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.

The Polar Bears Seem Fine Sans Alarm Clocks

There are days when one wishes the night went on for just a little longer. Would the sleep doctor approve of that spot of sleep? Did the seconds and minutes really tick off at the right pace?  (Or did they gallop through the night like restless fanciful ponies eager to catch the sunrise?) 

Sometimes the answer to all of the above is yes. The sun has risen, the birds are chirping, the grass is dewy,  and the world outside is brighter than it should be when the clouds of sleep are still gathering in this manner around one’s eyes. The Earth continues spinning its tale with the lives and destinies of all its living creatures. 

The previous evening, the son and I went on a bike ride around the time of sunset. We stopped here and there, and there again. The child has tried restricting me to 3 pictures of the sunset everyday, asking me to thumb through previous pictures of sunsets before gorging on some more pictures, all to no avail. The heart wants what it wants, even if the phone storage doesn’t. 

I moaned and thought of the crane flying overhead the previous day at sunset. I could not get a picture of the flying crane, but the mind’s eye had it captured well enough. He or she must be up looking for their morning spot of nourishment, the little spry red fox that I have spotted in the river marshes must be up and about too. The birds – do they ever sleep in?

After all our stops, the skies started darkening really quickly and we pedalled back home trying to play a game of Is-that-a-tree-or-a-person? September has started, and the closer we get to the autumnal equinox, the sooner the sun seems to set. The quality of rushed days seems to wrap up quickly with the fiery, hurried sunsets (Forest fires in California make for smog ridden skies but beautiful sunsets)

The earth continues on with its tilt, hurtling through the expanse, and our consciousness. Meanwhile, the alarm’s snooze went off again reminding me that another day was here, and meetings and invites wait for none. Would it help being a polar bear? Does a polar bear feel groggy after a winter’s sleep? With all this global warming, does it irk the polar bear that it cannot sleep as much as it would like to?

The nature of time will perplex, and one can only yearn for the days prior to alarm clocks, and reminders. I am sure the polar bears get along just fine sans alarm clocks, and yet here we are.

The alarm said : Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine indeed! YOU rise and shine! I want to flop and sleep. I am sure Nanu (the polar bear in the book, Ice Walker – A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic) would agree.

Books:

Ice Walker – By James Raffan

Ice Walker: A Polar Bear's Journey through the Fragile Arctic
Ice Walker – A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic – James Raffan

Snail Tales

When R K Narayan said, writing is like a yoga, I suppose he didn’t quite envision the exact pose in which inspiration would strike. For me, it seems to be in the Shavasana(sleeping or corpse) pose. Take Saturday night for instance. I had mooned about the hills early in the am. Happy  cows, and cheeky turkeys hobnobbed with nervous cows and pesky humans to great delight in the misty dews of the morning. 

A morning out in nature is usually balm enough to get the old inspiration going. I spent the whole day with wisps of little sentences floating in and out of the brain. Sentences that would make amazing epiphanies, little witticisms that I yearn for when trying bite-size nuggets of wisdom, they all paid a visit.

Throughout the day, inspiration seemed to come along just when I was slicing the onions, or grumbling about the crumbs with the old vacuum cleaner in hand. I had no access to put some of these words to paper. Then, early evening came, and I sat down to write, when the beautiful full moon rose – hanging like a large golden orb over the Earth. Poets swooned, artists swelled, and writers bloomed. I rushed in, opened my laptop, and had one of the dullest writing sessions possible. 

I teased and pleaded – trying to gather the wisps into a cotton ball of candy, but nothing happened. I wrote the dullest set of sentences conceivable and decided to not fight the muse anymore, and headed to bed. 

I opened , Over Seventy, by P G Wodehouse, (his autobiography) and there was a section written by P G Wodehouse on how he would hesitate to use snails as subjects.

“As a writer I have always rather kept off snails, feeling that they lacked sustained dramatic interest,. With a snail, nothing much ever happens, and of course, there is no sex angle. An informant I can rely says they are ‘sexless or at least ambivalent… Obviously, the snail-meets-snail, snail-loses-snail, snail-gets-snail formula will not help you and this discourages writers from the start.”

