On the Shores of Sleep

I lay awake ready to explore the cosmic oceans of the subconscious, which is to say, the eyelids were heavy with welcoming drowsiness, but blessed sleep was momentarily elusive.

The infection in my eye was throbbing, and had morphed into a dull headache. A trip to the city earlier in the day had tuckered me out more than I cared to admit, and an over-tired body can take some time falling asleep. 

The quick trip to the city had also rekindled some familiar feelings. Some things never seemed to change. The city with its trembling lights, its massive office buildings, the scores of people rushing, rushing towards something, nothing. Life felt long, unchanging, and yet, distressingly tumultuous all at once.

I stopped to take pulse – the anxious rush of traffic, the speed with which one needed to act and react on the streets, the cacophony of ambulances and traffic, and the frenzied pace were one thing. Colleagues who had moved out of the geographic location, colleagues who had moved on was quite another. The memory of a colleague who had succumbed to cancer a few weeks prior: another good human being whose companionship and solid good sense I missed.

How could time feel swift and still at the same time? 

How can our ephemerality coincide with that sense of life being long and varied?

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.” 

― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Every moment plucked like a strand from a whirlwind, and yet, every person’s appreciation of the whirlwind was their own. Life seemed meaningless and meaningful in spots of flashing clarity in the confusing overwhelm of the day.

I tried to sleep that night – back in the quiet of our suburban home. I couldn’t, and took to moon-watching instead. The moon had risen – the same moon that rose over the Sierra Nevada mountains – unmoving, majestic; the oceans – calm and serene; the vast plains of the desert cactii-laden amidst multi-hued rocks and sands; the coastal regions  – the sandy shores and the redwood forests reaching up to eternity; and the bustling city all at the same time. 

The Japanese have a beautiful word for moon-watching:

Tsukimi (月見) or Otsukimi (お月見), meaning, “moon-viewing”, also known as Jugoya (十五夜), are Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon, a variant of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Time and Space in the physical realm invites us to think of Being in the meta-physical sense.  The land of dreams beckoned again, and I went to bed – grateful for the quiet solitude of the night, the calming nature of moonlit thoughts and blessed sleep.

The sun will rise bringing with it a whole new perspective.

Tweet Talk

The cheery morning had us all chirping – much like the world around us. A beautiful, bright, sunny November morning around the time of Thanksgiving is always a special time. The glorious world around us transformed into multi-colored hues, and the auditory world rich with the orchestra of birds made our human companions on the trail more friendly as well. Every single one of them cheerily greeted one another on what a lovely morning it was. The world seemed to be in harmony.

Geese lifted out of their slumbering fields and flew squawking great big messages to one another as they splashed down into the lakes and rivers nearby. The blackbird murmurations overhead trilled and flew flashing their streaks of red in marvelous patterns overhead. The californian blue jays swooped among the marshes and the trees, their brilliant azure feathers twinkling and shining in the rays of the sun. The great blue herons and egrets stood waiting in their great cloaks of grey and white, relishing their solitude and just being part of the great lovely world around them. 

I read somewhere that people who were among many birds were generally less stressed in life, and I could readily imagine why. The joyous chirps, blending together in a great, harmonious orchestra along with the swift usage of wings to fly up and above, taking one’s spirits with you is enough to reduce the stress. 

I sniffed rapturously and we walked on. The ponds in the marshes seemed perfect for reflection, and the mind wandered. I took some pictures: not too many, and certainly not of great quality for posterity. There were talented photographers  for that. I have several friends whose photographs have that essence of transcending the current space and time and tranporting you to that very moment they captured. How they manage to catch the birds in flight is beyond me. I said as much to the son, who gave me an amused look at yet another blurry picture I took of a nesting heron in the marshes. 

Seeing how enamored I am with our winged companions in this world, the daughter got me a book titled Bird Cottage – by Eva Meijer for my birthday. I look forward to reading it. I looked at the son as we walked on in companionable silence, and told him so.

“Now, I am reading a book on hummingbirds.” 

“I am sure you are!” He said with a smile on the corner of his lips.

“Less sass young man. It is a fascinating book. “

“That’s what I meant. You would like to read a whole book on hummingbirds. What’s it about?” he said indulging me as he walked on.

I was proud of the fellow. He had been promised a short, zipping bike ride with the wind blowing against his face. Instead, here he was on a long walk. On the trudge back, he said, “I think I am going to go home and replace my legs with another pair. They hurt!”, and he laughed raucously at his own joke.

