The Light of an Island

The week at Kauai in Hawaii was beautiful. During the days afterward, the little island images would flit in and out like waves on a beach. Sometimes the imagery so powerful that they would refresh and restore from afar. The turtles would swirl in the ocean waves, the turquoise waters would gently lap the golden sands, or splash against the rocky beaches, the birds would chirp merrily, and every now and then the school of fish or that large turtle- would flash up an image from the reefs below. 

The flowers of the island, Leilani pua would gently sway in the ocean breeze, the sounds of the rains that were difficult to predict and never long to endure would patter into one’s consciousness.

The general light of the island would be suffused into the surroundings. 

As life settles into its usual routines, there is a rose-tinted tinge to the world that is slowly but steadily fading. I now have to recall the turtles, as opposed to them showing up unannounced. I cling on though. 

Looking back at the pictures from the vacation,  I realize that tropical  island vacations have a timbre and light that is wholly separate from the rest of the world. Who was that who said that No man was an island? Imagine a world where each of us is an island. 

It reminds me of the picture in the book, Imagine a Place – By Rob Gonsalves whose paintings in surrealism are nothing short of brilliant. 

Imagine a place…

Where your ship holds

All you once knew

And the horizon offers

All you will ever need

(Words from the book, Imagine A Place – Words By Sarah L Thomson, Images by Rob Gonsalves) 
Imagine a Place – by Rob Gonsalves, words by Sarah Thomson

I stop to admire the roses, and compare and contrast their multi-layered rose-scented beauty with the elegant and highly simple-structured plumerias in the Hawaiian islands. 

How complicated and simple life can be – and how beauty to be found in both aspects of life. 

The island doesn’t leave you, and it seems to remind me of the importance of the solitude and refreshing nature of this little island in oneself, to be pulled up at will when life tugs you in every which way. 

The Height of the Sky & Depth of the Ocean

Sometimes you read a book and wonder what it would be like to live a day just as if we lived in the book. A magical do-nothing day, a day when your dreams come true, a day when you imagine being in a fantastical place, a day you drift into the seas with your paper boat, or just drift into the beautiful worlds of a book.

Then you go on with your life, but with a tinge of that imagination shining a beautiful light on everything around you. 

One day, with a glorious light of shoshin shining in you, there comes a day from a book that you admired. 

The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky – by Kim Jihyun.  

In the book, a child leaves the environs of the city to go and live with his grandparents in the countryside. The lake and forest nearby look inviting and the child starts exploring on his own. 

Usually, when I take a color photograph of a luscious green forest or a beautiful waterbody, I prefer the picture in all its glory. Even if it does seem over-saturated at times. But in this book, the muted colors do nothing to diminish the relaxing feel of the book. 

Image from Height of the sky & Depth of a Lake – Kim Jihyun

The author says that she wrote the book after a week back from a relaxing sojourn with nature and the moment I came back from a vacation in Hawaii I picked up the book. In the book, it is the lake the boy dives into. We dipped into the ocean, and the height of the skies we explored with a helicopter ride. 

In one glorious day we soared to the skies and took in an aerial view of the beautiful island of Kauai – soaring over the cliffs of the Na Pali coast and diving into the rocky coral reefs for an afternoon of snorkeling.

Na Pali Coast – Kauai

Not all of us in our group were good swimmers. So, in order to experience the joys of the oceanic creatures, we learnt swimming everyday in the past month.

Was it worthwhile? Resounding yes! We swam in the sublime beaches of Hanalei Bay and during snorkeling were able to see schools of fish and a large sea turtle swim right by us, along with marvelous creatures such as parrotfish, sea cucumbers etc.

We could not take our phones while snorkeling, so this is a pic of a turtle while I sat on the rocks above.

The height of the sky and the depth of the oceans are both within us. 

🐓 🦆 🦢 Akua Manu 🐓 🦆🦢

Almost as soon as one lands win the quaint island of Kauai, the unmistakable feeling of rural bliss welcomes you with the rooster crowing. As one fellow traveler put it, the roosters of Hawaii are like squirrels everywhere else. They are everywhere, and probably contribute to the seeding and flowering of the habitats near them in myriad ways. 