Over Seventy – P G Wodehouse – Essay on Bridges, Snails and Meteorites

Well, what do you think this innocuous paragraph did? It started the brain off on a most interesting snail trail. I harked back to the book, Birds, Beasts & Relatives, by Gerald Durrell, where he dedicates a good portion of his musings on myrtle forests to snails, and what an interesting love subject it proved to be.

He writes with such obvious rapture on the mating ritual of snails, that I wonder why entire sonnets aren’t dedicated to this marvelous endeavor. He had the good fortune of finding the slow blisters stirred into action after a freak thunderstorm got them going. 

Sure enough, on a myrtle branch there were two fat, honey- and amber-coloured snails gliding smoothly towards each other, their horns waving provocatively.

… This freak storm had obviously awakened them and made them feel gay and romantic. 

So, there they were, side by side attached to each other by the two little white cords. And there they sat like two curious sailing ships roped together. This was amazing enough, but stranger things were to follow. The cords gradually appeared to get shorter and shorter and drew the two snails together. They stayed rapturously side by side for some fifteen minutes and then, without so much as a nod or a thank you, they glided away in opposite directions, neither one displaying any signs of darts or ropes, or indeed any sign of enthusiasm at having culminated their love affair successfully.”

Birds, Beasts, and Relatives – By Gerald Durrell – Essay on Myrtle Forests

I closed the book, and an image from the early evening, with the skies pink in the setting sun arose. I had just watered the plants. The children and I had squealed at the moisture at the end of the hot day, and stood there enjoying the little rainbows created by the water sprays, when I spotted a snail clinging to the succulents, and making a slow but hard climb towards the lavender patch. The children gathered around to see the beautiful creature too. Was the snail’s sentience relishing the sunset skies too?

Sluggish thoughts indeed, but rather the best for a drift into sleep. Where old P.G.Wodehouse was stumped with the snail-as-dramatic-love-interest angle, old Gerald Durrell had spun a yarn with the very angle. I yawned one of those jaw-breaking ones, and resolved to write about snails instead. So, here we are.

School Days

It was the first day of school – back to school in-person after a year and a half of remote learning for the Elementary school goer in the home.

There we stood – the husband and I- masked, behind a line holding a throng of anxious parents at bay. The children were coming out to the school environs after such a prolonged time in front of their screens. The nervous energy, chatter and activity, muted through masks as it was, was enough to uplift the senses. 

As Miss Read says in her chronicles of life as a school teacher in a village school: The first day of school has a life and energy all its own. Even if the preceding days have been somewhat dreary, she says, the first day manages to be bright and sunny. We live in California, so our summers are not dreary. If anything, they are all too glorious with the sun beating down on us, wildflowers hanging fully on every bush and tree. Even so, the energy and bright first day of school was marvelous.

It was only as we standing there with the others that I realized how much I missed this particular experience. I used to enjoy those precious little moments in the morning looking at the children enjoying their play. (Read: Recess as the basis of culture)

The arrival of the pandemic was like an unexpected blizzard that enveloped the whole Earth in its swirl. While the swirl continues, lessening at times, picking up pace at other times, there are times when post-vaccination, we can hope to remember our normal. 

Great Red Spot - Wikipedia
Great Red Spot on Jupiter

I stood there taking in the morning energy from all the young scholars gathered in each other’s physical presence after a year and a half, and smiled to myself. The mask has its advantages. I could observe the teary young parents of kindergarteners as they embarked on this great adventure, the weary parents of the older children who were happy enough to see their children out in their school, interacting with other children again. 

I glanced at the son who’d finally found his classmates and was amused by what met my eyes. One fella had learnt how to tie his shoelaces a different way, and he stooped and showed the admiring knot of his friends not once but three times, while they watched patiently, a light shining in their eyes at this new learning. 

I couldn’t help smiling.

A few minutes later, I noticed another young fellow, good samaritan that he was, double out of line, and race towards the field, and throw a football that was slowly rolling away from them to the center of the field. He came running back and nicked back into line just as their teacher came out to summon them in, and he was met with huge roars of appreciation for his citizenship. 

Who said education only happens in the classroom?

