In the Infinities of the Desert

Driving on deserted roads through the desert can be quite unnerving if you haven’t the right company. I remember thinking of those brave folks who ran marathons across the Sahara desert with nothing but a compass for company, and I must say I felt all the more grateful for the companionship that I did have in the bleak desert just then (Girls trips have a joy of their own!). There are times when one feels alright alone with a compass and the stars for company, but that day it felt just right to have your friends about you – squealing and laughing at the jokes and the non-jokes with equal joy.

We had been to Joshua Tree National Park during the day. The park literature spoke highly of Cholla Cactus Gardens, and I must say I was yearning to see them too. After the tall tree-like cacti of Sedona, Arizona, I was curious to see their west-side cousins. Would they be dwarfish like their tree brethren? The Joshua trees were nothing like trees, but were trees alright. What would the cacti be like?

The cacti, it turns out, were beautiful. They sort of creep up on you when you least expect it. There are miles and miles of desert, punctuated with outsized boulders on all sides. The boulders! Really – some of them were the size of buildings just sitting out there with the wind whooshing past them, and the sun beating down on them.

The Boulders!

Desolate, barren, comical. I suppose they would make marvelous spots to star-gaze in. (It is a desperate thing to yearn for the night skies on a bright, windy day, but the signs for star gazing were there everywhere. It sounded marvelous,. I have seen pictures of star trails in the Joshua Tree National Park area, and could only imagine the thousands of stars visible in the night sky from there. ) 

Skull Rock

The cactus gardens grew there in the middle of the desert, elegantly shimmering in the rays of the sun. Round a bend, when you’re least expecting it, the cactus gardens open up (not the same beautiful as William’s Wordsworth daffodils of course, but a different kind of beauty altogether). A beautiful array of life – glinting in the desert sun, reminding you of the resilience of life on this planet. There were beautiful in their own way. They reminded me of coral reefs – only in the desert and bathed in brown hues. 

We approached a happy couple coming our way to take a picture of us. They glowed in the setting sun, and beamed. They had apparently gotten engaged to each other a few minutes ago, and were bursting with happiness to share this with us: fellow human beings, who were there at the time. We wished them both happiness together. It was a beautiful feeling of strangers sharing their happiness and good wishes. We may never meet again, but that moment of their happiness was ours to remember. 

The cactus bore testimony to human paths forging a life together, the boulders : indifferent, but providing the backdrop for a proposal and an engagement, the Joshua trees branches of every shape delivering a message of love. 

In the infinities of the desert, there was a small pause: punctuations of happiness, and joy. 

Where the Wild Girls Are

Every once in while we get to step in to a world different than our own, and the only thing that reminds you of your earthly existence are your earthly companions. Would space travel be the same way? Would an exotic alien world be made habitable with our companions? I know not, maybe our future generations will find out.

Traveling to a place Where the Wild Things Are or to one of Dr Seuss’ landscapes is a unique opportunity. I have to admit I had not read the National Park Service’s description of the Joshua Trees on their site. They called it Dr Seuss’s trees. I felt the same. Dr Seuss lived not far from Joshua Tree National Park after all, and I am sure he took inspiration from these curious curvy alphabetic trees for his many books. (The one on alphabets, On Beyond Zebra. The Wum, Humpfm, Thnad that seem to go past the twenty six that we do know; or the trees that Horton the Elephant sits on while hatching his egg for instance.) 

The Joshua trees have a life lesson or two to impart. 

Each tree seems determined to leave an imprint on the planet. Like the illustrious bristlecone trees up further north, the Joshua trees seem to chart a unique path for themselves. Each tree resorted to a rule of no rules. I saw no two trees branch out similarly. Some took to elegant and simple forms, while others reveled in the complicated heiroglyphics to decode the essence of living.

They seem to have taken Mary Oliver’s poem to heart – every one of them.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

How does one become a tree? Like this 

Or like this?

I know not. All I know is that life holds precious moments for those who attempt to become one, and the resulting camaraderie and joy of dancing and chatting in the deserts with one’s dear companions takes on a refreshing feeling that one can savor and smile at when Google Photos reminds you days afterward. 

Where the Wild Girls Are

If life is meant to be lived, live them like Joshua trees or Bristlecone trees  – hardy, beautiful, resilient, joyful and in the quiet companionship of your fellow souls journeying with you through this exotic world. 

Windy Day Adventures

An evening walk during the Christmas season is uplifting for the spirit even if one’s nose glows like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer’s with the cold. I stop here and there admiring the lawns lit up with reindeer. They remind me of the patronus charms in the Harry Potter series and make me smile. If there were this many patronuses around us, the dementors would have no chance would they?