They ducked and weaved through the airport traffic, just as surely as they waddled into the fragrant plumeria flowers flitting down from the trees above.

The roosters there sure have a comical element to them. Moana’s Hei-Hei could have been a real life characterization of any of these birds.

heart-moana.gif
Hei-Hei of Moana Fame

The children sat inside the car cackling and laughing as I ran out into the parking lot ahead of me to shoo the birds away as the languid car trundled into its spot in the parking lots. Sound effects included: baaackk—buck-buck-buck….shoo-shoo-duck-duck-goose, nene-nene-nene with an inspiring arm flailing and running after the birds. 

“Just one video of this ma! “ said the teenage daughter and niece to many enthusiastic nods from their little brother. I joined them in the laughter but refused to star in a video like this. One has one limits – even if it is to entertain our fellow human beings.

“I love birds too much and these birds seem to be so – I don’t know, bird-brained! Huh! Is that where the term comes from? Makes sense. These birds seem to think the roads belong to them and they sit there – pecking at whatever it is on the roads!” I said.

Just as engaging as the roosters are the red breasted cardinals, the nene (geese), cattle egrets, starlings, mockingbirds, plovers, sandpipers near the beaches , and the marvelously inspiring long-tailed tropicbirds. 

Standing atop the viewpoints of the Waimea Canyon in Hawaii, the long tailed tropic birds gained our attention and admiration. Gracefully traversing the yawning canyon below them in swift smooth flights, these birds seem to fly in and out of rainbows 🌈 . If that isn’t magical I don’t know what is. 

It is no wonder that Hawaiian folktales are so rich with their imagery of birds and ocean animals.  

Every morning, as the sunlight crept in through the clouds, and ushered in another surreal day in the magical islands, The Hawaiian state birds, Nene as the geese there are called, did  their bit and squawked their way into our consciousness as well. 

Some nights I would wander outside to stand under the stars when I’d notice groups of nene sleeping under the stars. ✨ Seeing them under the stars like that made me slightly envious I must admit.

Whether it was the beautiful darting and elusive ‘i’iwi (hummingbird -like creatures that are endangered) or the common roosters, starlings, egrets, cardinals, and nene, the birds (Manu) of Kauai have a divinity (a certain Akua) about them that make you want to soar in spirits with them. 

One morning I caught the daughter sounding very much like me and chastising her little brother who was watching Marvel on the television. “You come to Kauai and watch these super-hero fellows again – no! Nuh-uh! Out!”

“But there is nothing now – just eating breakfast and watching TV!” came the wounded reply from the budding naturalist. But his sister was firm and switched off the television.

The fellow came into the kitchen, and I shushed him, for out on the verandah was a small, and elegantly regal-looking red-breasted cardinal. We watched the bird in awe for several minutes before our spell was broken, and we sighed contentedly and went about the day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_birds_of_Hawaii

If naturalists go to heaven (about which there is considerable ecclesiastical doubt), I hope that I will be furnished with a troop of kakapo to amuse me in the evening instead of television.

Gerald Durell

Our quaint cosmic neighborhood!

Everywhere on social media and news platforms were images from the James Webb telescope magnifying in glorious detail sections of the universe billions of light years away. The universe has enlightened us all and reminded us of our humble place in it once again. In the midst of all this chaos, and enormous gas clouds is a tiny planet where our particular kind of life evolved capable of acquiring these images. 

If, along with these images, and the equally glorious full moon, one has not caught a whiff of shoshin, I urge you all to do so. I also have the resident astronomer of the house on summer vacation, so I am constantly being given statistics along with the images. 

It is fortune indeed to, purely by chance, be immersed in starlight myself even in the reading world.

The beautiful images in the children’s book: The Stuff of Stars – Illustrated by Ekua Holmes, Written by : Marion Dane Bauer 

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

I just finished reading Bewilderment by Richard Powers last week. Bewilderment: the book and the feeling

I am now reading Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.