“It would be nice to fly on home, wouldn’t it? Become a hummingbird so we can fly swiftly and purposefully home every few minutes if you so wish!”

I told him about this person who lives in Marin County who takes on orphaned hummingbirds and nurses them back to life. “They need to be fed every 20 minutes all day every day till they are strong enough to be released into the wild.” I said.

“Wow. Why do they eat so much? They are so tiny!”

“Well! They are tiny and almost fully lungs – so you have to give them tiny portions every few minutes, so they can survive and thrive. A hummingbird mother is a very busy one. She has to fly in and out of the nest every few minutes feeding, and looking after her little ones, till they are strong enough. Just like most babies.” I said. He looked confused and awed. I addressed that look and said, “Even human babies need to be fed every couple of hours throughout the day for the first few months. You know that?”

He had a vague idea until then that babies were work, but he had no idea they needed to be fed every 2 hours.

He was quiet for a few moments digesting this piece of info. I swooped in, and gave him what the early days of human baby care looked like. I rounded it off saying, “Yep! You do all that, and what do they do? Sass you on walks, and roll their eyes when they are teens!” He laughed raucously frightening a goose nearby, and we spoke of this and that, the great web of life, and the fantastic nature of living.

The Art of Words

There are days when fiction exerts a strong pull on the mind. We are, after all, children of stories.

The nature of the allure is in the constantly changing nature over time. Some days demand active adventure, mysteries to be solved, and battles to be won. These flights of fancy can be just as fascinating as the timeless nature of love encapsulated in the pages of P G Wodehouse and Jane Austen – the balm for the soul. Just as special is the quiet, kind, and often humorous companionship among humans written by the likes of Miss Read, L M Montgomery or RK Narayan, especially for one who is tired after a day of dealing with people and their problems at work. Revelations that give us tiny insights into the possibilities and depths of the human spirit.

Some days, the allure of poetry is there like a soothing essence of the night. Like a lavender enhanced bath drawn up – cocooning one in the safe tendrils of the fragrance. Could you not be the imaginative child drawing up a Block City, or the crane standing quietly in the marshes waiting for the right time to strike? Or the star far away twinkling and waiting for us to absorb some of its light and magic into our very being?

Then, there are days when non-fiction calls out to one with a clear call like a foghorn in a tempest. The days when the most delicious pieces of revelation are nestled as innocuous facts in a book. A book in which the writer has graciously shared their enormous love for the universe and their learnings kindly with the rest of humanity. A giving of their very soul – a sharing of knowledge so deep, so pure, it feels almost visceral to read through the contents and absorb as best as one can.

In all these genres, there are stellar writers, writers who have their streaks of brilliance, and writers who strike it big with or without the art of craft, for popularity and merit do not always go together. Nevertheless,  most of them are united by the common thread of striving continuously in their art. 

As I read Conversations on Writing with Ursula K Le Guin compiled from a series of interviews with David Naimon, I felt a thrill of the art of words once again. 

As David Naimon points out, Ursula K Le Guin is probably one of the select few authors on which one could have a conversation on fiction, poetry and non-fiction, having written all three to great acclaim.

Starting off from this simple place of:

“Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren’t real, “ says Ursula K Le Guin, “But they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books.”

That was my experience of reading Tales of Earthsea growing up.

Wizards walk the earth and dragons fly the skies. yet the further they took me from “reality” the closer I felt to the real.

Conversations on Writing – Ursula Le Guin with David Naimon

Her conversations on fiction and how she was unable to insert her science fiction portion of her mind to her poetry was fascinating.

As the conversation unfolds in the poetry section, David Naimon observes that her fiction stems from her imagination, but her poetry from contemplation. How true and marvelous? The quiet contemplation of the wind rustling through the leaves has quite a different rhythm in the heart from the mind imagining the wondrous life of the creatures by the riverside

The book provides many asides, many references to other writers, poets and non-fiction writers who have inspired her. Little snippets inserted on black pages while referencing another’s work provide branches into other worlds to explore into such as Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. The reference to wu-wei (the act of non-doing) getting a smile out of me.

Oh! To be cocooned in the Magical Art of Words is bliss indeed!

A Rainy Day Adventure

“Just like that, summer collapsed into fall.”

Oscar Wilde

“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. 

The river after the downpour

Just a Little?

—————

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.”

Virginia Woolf

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.

Pelican Pilgrimage

“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.

A pelican’s muse

NPR All Things Considered – The Pelican Experiment

I don’t remember when I first saw a pelican. I have lamented this before. But this seems like the sort of thing I should remember. Marvelous creatures. Regal, graceful, social, elegant and peaceful beings. 