As I walked slowly back to the car hearing the receding chatter of the young and the studious, I hoped that they would have a normal-enough year. The vaccination isn’t here yet for younger children, and we would have to keep an eye on things as they proceed. Look out for each other, help keep one another safe, and navigate this together.

Enjoy the present has taken on a new meaning in Pandemic times. Senior Sunrise

The Statues of Liberty

I have had the luxury of traveling and reading the past few days. I read and watched the following in one glorious spurt:

I preferred the books and movies with animals & the magic of our thriving universe in them over the ones with just humans in this lot though.

  • Forgotten Beasts  – by Matt Sewell 
  • 100 animals to see before they die
  • Ice Walker – A Polar Bear’s Journey through Fragile Arctic – James Raffan
  • Birds, Beasts & Relatives – by Gerald Durrell
  • The One & Only Ivan – by Katherine Applegate
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – By Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Back from the Brink – Documentary at the Boston Science Museum
  • Moons: Worlds of Mystery – Documentary at the Boston Science Museum
  • Kung Fu Panda – 2 – Dreamworks Animated Movie

Granted that the 7 Hs of Evelyn H was a fast read. The narrative style pulled us along with just a hint of intrigue keeping us going till the very end. The story itself appeals because it is a story of someone trapped in the endless trap of fame and glory, and the constant insecurity of ratings and popularity. It is, though, a reminder of the things valued by plenty of humankind, and the reminder of love in a tumultuous world. The interest in another’s life, is a never-ending case of human interest, and the story does justice to that indeed. There are several well-written lines in there on human nature. I must say I have never been enamored by the Kardashian-type of celebrity life shows, so my review is somewhat lukewarm for this one.

The heart-lifting tale of The One & Only Ivan was up next – the gorilla who saves his little elephant friend Ruby, after making a promise to an older elephant friend, Stella. Based on a true story, this is the kind of story that tugs at heart strings. Katherine Applegate’s writing is a class apart. I have been a fan ever since I read The Tale of Despereaux. 

I wonder, sometimes with a tinge of envy I admit, about how animals, birds, and marine creatures live without the trappings of economics and finances, and social influences and so on. They navigate by the cosmos as much as we do – In Ice Walker, the author, James Raffan follows the life of a polar bear, Nanu, as she grows, hunts, mates, and raises her young in the polar ice caps. How surely she knows the changing seasons, and the direction in which to lead her cubs for food and sustenance, is beautifully written and portrayed. The bright stars that we peek at, is so much more for these creatures. How far we have come as humans, and how much more left to go? Nanu is killed by humans, and her surviving cub is forlorn. 

On the way to view the Statue of Liberty, we stopped and watched plenty of statues of liberty along the way. Boston Public Gardens hosts the marvelously made statue of Make Way for the Ducklings by Robert McCluskey. 

New York’s Central Park hosts many statues : Alice in Wonderland & Hans Christiaan Andersen with a swan are marvelous reminders of life and the marvelous influences of imagination. I wonder how many people worried about the economics and finances of the economies, their lives, and their jobs stopped to take deep breaths and believe in magic once again as they make their way past these statues of liberty.

It seems only fitting to finish this marvelous post on the different things that sustain human minds and lives with a Seussism or two.

And Always Remember

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

(98  and 3/4 percent guaranteed) 

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS 

Oh the Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss

Or this one?

Expand Your Horizon

The more that you read, 

The more things you will know,

The more that you learn,

The more places you’ll go

– I Can Read With My Eyes Shut – Dr Seuss

Why is it all Political?

I was listening to an author, Sayantani Dasgupta, speak the other day, and she said, “Imagination is a political act.”

I jotted down the phrase. Several times during the next few days, the phrase would peek out at me as I went about my work. I mused and smiled when it unexpectedly caught my eye.

Four years ago, I had traveled to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania the week prior to the elections after mailing in my ballot in anticipation of the journey. The day of the 2016 elections, I was at a conference in Texas. The day was busy enough. I moved from session to session assimilating, learning and wondering a little how the elections were going. But I was not overly concerned. My focus was on learning. The polls had shown that Hillary Clinton will be in power soon. There was nothing to fear. I was ready to join the Pantsuit Nation in celebrating our first ever woman president. 