After a walk under the stars, our corner of the universe seems sanguine – the countryside of the cosmic arena. In our suburban areas, not too many stars are visible, and the gas clouds in the James Webb photographs seem surreal. The universe is a happening place – stars and galaxies being born every day, yet the rise of our faithful moon glowing rose-gold in the early evening makes for a satisfying adventure enough in the cosmos. 

“The laws that govern the light from a firefly in my backyard as I write these words tonight also govern the light emitted from an exploding star one billion light-years away. Place changes nothing. Nor does time. One set of fixed rules runs the game, in all times and places. That’s as big a truth as we Earthlings have discovered, or ever will, in our brief run.” 

Richard Powers, Bewilderment

With images such as these, we are perhaps closer than ever to finding another planet that is capable of harboring earth-like lifeforms. 

But till then, Carl Sagan’s words hold true:

Frog & Toad Would Be Proud!

The husband in a fit of enthusiasm started a vegetable patch. When the h starts a project, he goes at it with all the usual enthusiasm. Which is to say that he was coming home every other day with a different piece of equipment – a fascinating looking thing called a trellis, spades, a garden patch, large bags of compostable soil. 

As much as I moaned about the necessary and unnecessary things in our midst, I was impressed with the work the man was putting in. He had the look of a man with a mission toiling to accomplish his vision.

Within days, the man had created a veritable garden patch. Enthusiastic and proactive actions such as these lead to unexpected outcomes. Soon, the local library’s solarium seed packets made their way to the patch, visiting aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends who are far better at gardening than us, added their bit to the seeds, and gloriously, the vegetable garden grew.

For the next few mornings and evenings, I would take my tea over to see if the plants had grown. Feeling a bit like Frog & Toad, I walked up and down several times and poking the ground (Arnold Lobel writes of hilariously identifiable situations with Frog & Toad as his protagonists) In one story, Frog gives Toad some seeds to start a garden:

“Here are some flower seeds. Plant them in the ground. “ said Frog, “and soon you will have a garden.”

“How soon?”, said Toad.

“Quite soon.”, said Frog.

He planted the flower seeds.

“Now seeds”, said Toad, “start growing.”

Toad walked up and down a few times.

The seeds did not start to grow.

Arnold Lobel, Frog & Toad

I wondered whether a spot of singing would help and all that. (there is research that suggests that music helps the plants) 🌱 🪴

I must’ve discussed the possibility in earshot of the plants, for I felt the earth shudder and the underground networks that these plants seem to have buzzed with coming disaster, and the very next day, they started to grow and flourish in the patch. 

Once the shoots peeped into the ground above, two things happened. They benefitted from the hot Californian sun and the nurturing of the mother who is here a-visiting. She would fuss over the patch, spray tea leaves, crush dried vegetable droppings to the soil, and water the plants regularly twice a day when the plants were young.

The patch attracted butterflies and and the creepers looked for ways in which to latch onto the trees nearby and take root. 

The vegetable patch is a daily joy – we had the first cucumber from the creepers today, and I must say: the raita (cucumber + yogurt) was tastier than anything I have eaten before. The vision and initial spade work was the husband’s, the mother’s was the subsequent tendering and nurturing of the patch. 

I clapped the husband and mother on their backs in a congratulatory note. That cucumber was a marvel. Something that was produced by the hardworking plants on Planet Earth. 

“People don’t know to make a leaf, but they know how to destroy one.” 
― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

Oh! How easily we go to the store and rip out one of those plastic bags and pay for the produce? It makes us appreciate all the agriculturists, farmers, and gardeners in our midst. 

“It takes a long time to turn into what you’re supposed to be.” 
― Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

Bewilderment – The book and the feeling

A friend of mine teased me lovingly and perfectly validly that every time she looks at the stars she thinks of me looking up and wondering about the various kinds of worlds out there, the vastness of it, the beauty and grandeur.  “You will become a star one day.” , she said, and we laughed. 

