A Sky Full of Bucket Lists

April is Poetry Month apparently. It is also the month that hosts Earth Day, the one day we dedicate to saving the only home we know, Earth. As far as I am concerned, they are all excellent themes for the month bursting with the prospects of Spring. It has been an unusually hot spring, but that does not detract from the beauty of the season.

This is the season for life’s stirring: Poetry and Earth are both what lend credence to our human experience, and possibly dolphin experience. (As regular readers of the blog know, the dolphins have poetry whose tonal vocal content is equal in size to the Illiad or the Odyssey.) 

Read also:

Carl Sagan’s Essay on his interactions with Elvar The Dolphin
Epic of Whalayana – Carl Sagan

What better time than to write about a book that has been in my thoughts so often since the first reading? A small book of Haibun poetry steeped in the experience of living on Earth.

My review on Amazon:

A Sky Full of Bucket Lists is one of those books that has found a place on my bedside table. Every time, I need a glimpse of life, the slim volume is there to allow me a peek into the life of a fellow human-being in a very different situation. Written by a poet whose empathetic life experiences with social work shape the words on the page, this book is worth reading and re-reading. Shobhana Kumar reminds us that being humane is what makes us human. Charming, heart-rending, profound and simple.

A Sky Full of Bucket Lists seeps into your day as you go about the busyness of living. 

The incorrect font, the cross dresser, the neighbor in hospital, , the alcoholic, the abusive or the the true friends who give more than one deserves. It seems Shobhana Kumar has a haibun for a wide range of human living. The poignant note to her father is an especially special one. (Dear Mr Raaga) 

Sometimes, at night when I am too bushed to read anything long or heavy, I instinctively reach out to A Sky Full of Bucket Lists. The humanity manages to seep through the pages and into your consciousness. They say reading makes one more empathetic. Reading the experiences of someone who has seen so much, suffered through so much, and yet, has the time to not just care for a fellow being, but care deeply and share it with the world, is a gift indeed.

Whether the first cave painters realized the art form could encompass human living, I don’t know. Every time I look into the book, something attracts: why this picture for this Haibun? How did she know my yearning for a library and how I sniff the books to get the children to love them as well? How did she detect the ‘poetry that settles into corners’ and give it words? Is there a thread that runs between every different piece, or is it just the shared experience of being human on a planet that hosts millions of lifeforms?

Duck, Duckling, Dolphin

I recently read a book titled Dolphin Parenting by Dr Kimi Shang. It was an antidote to the Tiger Parenting by Amy Chua book. Dolphins are intelligent, social and playful creatures, and therefore, we must model our behaviors after them is the gist of the book.

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Art work by Daughter

Nature provides us with amazing parenting models every now and then.  Spring time is especially wonderful as this is the time for new life, a transformation of sorts. The butterflies are out and about, snail-lings venture forth, squirrels come out of their hibernation, eggs hatch and, in general all of life is abuzz with beauty and purpose. One day on a walk near our local lake park, I noticed Mrs Duck go to her nest, and Mr Duck gave her a nod as if to say, “Go on dear, I’ll ensure no one disturbs you.” Mr Duck then went on to aggressively protective their little nesting area by quacking loudly and doing sentry duty.

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Just in time for Earth Day, the ducklings have hatched, and they look beautiful. There is something in the innocent, puzzled looks on their little fuzzy bodies that tugs your heart. Of course, it is amazing to see Mr & Mrs Duck take care of them. I can watch them for hours. How they slowly introduce their young to the big, bad world; how they watch their little ones play for hours; and how they only intervene when important,  is a lesson in parenting for us.

They take them gingerly out into the shallow waters first, then as their little bodies grow stronger, take them for longer fishing trips. They teach them how to cross the road – the ducklings are protectively looked after by Papa & Mama Ducks. The parents in front and the rear, the line is a marvel. The noisy bunch then head on towards wherever they are going. I don’t know how disciplined the ducklings are when they grow up, but when babies, it is an adorable sight to see them toeing the line obediently and happily. 

It is that time of year to read Robert McCloskey’s adorable book, Make Way For Ducklings.

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The books starts off with Mr & Mrs Duck looking for a place to live and raise their babies. They fly great distances before they arrive at a little island that looks just right.

There, the ducklings hatch and the conscientious parents are busy in providing for the young, teaching them to survive in a tough world, and learn to be independent. 