That night, alone in the hotel room in Texas, I switched on the television, after a hot shower, though all I wanted to do was sleep. It had been a 14 hour day, and I found myself drifting off to sleep every now and then.  Finally, when the tides began to turn, I thought my over-tired brain was playing games. The next few days were indeed one of shock, and given that I was far from my family and friends, I held it in as best as I could. Racism and bigotry seem to have received an amplifier and I felt more vulnerable than ever. I was not white, not male, not a Christian, not this, not that, and certainly not anything. How could one individual suddenly make me, a being of flesh, blood and emotions,  into so many things I was not?

Since then, we have seen things happen that are indeed too strange for fiction. Divisive people have a way of polarizing the environment around them. Slowly, I noticed how the literature around me changed: Posts and books giving us hope, filling us with age old wisdom. Every blustery tweet or policy was analyzed and we have had the busiest most riled up period in recent memory. 

But it also helped us all grow in so many ways. To realize that we are all different. All different in our ideologies, all different in what is important to us, all different in what  affects us, and how it does. For all of the politics, and whether or not people supported the Democrats or the Republicans, I do not waver in one thing – people are inherently good. They do want the best for themselves, theirs and the larger community, and in that regard, we are the same despite our differences.

Some days, I think of the Dalai Lama, meditating on the state of the world for 3 hours every morning. I wonder how he does it, and I marvel at the compassionate view he takes of humanity. The 45th President has taught us that no matter how strongly we feel about somethings, we cannot change how others feel about the same things. He taught us grudging acceptance. He taught us to value competence. He showed us how everything could become a political act with a dictator. 

everything_is_political

Travel became a political act.

Health became a political act.

Climate Change became a political act.

Science became a political act.

Now, Imagination is a political act.

Today, the only political act I can think of in my power, is Voting. 

Before Being becomes a political act, it is time to act.

Continue reading “Why is it all Political?”

The Kaleidoscope of Life on Earth 🌏

“Hmm…how Covid has changed things right Amma?” said the daughter when I walked into her room one day, and spotted ‘Greece’ sprawled across the whiteboard. She has been spending her summer making minor changes to the decorations in her room. As most teens do, she has a fond attraction to her room, and one day I found her looking at the pictures she had printed out to make a sort of picture collage. Her teenage eye-roll and monosyllabic answers fell away as soon as I showed an interest in the choice of pictures she had laid out on the floor arranging and rearranging them to see the best patterns.

How do you see the best patterns in a kaleidoscope? Everything seems beautiful, everything seems fine, and yet the artistic piece of her fussed with the layout and order of the pictures. There were pictures of happy people, little cafes, books, beaches, forests, city lights, quotations, rainbows, flowers, and small towns. The collage was eclectic enough to interest me. She gurgled and burst forth with the thought that went into them. I listened amused. 

By then, her excited voice had attracted her little brother and fond father into the room. Her brother painstakingly wrote ‘Mars’ below ‘Greece’.

“Mars! Seriously dude- next thing we know you will be lugging us into black holes and having us all burst into all the tiny starry bits like your Avengers or Star Wars superhero dudes in their adventures! No! No space travel!”

“Just yet”. I added and she gave me a look that indicated that this idiocy with space is because I indulge him with this stuff. I laughed out loud, and the children joined in too.

“And while we are at it,  no fictional or mythical places either. Only places that we can locate on a known map of the world.”

“Sheesh – she is so strict!” said the young explorer of the cosmos.

Travel_dreams

Cautiously, like deer in a prairie, we approached the topic of places we’d like to visit, ready to scurry back to Covid restrictions. Slowly, the name scrawled on a whiteboard set the stage. In the safe company of just the four of us, it felt good to take a peek into travel dreams again. It was done at first soberly – how happily we had taken international travel for granted? How happily we had taken good health for granted? Disconcerting as the Covid situation has been, it has also made us sit up and take notice of the beautiful things surrounding us on Earth. 

Once we started talking of lands beyond our day-to-day, a different energy gripped the room. Within moments, distances melted away, and the globe-trotters threw names on the board with no thought to distance or expense. Exactly how dreams should be.