I would love to become like Oogway the Turtle master who, when the time came became one with the stars. That picturization is brilliant and so poignant. 

Oogway becoming one with the stars

It is true – after a long day, when most earthly duties of the day are done, I take myself off to ponder at the stars – the distant worlds and the beauty of sentience to appreciate the vastness of our presence in this universe. Truly, one of the biggest leaps of humankind is to have found our humble place in the cosmos – the worlds do not revolve around us, the gods were not thinking of us and our fates during the grand creation. We just are, and while here, we can make the best of it. 

Photo by Mohan Reddy Atalu on Pexels.com

The more we discover earth-like planets, the more we realize that our planet is probably the only home we have for at least 10 (possibly much higher) light years in every direction. It should be a moment of awakening then for us to look after our one home. 

Life on Earth

Space.com – Earth like planets

Obviously, I was thrilled to read the book Bewilderment by Richard Powers. He writes about a dedicated, loving father who is raising his neuro-divergent son as a single father. He is also an astrobiologist whose job it is to model the worlds found depending on their atmospheric possibilities and constitution to simulate the kinds of life possible. (Even on Earth, the extremophiles found in sulphur vents deep inside the ocean were a revelation. If that was possible, what else and how many kinds of life were possible? )  The unique nature of their relationship, the steadfast and somewhat refreshing outlook of the possibilities of life outside Earth make for a fabulous read. A dip into the stars and beyond while being earth-bound. 

Bewilderment – By Richard Powers

For those of you who wish to read the possibilities of worlds and the ability to dream past our current home and circumstances, I shall not spoil the end (but I wish it had not ended the way it did) .

Richard Powers is quickly becoming one of my favorite Science and nature based authors.

Snippet :

One night in mid-August, he asked for a planet before bed. I gave him the planet Chromat. It had nine moons and two suns, one small and red, the other large and blue. That made for three kinds of day of different lengths, four kinds of sunset and sunrise, scores of different eclipses, and countless flavors of disk and night,. Dust in the atmosphere turned the two kinds of sunlight into swirling watercolors. The languages of that world had as many as two hundred words for sadness and three hundred for joy, depending on the latitude and hemisphere.

He was thoughtful, at the story’s end. He lay back on his pillow, hands clasped behind his head, looking up at the idea of Chromat on his bedroom ceiling.

Bewilderment – Richard Powers

The book has rekindled the wonder of the universe, and the wondrous ponderings associated with them. How can one be bored by our narrow lives when the cosmos offers itself as a venue to ponder and more importantly, get a perspective on.

Birdwatching & Biomimicry

The bike ride was a long one on a hot summer’s day. The sun was rising steadily and though it hadn’t reached its blazing glory across the Californian coasts, it was promising in its ascent. Even within the first 5 miles, we could feel the temperatures rise enough for us to be grateful for the mild breezes continuing to fan the body as we pumped through the trail. 

A little while later, we stopped for a quick peek at the pelicans lazing in the waters nearby. As the hot day wore on, our spirits only grew. All around us were the spritely images of life – birds swooped and flew in the mild breeze. As we stopped to see the pelicans lazing about in a patch of freshwater, a fellow biker and nature enthusiast stopped to share the calm of the pelicans with us. He asked the son whether he’d seen them fishing together like ballerinas. The son flashed a smile at me – a fellow nature lover using the same words to describe the pelicans?

The man told us how to identify harriers, hawks and bald eagles, and we biked on looking for the regulars as well for the new species he had told us about.

Right enough, in just a few miles, we spotted a harrier taking rest on a rock before scouring the fields for prey. There is something joyous in being to able to identify a newly learnt about species even if the species has existed far longer than we may have.

Harrier resting

But the ones that truly mesmerized us were the avocets. The avocets are a joy to behold on a hot day. They fly to a reasonable height, take a second to stabilize and then swoop down into the water below for a quick dip and fly out again. The smoothness of the breaking of the surface tension between the mediums is so flawlessly done. Their sharp beaks assisting them and reminding me of the little tidbit I had read in the book, Biomimicry by Jane Benyus. 