One particularly wind whipped evening, I was out on a brisk walk. Brisk, partly to get warm, but partly because the winds were pushing me along with vigor. I was trying to keep my umbrella from flipping, and I was more distracted than usual. I did not stop to admire the trees swaying in the winds, and only managed to skittle away when a largish twig or two broke off from the branches above. 

When I stepped into the house a few minutes later, I said to the son, “ I saw the drunken polar bears lying on their sides, while the penguins huddled together like they do during the harsh winters in the Antarctic!”

“What?!” He said laughing. He looked happy and warm epitomizing the Hygge sentiments the Eastern Europeans gave us a word for. He was reading a book, listening to music and munching cookies with warm milk. His hair was plastered down and looked almost kempt (not unkempt but not exactly tidy).  I, on the other hand, came back with half the hair on my head pointing towards Iceland and the other half making a distinct beeline for Patagonia in South America.

It was after a dog out on a walk with its owner gave me an annoyed bark that I snapped to my senses and folded the umbrella. I had been wielding the umbrella like Captain America and his shield, and having as much success as a muggle producing a patronus charm. The winds were making me stagger and I hadn’t noticed the poor dog out on its evening walk till I almost walked into said dog. I stopped and looked contrite enough for the dog to give me a lopsided nod of the head before proceeding. The absence of the umbrella dance, and the amused expression on the dog’s face seemed to tickle a nerve somewhere, and the rest of the walk took on a gentle humor of its own.

The Christmas decorations were having a whale of a time in the gale force winds, and I was bursting with the joy of this whimsical take on the Christmas decorations in the neighborhood. I wondered what the deer that usually graze nearby thought of their patronus like brethren. Were they worried by the bright polar bears, chipmunks and Santa Clauses? How would it be to really fathom what the animals thought of us and our customs, and our lifestyles? I remember reading a short story by Louisa May Alcott a while ago on a girl who could talk to birds.

“Here is a riddle for you! The polar bears are lying drunk, while the penguins ..”

He gave me a mock-sorry look, and said, “Let’s get you warm – the cold has gotten to you maybe?” he said shepherding me away from the door lest I ask him to step out.

I pointed to the window and the son guffawed at the drunken-bear-penguin-dance take on the Christmas decorations on the lawns in the neighborhood. 

P.S: Wind Classifications

The wind classification charts that I managed to look up once I was safely tucked in bed after feeling had crept back into the extremities said that the winds outside had been either a level 7 or level 8 wind meaning gale force winds.

Dream Boats

Oh! Books! Marvelous Books! 📚

I am so grateful to live in a world that has an abundance of books. Take this one for instance: The Wanderer – By Peter Van Den Ende.

Paper boats have held a fascination all its own. The oceans must’ve been the first great frontier that humankind was enthralled by. How we came to design boats in the manner we do now must be an interesting journey. Why this shape – why not in the shape of a whale, or a swan with paddlers underneath? 

How long have boat designs stayed in this cup shape that floats? 

I remember making paper boats all the time. Setting them to sail on little puddles or watch them scooting along with a fast flowing rivulet of the rainwaters. Either way, the joy is never dampened, though the paper may be (please pardon the pun). Some folks made paper planes pretty well, but the paper boats were my little special things. I made them out of napkins in restaurants, out of spare paper in schools and work spots, and chocolate wrappers. I wrote poems on Puddle Boats, The Dream Weaver. A boat has an endless fascination: a mystical vessel with its ability to journey into places unknown, and encounter adventures unimaginable. Which child has not enjoyed the finale of The Adventures of Dr Doolittle even if the rest of the book did not enthrall?

Imagine my joy then in seeing this book. I had no words, and neither did the book.

Some books capture the heart’s yearning with no words at all. The Wanderer by Van Deck Ende is one of them. A simple concept, one that any one who has played with paper boats in rain puddles, rivulets and streams has often dreamed off. It takes a true artist though to capture those dreams and meanderings onto paper for others to enjoy. And an exemplary one to make the possibilities even better with monochromatic themes.

The little paper boat starts its journey off simply enough. As it traverses streams, rivers, oceans, and peeks into lakes, the pages come alive.

Whether you look around above the waters and take in the egrets and herons by the lake

Or peek into the depths of the ocean below and take in the sights of the reefs and whales below, this book is sure to take us on a journey of a lifetime. 

Every page is a different destination on its own, and every stop along the way adds unto a wonderful journey.

What a marvelous book! The above are a few sample pictures taken from the book to enable a review. The book has many more.

Tonight, after all is quiet, and the world can be left to its own devices, and the land of dreamlands can be entered; these images should help us along to the beautiful lands of possibility. 