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Once they are strong enough to swim longer distances, it is time to move to a bigger island, that involves a few perilous road crossings. Who should come to their rescue but the local policemen?

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A heart-warming tale that I can read any time for a quick dose of sunshine. Illustrated in a simple brown ink, it is a wonderful book for Parent Ducks and Ducklings alike.

I remember being amused and amazed when I first came to the United States on seeing Duck-Xing signs. Coming from India, where traffic flows on, and people cross on and share the road with dogs, cows and goats (nobody particularly stopping or giving precedence to another); it was wonderful to see that the traffic did not only stop for pedestrians crossings, but for ducks as well.

Swimming With Dolphins

The daughter and I were lazing around one night a few months ago: she, reading me snippets from her Harry Potter book and gushing about Patronus charms, and self, reading out snippets from mine, The Cosmic Connection By Carl Sagan.

I was reading the fascinating piece on Elvar the Dolphin. The daughter’s favorite animal is a Dolphin. She has drawings of mermaids with Dolphins everywhere. The sea fascinates her in ways that amuse us. Dolphins, mermaids and narwhals enchant her mind, and her endeavor is to become one if possible.

So, obviously, I read the whole piece out to her.

wind-in-the-reef.jpgElvar had the brilliant scientist stumped after a brief interaction. Elvar-the-dolphin and Sagan-the-human, on being introduced, started playing a game initiated by Elvar wherein he swam to Sagan, and thumped his tail completely drenching Sagan. When after the fourth splashing, Sagan refused, the dolphin swam up to him and said ‘More’. Completely flustered with this turn of events, Carl Sagan ran to his fellow neuroscientist friend and said he might have heard the Dolphin say the word, ‘More’. To which the neuroscientist said that Elvar the Dolphin knew upto 50 words in English, and could use them in context.

It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English — up to fifty words used in correct context — no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese. – Carl Sagan

A marvelous essay that only serves to remind us about the virtues of humility. We can barely understand other languages that fellow humans speak, and are quick to erect barriers between ourselves, but here was a dolphin willing to pick up English in order to engage with human-beings.

“You know Amma? Dolphins are so lovely right?”

I nodded. I did love the little flubberty gibbets.

“I think I know what my patronus is – My patronus must be a dolphin. I love them amma. They are so magical and real too.”, she said her eyes gaining that dreamy quality that often accompanies magic.

So, imagine how we felt when on our recent vacation to Mexico, the husband had booked a ride with Dolphins.

We were first introduced to a pair of dolphins – a charming male and female, called Manta and Sole. We hugged, patted and kissed them. I have never in my life touched something that soft, warm, and plush pulsing with the robust health of life. I coo-ed with that tone of voice I use around babies, and the daughter tried her best to distance herself from me in embarrassment, unlike the dolphins, who seemed to enjoy the attention.

‘Would you like to ride with them?’, asked the instructor, and I got to tell you that I was apprehensive. I mean – weigh the facts. Dolphins can swim at the stupendous rate of 20 miles per hour. I swim, if you can call it that, at the rate of 2 strokes a minute, stopping to gulp water in between, spluttering a bit, gasping, coughing and rasping, then regaining my breath before taking another deep gulp to sustain myself for 2 strokes.

Would a Dolphin for the first time experience condescension? I had to find out.

It took me what felt like 20 minutes to swim a couple of hundred meters out to where the dolphins could meet me. I huffed and puffed, and flawlessly executed the gulped-water, sputter and choke routine before I felt able to say I was ready. The moment I nodded, she gave them the signal.

In under a second, I felt the dolphins streak toward me under water, and they were there wiggling their fins under my arm and assuring me in their playful way that all was well. Their faces looked like they were smiling which I suppose is a gift they are born with. Their demeanor indicated none of that condescension or judgment that I was dreading, but simply an amused curiosity.

In another second or two, they had deposited me on the shallow end. The pictures reveal an ecstatic look on our faces as we were carried gently ashore by the dear creatures. My heart was bursting with joy. Maybe my patronus changed to a Dolphin too.

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If we truly were smarter than Dolphins, we would be totally giving you the works in Dolphinese. What I can do is to dance like they did for us.

I only hope their interaction with us was a happy one too. Boink – Thank-You in Dolphinese.