TED Talks by Janine Benyus on Biomimicry

Apparently, sonic boom was a big problem for the fast trains in Japan. The sonic booms were felt as far as a few hundred meters away as the trains emerged from the tunnels, and obviously this was a genuine problem that risked the success of the entire operation.

One of the engineers on the team, on his vacation, sat by the waterside watching a kingfisher swoop into the water and swoop out again with a smoothness of movement that inspired the engineer. How come the little bird was able to transition between mediums as different as water and air so sleekly? That is when the design of the sharp beak stood out. Eons of evolution may have shaped the beak in that particular long shape for a reason. The engineer went on to shape the train’s beak, and solved the problem for the fastest train of the day. 

The more our world functions like the natural world, the more likely we are to endure on this home that is ours, but not ours alone.

Janine Benyus

As the son & I stood there on the bay watching the avocets dive in and out, I told him that the collective noun for these lovely birds is an orchestra, and he beamed, and approved of the name. Their trilling, swooping, and pirouetting were apt.

Watching the little avocets on a hot day was a lovely little reminder of the designs of nature and its many wondrous ways. Not every saunter into nature is bound to solve a problem wracking humankind, but they very well might. 

Life’s Determinants

“It’s Summer! It’s Summer!” Olaf and Anna were singing and prancing downstairs. I mock-scowled at the duo having summer fun while I dialed into my meetings dutifully. But I was happy to see them finally get some down time after school and grateful that some of their summer euphoria could rub off on me.

I peered outside wearing my owlish glasses and was treated to a beautiful painted lady spreading joy. Flitting here and flitting there.

Painted Lady

A mild breeze rippled through the tree, and I decided enough was enough. A walk would be what the doctor ordered. So, I hollered to the Olaf in the house to come with me on a little stroll. I reached for my sunglasses and instantly, the sun dappled streets of our little suburb took on a magical hue.

Off we went: me trying to look at flitting butterflies and rippling trees; Olaf – fighting imaginary wars and swishing every now and then. 

After a while, I asked him whether he had stopped to think of the stripes on the striped lady butterfly and he gave me a quizzical look – “What? I am fighting some intergalactic wars Amma! Don’t have time to look at butterflies!”

Every now and then, he stopped to explain the action sequence in his head (you know to make me feel included!) So my walk was now accompanied by the strangest commentary:

“I am now imagining the fight but how the electrons would be affected in the atoms inside the fight. The energy transfer and everything else.” and so on.

He went back to his musings and I to mine. If his musings were at the atomic level, mine were at the cellular scale of life. I remember reading about Alan Turing’s work on the mathematical models used to determine patterns in living creatures such as spots on leopards, stripes on butterflies and the like in the book, What is Life – by Paul Nurse

So, that is what we spoke about as we swished our way back home. I asked him if he knew Alan Turing. He mentioned a video in which he had been mentioned. So, there were talking of Alan Turing and his inspired work in the fields of Math and Computing.

Life as Information – What is Life – By Paul Nurse

“This was a set of problems that Alan Turing – he of Enigma code-cracking fame and one of the founders of modern computing- turned to during the early 1950s. He came up with an alternative, and imaginative, suggestion for how embryos generate spatial information from within.  He devised a set of mathematical equations that predicted the behavior of chemical substances interacting with each other, and so undergoing specific chemical reactions as they diffuse through a structure. Unexpectedly, his equations, which he called reaction-diffusion models, could arrange chemical substances into elaborate and often rather beautiful spatial patterns,.By tweaking the parameters of his equations, the two substances could organize themselves into evenly spaced spots, stripes or blotches, for example. …Turing died before his theoretical ideas could be tested in real embryos, but developmental biologists now believe that this could be the mechanism that puts spots on cheetahs backs and stripes on many fish; distributes the hair follicles on your head; and even divides each of the developing human baby hands into 5 distinct fingers.”