Looking at the list on the board reminded us, however, that our lifetimes were not enough for this sort of ambition. How does one fit in a hike in the Himalayas for a zen feel, with a sort of Darwin-esque trip to the Galapagos? How can one fit the journey of civilization in Greece and Peru, to the pure sounds of nature as yet untouched by mankind? I suppose travel still has a lot to teach us, and post-covid, the world will start to cautiously explore once more.

We started, therefore, with a couple of day trips taken mostly on a week-day taken off from work, so we could avoid crowds. We looked for wide trails on which to get our dose of nature and exercise in. While for the first time thinking of a 2-3 day trip, we looked for godforsaken places. Places people do not usually go to for a vacation. But the house was a good one, pitched atop a hill with the nearest neighbor miles away. There was a  Jane Austen-esque feel to the whole thing. It reminded me of the poem by Wendell Berry: The Beauty of Wild Things.

On Being: The Beauty of Wild Things – By Wendell Berry

I set about the evening meal after the long drive there, while the children ran to find board games to be played that night. I cradled a cup of tea in my hands, as I set the water to boil, and rummaged the contents I had packed with me so as to minimize exposure to the outside world.  Slowly, the kitchen’s essence wafted around the room – smells, heat, textures all dancing together in an exquisite symphony of the senses. A symphony was playing as I cooked, and talked to the children. Here was a lively room packed with energy, activity, witty comments, and chaos that strangely translates to calm.

Inside this house overlooking a river valley, I felt the kaleidoscope of our life on Earth lap at me in waves. Watching the objects in the room around me evoked a strange sense of living  on this earth: the telescope, the books ,the music, the keyboard that promises the best music to those willing to invest in it, the creature comforts of a well-built house with the furnishings about us, the deer grazing in the hillside by us, the beautiful moon, the thousands of stars visible because of the distance from populated areas.

Life_On_Earth

The Peace of Wild Things: By Wendell Berry

I come into the peace of wild things

And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.

The daughter’s pictures had indeed done a good job of capturing life on earth.

How do we exist?

It had been another long day, and as the clock ticked towards midnight, the body yearned for sleep, but the mind looked longingly at the tsundoku pile, and craved for some quiet moments of solitude. I peeked out of the window, and the moon sailing high through the skies tugged at my heart. There is something so intensely beautiful about catching sight of our  lovely cosmic neighbor sending its mellow moonbeams through the leaves at night.

I looked for a word that captures the phenomenon, but there isn’t one.

There are two words in Japanese that come close (the Japanese language has such amazing words for admiring wondrous nature around us.)

Kawaakari ( 川明かり – a word depicting the evening reflection of light on water, or in some cases can refer to the reflection of the moonlight off flowing water.

img_20200407_195324-effects

Komorebi (木漏れ日): Sunshine filtering through the trees.

trees_komerabi

I had just started reading The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson. In the first chapter, Rachel Carson takes us with her steady voice into a time on Earth before the seas were created. When the planet was still heaving and churning its metallic ores, hot searing waves of liquid settling into a semi-liquid state in its outer cores. She wonders then about the question, how were the oceans formed?
“So if I tell here the story of how the young planet Earth acquired an ocean, it must be a story pieced together from many sources and containing whole chapters the details of which we can only imagine.
For although no man was there to witness this cosmic birth, the stars and moon and the rocks were there, and indeed, had much to do with the fact that there is an ocean.”

Then, she leads us from this fiery place in the cosmos with the sun heaving its solar flares, the earth itself arranging itself into concentric spheres with hot, molten iron at its core, and an intermediate sphere of semiplastic basalt , the outer layers of granite and basalt. And then gently she lures us into the possibility of the moon and the ocean being related to each other.

The next time you stand on a beach at night, watching the moon’s bright path across the water, and conscious of the moon drawn tides, remember that the moon itself may have been born of a great tidal wave of earthly substance, torn off into space.

How can one not be mesmerized by the creation of the moon? Was it truly hewn from the surface of the earth (The moon’s density does match the density of the outer crust). The hypothesis that the moon was hewn away after massive solar tides exerting a pull on semi-molten Earth is based on the theory that the large portion thus hewn away left such a large scar on the surface of the Earth. A scar that would continue to shape Earth and its lifeforms for millions of years afterward: The Pacific Ocean.