Percy – The Enlightened Soul

Last night, I read a poem by Mary Oliver in the book, Truro Bear and Other Adventures, I got to the section where she writes about her beloved dog, Percy, and had a hearty laugh. Percy was named after an Italian poet, and as such was also wise in his ways. 

Take for instance, when he consumed the Bhagavad Gita.

Percy (One)

Our new dog, named for the beloved poet,

Ate a book which unfortunately we had

Left unguarded.

Fortunately it was the Bhagavad Gita,

Of which many copies are available.

Every day now, as Percy grows

Into the beauty of his life, we touch

His wild, curly head and say,

“Oh wisest of little dogs.”

Mary Oliver, Truro Bear and Other Adventures

Percy is indeed a wise soul, for she he seems to have an innate knowledge in the true things that matter in life. He has many friends, enjoys a romp by the seaside, polishes off good food, and is ever ready to provide companionship to his human friends. Show them a thing or two about living. 

I have several friends who dedicate a good amount of their time and energy to the study of the Bhagavad Gita.

One in particular also possesses the rare quality of sharing and explaining his learnings without the mantle of self-righteousness. (I call it a rare quality, since religion and spirituality are different things, and few souls have the wisdom to unify them in the pursuit of knowledge and humility. )

I am not sure whether all those who have immersed themselves in the wise learnings of the Bhagavad Gita have truly digested its many layered teachings (definitely not in the way that Percy did!). But a few of them I know would’ve enjoyed the following poem also in the book after several pages:

Percy & Books (Eight)

Percy does not like it when I read a book.

He puts his face over the top of it and moans.

He rolls his eyes, sometimes he sneezed.

The sun is up, he says and wind is down,

The tide is out and the neighbor’s dogs are playing.

But Percy I say. Ideas! The elegance of language!

The insights, the funniness, the beautiful stories

That rise and fall and turn into strength, or courage.

Books? Says Percy. I ate one once, and it was enough.

Let’s go.

Mary Oliver, Truro Bear and Other Adventures

Percy! Oh wise soul!

The Light of Ikigai

I have been reading a book titled Ikigai – the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life – By Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles. The concepts mentioned in the book are varied, for it takes many factors to constitute a happy, meaningful life.

I am not sure if Prof Rukmini read about Ikigai, but it is abundantly clear to those who knew her, that she practiced it whole-heartedly. Of course, if ever there was a lady who could’ve curiously read up on concepts new to her, and taken to practicing the good in them, it is Professor Rukmini. She may well have been teaching Ikigai all her life. Kunja Athai as we referred to her, was a diminutive figure physically and a stalwart intellectually.  She adored learning about new ideas, and she loved those in her life with equal fervor. These will always be things I remember about her. 

There are a few people whose life story you grow up with. Kunja Athais was one. 

She was married after 8th Grade. Her life though was a tumultuous one: she was widowed shortly thereafter with a 2 year old daughter in tow. She came back to live with her elder brother and sister. Her brothers, intellectuals themselves, wondered whether a regressive society would kill her too. So, they urged her to study again. She wrote her SSLC exams with private tutoring and then went on to study Physics at Presidency College in Madras. 

She was bright, hard-working and wanted to be economically independent. Fate delivered a particularly terrible, and a somewhat vindictive blow to the beleaguered soul again. She had written 5 out of the 6 Physics honors papers. A few days before she was to write her 6th paper, her only daughter, aged about 8 or 9 passed away. I cannot imagine how it must’ve been for her. One of her professors who knew about her plight, told her to come and sit the exam – she needn’t even write anything, he told her. (For her performance in the remaining papers would ensure she got her degree). So, poor kunja athai went to the examination hall. 

Every action is a choice. 

Once there, she decided to take her mind off the terrible events in her life just then, and write the examination anyway. 

A moment that turned out to be a momentous one in her long life.

Kunja Athai graduated with Honors from Presidency College in Madras in the 1950’s. A rare feat in India at the time. I wish I knew the statistics of the number of female vs male graduates, or the economic statuses behind their fates. But none, I am sure had her particular set of circumstances. She had lost her young husband a few years ago, her only child a few days ago. Yet, she persevered. 

She became a Physics Professor at Ethiraj College in Madras, and went on to inspire hundreds of girls as she urged them towards a degree.

The authors of the Ikigai book interviewed the elderly people  of Okinawa in Japan(the place with the highest concentration of the longest living individuals), and gleaned some key concepts that contributed to their healthy, happy lifestyles. Some of them are : Communal life, Never Stop Learning, Finding the Flow in your tasks, Humans as Ritualistic Beings, and Enjoying Nature.