What is Life, By Paul Nurse

By the time we flitted back into the house, we had a proper awe of stripes and patterns that hitherto would have been less than wondrous but beautiful all the same.

I was reminded of Richard Feynman’s Ode to the Flower, and the renewed wonder in knowing the intricacies of nature. Every dot and stripe will now be a source of wonder and awe at the brain that sought to model and predict it.

Ode to a Flower – By Richard Feynman. This brain pickings article links to the beautiful animated video made by Fraser Davidson based on his ode to a flower.

The Oceans As Soul Refreshers

Explorers arriving at the nourishncherish home would have found the chronicler walking around with one book more often than others, Chasing Science at Sea – Racing Hurricanes, Stalking Sharks, and Living Undersea with Ocean Experts by Ellen Prager.

You see, I wanted to finish reading the book before World Environment Day World Oceans Day on June 5th. Then, I thought I will somehow make it to World Oceans Day on June 8th. Now both days have come and gone, many marvelous meals have been tucked into, many laughs shared with friends and family, many meetings sat through, many hikes and bikes to appreciate the world around us, but the book is still in my hand.

The book is engaging at a fundamental level – a subject and set of anecdotes so absorbing and amusing that despite all the demands on my time, I do not want to set it down unfinished. Every time I have gone to the edge of the land overlooking the waters, the lure of understanding the world is beyond me. How would it be if we had evolved under water instead of on land. How would our technologies have taken shape? Then, there is a gratitude that we are land dwellers and 3/4ths of the Earth is uninhabitable by us.

The pressure of living under the sea must be enormous and I wonder about how the various creatures of the sea manage. A friend of mine had taken a picture of a chips bag at high altitude. Imagine that bag 10,000 feet under the ocean. Apparently, every 33 feet the pressure increases by another atmosphere. With what ease these dolphins and whales navigate the pressure differences as they come up to gulp air and go back into the depths of the oceans?

One evening I stood watching the magnificent waxing gibbous moon over the bay waters one one side, and the setting sun on the opposite side. I remember reading that the creatures of the ocean have their own lunar cycles to follow. The little turtles that come ashore on full moon nights to lay their eggs, the fish orienting themselves by the direction of the stars, the birds using their innate gifts of navigation to traverse the Earth on there impressive migratory journeys – everything ebbed and flowed into the mind’s eye much as the gentle waves lapping nearby.

“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” –

Rachel Carson

There were pelicans bobbing elegantly in a uniform motion a distance away, seagulls, avocets and blackbirds flying energetically, while the herons stood stoic as ever apparently gazing at the moon and waiting for the fish in the waters below.

The edge of the sea

How must it be to live under the sea? How I wished to be a little mermaid just then to glimpse into the ocean worlds? Imagine my surprise when I sat with the Chasing Science at Sea book that evening to read about Aquarius – the under sea research station that allows marine biologists and oceanographers to research the oceans. They spend hours at these deep pressure stations after which they need to be carefully acclimatized to the surface atmosphere before returning to the surface. While inside Aquarius, they can stay for as long as their mission takes, but:

At the end of a mission, aquanauts undergo a 17-hour decompression that is conducted within Aquarius itself, while on the bottom. At the end of decompression, aquanauts exit Aquarius and scuba-dive back to the surface.

NASA site on Aquarius

The truth is that the oceans are still an enigma. Despite underwater diving equipment, the ability to scuba dive, submarines, and remote access vehicles, the oceans are vast, and full of an alluring mystery. 

A few years ago, I read a book on marine farming and was enthralled at the possibilities of seaweed farming and kelp forests, but not a little afraid as we start taming the seas. We have not shown ourselves to be good custodians of the lands and the atmosphere.

Kelp Forest – Monterey Bay Aquarium

As I determinedly read about the adventures or the scientists, a strange calm engulfed the soul. Water and water-related imagery often does this. I slipped into bed with beautiful thoughts of the oceans and how little we really think of them in our day-to-day problems. What amazing soul refreshers the waters are?

