousins have a more intimate relationship with nature than we do. 

If sedatives could be obtained thus, hallucinogens couldn’t be far behind. I remember reading somewhere that the myth of flying reindeer has hallucinogenic origins too. Seeing the effect of the magic mushrooms on the reindeer, the humans near them experimented them as well, and lets say their hallucinogenic effects seem to have echoed down the centuries in endearing stories of Santa Claus and his red nosed reindeer. 

I put the book down meditatively, and went downstairs to make myself a cup of tea to start the day. Nothing wakes us up like a good cup of tea! Often teased about my fondness for tea, this is one of most oft taken for granted plant influence. The caffeine in tea and coffee has stimulated human kind for over two centuries.

After a particularly beautiful walk admiring the golden poppies in the light of the setting sun, I looked it up. It was a small relief to read that the California poppy though in the same family as the opium poppy is not classified as a narcotic. 

Quote: 

“It should be noted that although California poppy is in the same family as opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), it is not a narcotic and is much gentler and non-addictive.”

I am looking forward to finishing the book.

The Leaping of Spring

We had been on a short trip up the mountains recently. On the way back, I realized yet again that I had taken far too many photographs that were of no use. So I sat sagely deleting them making space for more. In that moment of weakness, I told myself that I would not whip out my phone at the slightest thing, and take a photograph. That is how I landed up missing the picture of the blackbird racing a red hawk for a few meters. It is also why I have the image clearly etched in my head. 

I took a short morning walk to clear my head. It was cold, I had not slept well. As I trudged on, I was already listing the different things to get done during the workday, the things that needed tending in the home, and the things I wanted to do with the children and friends. All the mundane things that flit through a working woman’s mind on a weekday morning flitted, and I stopped to chastise myself. This was what Henry David Thoreau meant when he said he walked without leaving the village behind or something to that effect.  I was physically there, but not spiritually or mentally, and that would not do, I told myself sternly.

Taking a deep breath and feeling the cold rush of fresh air, I moved on. This time, I felt the difference. The clear, trilling sound of the swarms of blackbirds, that is missing in January or even February was clearly filling the air. I stopped to look around, and the soaring of the blackbirds with their little flashes of red beneath their wings, the tittering of the thrushes, and the quacking of the ducks in the distance were all enough to pin me to planet Earth even as my spirits soared from the ground. 

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.

Henry David Thoreau
The influence of the Earth

A little distance away, a red hawk took flight, and a little blackbird flitted up against it. Trying to keep up, basking behind the great birds wing span and sheltering against the air currents. It was a marvelous sight to catch. The little one’s sense of adventure elicited a smile. After a few minutes of this folly, the little one veered away. Happy to go back to flitting joyously. 

It is amazing what a little spring time air can do for the soul. One can come back energized in soul, and tired physically, and that is just as it should be. 

Almond Blossoms to Cake

“Hmm….is that badam cake?”. (Badam is the Tamil name for Almond) The son’s nose whiffed and sniffed rapturously as he came home from school. I laughed at his reaction. The heavenly scents of ghee, almonds, milk, cardamom, and sugar have felled many a strong heart. No wonder celestial offerings have this combination of aromas the world over. I nodded and the little fellow ran inside. His grandmother handed him a warm piece of badam cake, and his eyes shone. His mouth watering, he gave her a hug, and knowing how his grandfather must’ve been the one who stirred the mixture for hours to get it to this consistency gave him a hug too.

Then he bit into it slowly: relishing, licking, savoring the cake in his hands, he danced a little jig. 

Relishing badam cakes is a family tradition I think. Across the length and breadth of the family tree, you will find people who melt in anticipation of badam cake. The nephews, nieces, son, daughter, their parents and grandparents all smack their lips when the very name is mentioned. The grandmothers treasure the almonds more than diamonds.

A couple of days later we went on a short drive. The drive through the green hills of California was enough to raise the spirits of everyone in the car. The view of the rolling hills of the Bay Area is best in late winter and early spring. All around us is resplendent green tugging at the heart strings of poets to take up that muse of the alluring verdure. But, there are bounties waiting the moment you reach the plains too: fields of almond trees in rows and rows spread over acres like one of those 3-d models that mesmerize you in their symmetry and movement. In early spring, the almond trees are in full bloom. Watching the brilliance of their white snowy blossoms even non-poets feel their heart strings tug.

It is no wonder that Van Gogh and thousands of artists on this beautiful planet looked to almond blossoms as inspirations in their work. It is stunning. Vincent Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother as he worked on his famous Almond Blossoms painting:

I am up to my ears in work for the trees are in blossom, and I want to paint a Provençal orchard of astonishing gaiety.

Van Gogh
Almond Blossoms by Vincent van Gogh – Image from Wikipedia – using Wikimedia Commons

Grown in France, Spain, Iran and California, almonds occupied prime real estate in the nourish-n-cherish childhood home. We had sturdy Godrej cupboards of yore for valuables. Other families stashed gold, silver, diamonds etc: ours had almonds and cashews.

Soaked, peeled with glee ( you could pop the almonds out of their skin after soaking, and several of them would escape and flee across the tables), ground, and then stirred with ghee, sugar and cardamom, this is a delicacy alright.

The son and I watched the trees in quiet symmetry zoom past our windows. Beautiful fields full of trees, quietly standing in the Californian soil doing all the hard work of blooming, sprouting and growing. How I wish we could learn from trees. How they go about the business of living and enabling living for creatures such as we: sans fanfare, yet with complete grace and majesty. A stoic patience underlying their vibrance; their steady creation the backbone of life on this planet. 

almond fields California

I thought of the happy faces of the nourish-n-cherish household when we see the badam cakes each time. That godly moment of sliding the cake into the mouth – all starting with the astounding wondrous work of the almond flowers in bloom outside the window. It makes us pause and appreciate all that is takes to satisfy the human palette, doesn’t it? 

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