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.

When a Tree Laughs

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?

“No,” I said with conviction. The most mesmerizing delightful sight is there for those who brave the breeze. The crunch parties are here, the purpling of the skies is magical, the visit of clouds is beautiful, the gingko trees have their rich parties changing from their robes of green to golden. ” I do love Autumn!”

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. 

Rose Smellers & Cloud Seekers

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.

Nephophile ( A lover of clouds) & Opacarophile ( A lover of sunsets)

lThe beautiful day had morphed into a beautiful evening, and I was reminded of the saying by Cavin Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson,

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”

Bill Watterson, Created of Calvin & Hobbes

The clouds were here, and the flowers were too. The leaves fluttered in the gentle breezes of the day, the birds went about their business, each enjoying their present. 

The grayish clouds now had tantalizing streaks of pink. The evening wanderers, Venus and Jupiter, danced through the parting clouds. I gasped when I noticed a tiny sliver of moon doing the same.

I am satisfied. I see, dance, laugh, sing.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

It is why I was late arriving at the evening’s appointment.

Barnard’s Star & Jupiter Dancing

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.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/activity/jupiter-s-great-red-spot/family/

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.

Carl Sagan

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.

Life_On_Earth

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,

Back from the Brink – 2

The first conscious thought that gray morning was that we would be amidst giants. The truest, wisest, most resilient of all. We had planned a hike in the coastal redwoods of California near Muir Woods for the husband’s birthday. As we entered Cathedral Grove (a better name I cannot think of, for spirituality shines through the branches of the tall old trees), I pointed to a sign that said , “Be seen not heard!”. 

“Yes….that is for you!” Said we all pointing to one another. 

“Quiet Coyote!” We agreed and off we went, quieter than our usual selves. There is a natural sanctity, a lasting feeling of peace, and a humbling of self in these groves. 

Many of the trees in Muir Woods are over half a millennia old. These trees had put down roots long before the Spanish conquistadors came to the United States, or the Gold Rush had started. California would not be the same after these events. Silicon Valley was centuries away, when these marvelous giants had started reaching up up and above towards the skies. But here, inside the redwood forests, none of that seems relevant. 

After several feet of hiking up, we were able to gasp for breath, inhaling the lovely scent of the woods, and conversation started up again. A few miles into the hike, there were fewer people, and the children opened up. Talk turned to Beautiful Earth, a popular classic in the nourish-n-cherish household. The son told us about the disappearing monarch butterflies. I remember visiting Butterfly Grove a few years ago. It was easy to mistake the butterflies for leaves. There were thousands of them plastered together on the branches, hanging everywhere, looking beautiful. Millions of them made the journey every year up and and down the coast, and they made a beautiful sight. Who doesn’t stop to admire a flitting butterfly? This year, less than 2000 monarch butterflies were counted. The species is dying. A world without butterflies sent a shiver down my spine.

What have we done to this planet if butterflies are no longer in our midst? 

The daughter piped in, “You know monarch butterflies are corner species – meaning they indicate the state of the ecosystem in general. For instance, if monarchs go away, then birds find out that painted ladies aren’t problematic either and soon we start losing species that look like them as well.” Apparently, the monarch butterflies are toxic to birds and they leave them alone. Seeing a little evolutionary wormhole there, other species like the painted lady butterflies evolved with the same color scheme, but they aren’t poisonous to birds. How long before birds figure this out?

“But how did this happen?” In the decade since we went to see the butterfly grove, how did 99% of the species manage to be destroyed

“Milkweed!” This ubiquitous plant that thrived along roadsides, freeways and everywhere is fast disappearing due to increased use of fertilizers. Toxic to other animals, the milkweed is apparently a major source of nectar for the monarch butterflies. Could we bring these butterflies back from the brink? It seemed like a miracle would be required.

A world without butterflies is not one I wish for our grandchildren. I shuddered in the grove, and sent a little prayer up towards the towering redwoods. What will these trees witness in another 500 years? They are already enduring more frequent wildfires, and though, redwoods generally hold up very well against wildfires, the frequency with which they have been occurring in the past few years is not comforting.  

Back home, my eyelids holding the short-term memory of the redwoods in them, I closed them, instantly transported to a world in their midst. Forest bathing. Those of us who still have the magic of trees in us are blessed indeed. Those of us who stop to see flitting butterflies need to pray that future generations have the magic of butterflies around them.

Wise Generous Trees

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

 Dr. Seuss, The Lorax