Kunja Athai seemed to have practiced all of these things.

One of my early memories of the grand old lady was at twilight in a small garden patch in Tambaram. I was staying at my aunt’s place for the night. My mother’s eldest sister, her husband and his sister, kunja athai. I pottered around the garden patch with her – probably chattering, as I was known to display considerable prowess in that department.

Kunja Athai let me smell the star jasmines, feel the gourds, grind the hibiscus leaves between my fingers, and pluck a few of the hearty hibiscus blossoms for her idols inside.

I loved tracing the shapes of leaves as a child. I would collect leaves from everywhere as I played or went on walks, and trip back home to trace them out in my notebooks. I told her about this pastime of mine, and she approved with a twinkle in her eyes. When we went back into the house, she took down a book that she thought I might like, and pointed to pages in the book. The leaves from the book came alive. Her eyes shone with bright interest. That is the image I will always have of the legendary kunja athai.

Kunja Athai passed away last week. While I sat there thinking of the marvelous life of Kunja Athai, I realized there were ever so many things and angles from which one could approach her life. I could write about she was a Professor of Physics in Ethiraj College for Women inspiring thousands of girls to get themselves an education, and acquire an inquiring mind that would serve them well through life. Or I could write about her struggles in early life, and how she not just found a way of going on, but of building something marvelous out of it.

I realized that Kunja Athai seems to have learned and consciously imbibed all the tenets of a meaningful life from the philosophers who came before her. Her Ikigai was well in practice. She was determined that her life should be one in which she spreads love and fosters a love for learning.

Every soul traces their own path. Some souls we are lucky to have benefited from: they are the suns who shine, give, and illumine all those around them. Kunja Athai’s light of Ikigai shall shine on in every life she helped nurture and guide by example. 

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 King’s Stilts

A few years ago, the pater looked at me with an amused smile on his face, and said, “I’ve been seeing you walking around with that book for weeks. Do you plan to finish it?” 

I gave him a mock sorrowful look. It was true. That summer, life had been jolly and full. The son was a baby then, and any time I could snatch away from my highly demanding work spot was split between the visiting folks, the kitchen, housekeeping, and the children. I cannot say that I felt effective in  any of these areas, but I was stretching myself as best as I could. Without a book to help me get a perspective in, I felt even more unmoored. So, I did the next best thing and walked around with the book in hand. The intention was there, when the moment presents itself, I could glance a page here, and a page there, I told myself.

No one in the household but the pater noticed that I had the same book with me for weeks. 

“Never fear! These are phases that will come and go, and once the children are grown, you will be able to read again.” , he said. Luckily, it turned out to be true. I did get a little more time on my hands mostly snatched during public transit commute times, or when I finally wound down at night, all the demands of the day done, and a fresh set of demands not yet hankering for attention till dawn. 

As I opened my library account, I realized the same thing had just happened again. I had gone for several weeks with the intention of finishing several books, and did not get the opportunity to do so. I felt like King Birtram in The King’s Stilts. A Dr Seuss book that I did manage to finish owing to its size. 

King Birtram is the hard-working, conscientious and just king of the low lying kingdom of Binn. He starts his day attending to all his administrative duties at the crack of dawn, signing papers and making decisions while taking his bath, eating his breakfast and is finished with his paperwork just in time to start his duties as commander in general who is in charge of keeping his cat army in tip-top shape, and motivated to protect the kingdom from the Nizzard birds.

His cats, are after all, critical to the functioning of the state. They keep the pesky nizzard birds at bay. The gizzard birds weaken the dike trees, and weakening those marvelous trees means the kingdom of Binn could be flooded within days since the trees are the only ones that are able to keep the waters at bay. 

King Birtram, however, never complains. He knows what needs to be done, and he is proud to do it. His moments of relaxation comes in the evening when his boy brings his stilts out for the king to play. The evenings with the king striding  across the kingdom playfully in his stilts endears the man to his subjects and all is well. 

Written with Dr Seuss’s characteristic humor, style and illustrations, the story takes an interesting turn when a judgmental courtier hides the King’s Stilts. The climax draws nearer and the perils of the water destroying the kingdom is even closer with every page. Does the King find his stilts? Is the kingdom a happy, prosperous place again?

Where am I going with this? Yes! The lack of reading made me feel like King Birtram deprived of his stilts. Lack-lustre, if you see what I mean. So, imagine the joy when I obtained a rare afternoon and evening in which I could read uninterrupted, and with no expectations of any kind?

Wild Souls – Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World By Emma Marris will have a special place in my heart for providing me with this rare luxury last week-end. I have not galloped through a book that quickly or without guilt for a long time. 

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!

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