It Takes a Village

It was going to be a busy weekend. 

“I’ll try my best to make it and may just stop over with my father – even if I am a little late. Hope that is okay.” I said to my friends. They had kindly invited us for my school alumni dinner – the pater taught at the school for around 30 years and I could see it was going to be a lovely occasion. 

I walked into the daughter’s room. She was getting ready for her high school graduation the next day. She was decorating her graduation cap: she had drawn the picture of waves on which she intended to write the college name. I admired the waves so beautifully done and was pumping for that one to be used. 

The daughter’s drawing

“I don’t want to cut through the center of the ocean right there and spoil it.”

“You don’t need to Moses. You can paste over that so you don’t spoil the picture.” I said.

“Ha! Very funny! “

“Don’t worry, I will do something else!”, said the girl and settled down happily to some music and picked out her glue and art supplies. A few hours later, a beautiful hat with blue satin roses and other things tastefully aligned and decorated emerged. I gasped at the simple artistic beauty she had managed to achieve on a small hat.

As I sat there at the daughter’s high school graduation ceremony the next day, I hadn’t quite expected such a grand affair. There were proud parents, siblings, teachers, and of course, the high school children themselves. The hilarious stories of high school were swishing and swirling in the throngs as the names of the children were called. 

It seems only yesterday that we were all shoo-ed out of the pre-school classroom after dropping the 3 year old daughter. I still remember that lump in my throat as I forced a smile on my face. My eyes were beginning to smart. Blinking rapidly, I moved out so she would not see my acute feelings – in a room full of new children, new teachers, how would this child settle down? Well, she did settle down, and went on to enjoy her schooling.

Looking at the faculty who gathered there, I could see the joy and satisfaction with the set of children in the class of 2022. I thought of all the people in her life who had genuinely cheered and believed in her.

  • All her teachers, coaches, parents of friends, after school teachers, administrative staff.
  • The love of arts, dance and music being instilled by teachers who showed her the larger life and the elements to being happy and fulfilled despite academic and other life pressures.
  • All the volunteers and parents, who over the years, had set aside time to foster an environment for growth, learning and encouragement.

All the science fairs, debate tournaments, plays, dance and music performances, Ted Talks, sporting events : everything flashed before me in that beautiful instant when the children threw their grad caps up together in one harmonious, energetic motion. It truly does take a village to raise a child. I am so grateful to each of you who believe in our children and genuinely root for their happiness and success. Thank you!

Looking back at that first day of the daughter’s school through to the high school graduation, the days felt long at times, but the years incredibly short. 

The next day, the father & I attended the dinner with my high school alumni. We sat around the table, and as the stories and reminiscences tumbled over one another, a warmth filled the room. Like fine wine, the stories had textured beautifully with the passing years. Tales of haunted houses, maypole dances, plays with many children starring as actors, escapades of school mischief etc flew around the room. Teachers were remembered fondly, and the tales from the heartlands of the Nilgiris somehow managed to capture the misty rapture. Time and distance did not seem to matter much. 

It was apparent in that conversation that night, that the teachers had passed on to the children in their care, values and a way of life that we appreciate more in retrospect than in the throes of youth. It reminded me of this quote of Miss Read with regards to her old and esteemed friend and colleague who taught through 4 decades. 

Book:  Miss Clare Remembers

“She could only pass on to them the philosophy which sustained her throughout her life. She could teach them to face whatever came with calmness and courage, to love their families and their friends with unswerving loyalty, and to relish the lovely face of the countryside in which they lived. It might seem a humdrum, day-to-day set of values, but Dolly Clare knew from long experience that they could carry a man bravely through a lifetime’s vicissitudes.”

Miss Read, Miss Clare Remembers

On the way back after that dinner where we had relived the beautiful experience of school, I wished the same for the high school daughter, and the wishing-to-attend-Hogwarts son. The joys of friendships, shared spaces, tales of teachers, escapades and laughter.

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