Later, as the Earth cooled and clouds formed from the steam rising, the rains started. Pouring onto the hot earth for years – initially almost immediately evaporating into steam, but eventually collecting as water – forming the first oceans.

It is, of course, fascinating that we still do not know for sure how the moon was created. There are several theories – theories of violent impacts, random objects being attracted by gravity, and young earth managing to keep one satellite, while heftier ones like Jupiter acquiring 67 etc. This is a topic still under discussion.

https://www.space.com/19275-moon-formation.html

Nevertheless, the very first chapter had me wowed. I would never be able to look at our closest cosmic neighbor with the same eyes ever again. How often I have stood marveling at the moon? Out on walks, my heart always skips a beat when I catch sight of the beautiful, faithful satellite accompanying Earth as she tears through space. To think that there is a possibility that the very creation of our cosmic neighbor was crucial to our oceans is awe inspiring. I live on the Pacific Coast, and never can I see the bays, the ocean or the moon without reminding me of this book.

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson

sea_around_us

The skies hold the answers to our most philosophical stirrings. Why do we exist?

The seas, it seems, holds the answers to our most existential stirrings. How do we exist?

That is the Earth!

“Do you know what this is?”

“That is the Earth! From the moon.” said the son matter of factly. “I saw it before!” he said in response to my awed expression.

We were looking at the back jacket of a book, that I flipped to the last page first.

this_is_earth

This is the Earth, by Diane Z Shore & Jessica Alexander with paintings by Wendell Minor.

It was a picture of the Earth rising on the Moon’s horizon.

A picture that generations of humans for millennia could only have imagined, and never really gotten close to the sheer beauty of it. Our myths are at once rich and limiting in its reach. They have imagined Earth as being elephants on elephants, turtles on turtles all the way down, flat discs, imagining heavens above and hells below.  

earth_myth

 

The picture was taken by an astronaut, Bill Anders, aboard the Apollo 8 spacecraft in 1968. I looked on mesmerized at the picture.

1200px-NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise

Bill Anders / Public domain

But this picture is truly astounding. The pale blue dot when seen from the Moon is a brilliant, blue orb, suspended in space, intriguingly spattered with clouds, oceans, landmasses, not really depicting the billions of lives it fosters, or the number of ecosystems it has in its fragile balance. 

Bill Anders said: “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”

What a lovely statement that is, and together with his Earth Rising image, contributed to the concerns around Planet Earth that led to founding of Earth Day in 1970.

50 years later, we have made rocky starts and gains towards conservation. But this April 2020, 50 years later, purely coincidentally, Covid-19 has the world on lockdown, not just imagining a life of bare necessities but embracing it for the social good. We, the people, now have the time to observe our fellow inhabitants.

Heart warming tales of peacocks making its foray into the deserted cityscapes of Mumbai; turtles coming ashore to hatch in the beaches along the Bay of Bengal; seeing the Himalayas from a 100 miles away once the smog fog lifted; deeming the waters of the Ganges near Rishikesh fit for human consumption again without all the factories along the way dumping its wastes into the flowing water;or bears enjoying their natural habitats unhindered by human presence in Yosemite National Park, are surfacing, and it has my heart lifting again. I have often enough lamented on this blog about the poor attention we pay to the Planet that nurtures our fragile selves and egos. 

Watching the even more fragile ego of the stock market indices, it seems to me that we can very well have the world function this way, by having a month off every year in which everything stops but essential services. An Earth Month every year to reflect, slow down, plan and recoup our staggering impact to the environment. After all, the stock market seems to have a life of its own and seems only to want some stolidity in its expectations. So, we anticipate a month with no major events, no excessive or unnecessary travel, and only essential services operating. The notion isn’t that far-out either. 100 years ago, no one thought we could have 5 day work-weeks. Yet, here we are, in state where it is the norm now. 

Maybe this could be the measure we take for Earth Day to slow the rise of Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 6.33.29 PM

Please go this site to see the curve over 2 years and over 200  years Keeling Curve – Scripps UCSD

If you look at the extrapolated curve from the 1700’s, it has risen exponentially. It is probably too soon to see the effect of Covid-19 on CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Could, Earth Month become the new normal for us. So children matter of factly accept that Earth Month as essentials month in the coming generations?

Let’s care a whole lot!

T’was family movie night. An evening fraught with decisions, and everyone’s voice and opinion clanged over the dishes and sizzled over the noise from the stove.
Suggestions rose, opinions swelled and movies quelled.

“Uggghhh! No way!”
“That again?”
“What are you? A kid? Oh wait! Yes you are a kid! Okay never mind!”
“Nope! Too much for Amma! “
“What do you mean? It isn’t too much for me?!”
“You bawled last time for a movie that wasn’t even a tear-jerker, nope! How about this?”
“Star Wars!”

A collective moan went up. Finally, it was revealed that the youngest member of the family had no recollection of the Dr Seuss movie Lorax. He has read the book multiple times, and so we all settled in to watch Lorax.

The_Lorax

Dr Seuss is an inspiration, of course; but just how insightful his take on humanity is uncanny. From fresh air as a commodity, to a land without trees, to surveillance at every pore, his far sighted vision has so much to nod your heads at.

The Thneeds, created by the Once-ler, in his story are made from Truffle trees. Thneeds were fashion statements – doubling up from head scarves to sweater vests and shawls. (“But even he, it seems, could not envision a future where ripped jeans were fashion trends!”,  I said and drew a grudging chuckle from the teen with the ripped jeans. ) Eventually, of course, the Once-ler’s greed led to decimation of trees, habitat loss and a devastated landscape is all that is left.

“Wow – that was such a good movie Amma – though the movie had scenes that the book didn’t have.” was the verdict of the youngest.

“Really! Humans are impossible!” said the teenager, and discussion turned to conservation, Greta Thunberg and some you-tuber who talks about going green.

“Did you know the Lorax was banned in some schools in California because loggers felt it was not friendly to the ‘foresting industry’. ” I said.

I looked at their agonized faces with awe – how is it children get these things, and adults don’t; and I felt a surge of hope.

lorax

We were walking a familiar route through our neighborhood a few days later, stopping to see some of the felled trees as we do every so often. The rings in the pine trees show they must have been at least 80 years old, and to see the forlorn stumps reminded of the beautiful book, The Giving Tree.

img_7820

The book starts with friendships between a young boy and an apple tree. The boy plays and swings on the tree’s branches, but as he grows older demands more and more from the tree. He needs her apples to make money, cuts her down to build himself a house and a boat, and finally comes back tired and spent with life, when all the poor tree can offer is the stump to rest.

The Giving Tree, can be interpreted and discussed in many different ways. Givers & Takers, Need & Greed, Selfish & Selfless, but the most beautiful one is the simple one, the one where your children make a sad face at the end, and say, “Why doesn’t this boy/man/grandpa ever feel sorry for what he’s done?”

giving_tree

The boy reminds us of human’s relationship with nature. The human species can be broadly classified as takers: from the planet, & from our co-habitants on this planet. You might have seen this video clip of Man’s greed By Steve Cutts:

The Giving Tree too was banned interestingly for sending sexist messages – the tree was female and the little boy continued to take from her without ever giving back.

I just finished a book called Losing Earth – by Nathaniel Rich. The book, deals with the science, politics and action of climate change.

losing_earth

Despite humanity having the science locked down more than 50 years ago, little action has resulted. The closest we came to getting everyone to agree on unified action was the Paris Agreement where all countries agreed to work towards keeping emissions such that we not go above the 2 degree increase of temperatures world-wide. The largest emission offender for decades, United States, pulled out of the agreement when Donald Trump became President.

I was shocked to find that Climate Change as a topic has been banned in certain schools, skirted around in others and given a miss altogether elsewhere. The science behind Climate Change and the effect of our industries were long proved – as far back as 1970.

This April 22nd is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a special onus on Climate Action. Maybe this Earth Day, we can renew our commitment to the only pale blue dot that will harbor us. Let’s care a whole lot about our planet before all we are left with is the word ‘Unless‘ like in the Lorax story, or the tree stump in The Giving Tree.

 

no_garagepale_blue_dot

Read also: Are we to become Lab Rats?