The Art of Judging Art

The husband showed me an episode on White Collar – a drama series based on an FBI agent who takes the help of a conman he arrested to solve art crimes. A fascinating series, it soon caught the fancy of the household primarily because it is one of the few shows that we can watch with the young son in tow.  Of course, modern television has taken gripping drama to an art, and we found ourselves enjoying the show together. 

In one episode, the protagonist goes to great depths to explain how he found a particular piece of art was counterfeited. The light of the shadows in the painting, he says, were at an angle that could only have been possible if the museum lighting were shining at that angle, not something that Rembrandt or Van Gogh or Picasso (I forget which artist) would have had to contend with in his work of art. 

I remember being awestruck at this. Of course, art aficionados would not find it marvel-worthy, but I did. My simple mind appreciates the beauty of a good work of art, and it stops there. The critical eye, the keen observations, they all seem a work of wonder to me. 

It was, after we had watched this episode that we bundled up and drove through the lush hills shining in the sun-dappled valleys and plains of California for a short trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The Getty Museum turned out to be a wonderful outing for Covid times. It was not crowded, and the artwork was good without being overwhelming.

As I stood in the Van Gogh section, I could not help wondering how that many works of Van Gogh were in Getty’s Museum when we had seen numerous others in galleries across Italy. Apparently, in his last year of life, confined to an asylum for mental illness, Van Gogh created around 600 masterpieces.

I snapped a picture of the Irises, and made my way down to the gift shop afterwards. It was there that the awe of what we have done dawned on me, There were mass produced pieces of merchandise with the exact nuance of the irises on purses, scarves, tote bags, books and magnets.

What is the true worth of a masterpiece? I am sure there are hundreds of paintings, true masterpieces, that do not go on to have this enduring sense of appeal and capture the imagination of generations. 

I tried fumbling some of these sentiments to the children, and the children piped up in style, “If Neal Caffrey tries to steal it, it is worth it. If not, forget it!”

Regardless, the urge to paint is encouraged by Van Gogh himself (according to the Internet)

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

– Vincent Van Gogh

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. 

Pirates Vs Ninjas

I suppose I can laugh about it now. Though the crick in the neck disagrees just a teensy teensy bit.

The whole unfortunate episode reminded me yet again of how marvelous children are. Allow me to mist my eyes up a bit and remember.

“What are you doing?” I said to no one in particular though there seemed to be a herd of elephants in the room above me stampeding through the forests and jumping into the river.

Just imaginating!” Came the familiar reply, and despite the elephants-in-room feeling, I smiled. In our home, the act of pure imagination has been given a verb-form all on its own. Imaginating, we call it, and go about our business of imagination without batting an eyelid. 

A few hours later, I asked him, “Won’t you hurt yourself? Jumping and tumbling about like that – from the bed, to the table and back again through the chairs?”

He smiled and said simply, “No amma! I won’t hurt myself. Besides, it is the only way when you are trying not to put your feet on the floor.” He rolled his eyes. Must adults be this thick?!

I felt a big cloud of fog roll into the brain. “But, why must you not put your feet on the floor, my dear?”

A sheepish grin met my innocent query, and he said he was pretending to be a ninja fighting pirates, and ninjas do not walk on floors like normal people. Pirates, I was told, had no problems jumping vigorously into battle, and the elephants-thundering-sensation must have been the pirates piece of the imagination, not the ninjas.

I praised the universe for an imagination, and went on to soothe my head, while he blithely tumbled and crouched and leapt from one vantage point to another in the battle.

Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,

There I’ll establish a city for me:

A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,

And a harbour as well where my vessels may ride.

This one is sailing and that one is moored:

Hark to the song of the sailors aboard!

And see, on the steps of my palace, the kings

Coming and going with presents and things!

Robert Louis Stevenson – Child’s Garden of Verse
A Child’s Garden of Verse – Robert Louis Stevenson

The next morning, the sun peeked out from behind the autumnal clouds, wondering whether or not to shine, when it happened. I miscalculated the depth and the breadth of the bed, and tumbled out. I suppose it would have been one of those funny videos when watched in slow motion, but all I remember is a pretty tumble, and a sort of dull crick in the neck before I rolled again and came to be a pile on the floor. 

The sun is a star. We see thousands of stars at night. But do you see thousands of them by day when the sun has decided to show itself too? I wasn’t sure, but that was what I saw. Within moments, I had the loving son rushing downstairs for a glass of water and packet of frozen peas, while the husband tried to help me up, and assess the bone-situation given my propensity of breaking them

For concerned readers, I am fine. Nothing happened except that I am still sore. Three days later, I asked the son wistfully how he managed his imaginating. My neck still felt sore and my head hurt when I tilted it just so. The house needed cleaning and the food needed cooking, and the neck needed resting. What was to be done?

He looked sorry for me, and shrugged. “Maybe you can imaginate that you will win your castle in battle?”

“That sounds like a good plan. My castle only needs cleaning before the army arrives. I can dance and make merry in preparation for the royal ball?!” I said, and we smiled.

I was a royal queen who was also a fantastic dancer as I cooked and cleaned. Robert Louis Stevenson would have been proud.

Just a Little?

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I’ve written before about how one of the best gifts of growing up in a different world from the one I inhabit as an adult is the marvelous gifts of literature that keeps on giving. For instance, this week, I am contending with my love for Anne of Green Gables and its TV show, Anne with an E, juggling the arrival of our in-laws from India, Greek myths that ebbs and flows like the tides with the children and their interests, a full Navarathri season, a pile of books begging to be read, a craving for some quiet, and a few entirely new Dr Seuss books.

All of these things seemed to reiterate the one thing that Virginia Woolf said,

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.”

Virginia Woolf

The children thought it might be a good idea for me to watch Anne with an E. Seeing that I am not much of a Television person, a profile was created for me on Netflix. Every one else’s profile was given their own names. Mine was touchingly called ‘Amma’, and it had one entry in the ‘Continue Watching’: Anne with an E.

This tickled the son every time, and he showed it off to his friends, who all shared a chuckle with him.  The series is beautifully rewritten by Moira Walley Becket, and is based on the original book series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The series boldly irons out some aspects that could have been better in the books. A number of side stories and characters have also been added (some I liked, some I didn’t).

Ever since my first acquaintance with Anne of Green Gables, I have a yearning for the Canadian countryside. I would love to visit Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island one day ‘with kindred spirits’ to take in the October beauty. 

I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers

– Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery

I must admit Anne with an E rekindled the love for the series, and I started reading the series again. Accordingly I went to library to look up Anne of Windy Poplars, and found the rest of the series on the shelves, but the one I was looking for. I asked one of the librarians putting some books away nearby and went to ask her if she knew whether there was another copy somewhere else. Her eyes seem to light up when I asked after the Anne of Green Gables series, and I smiled inside my mask. She acknowledged that the Windy Poplars one was not there, and I thanked her, and went my way. 

I meandered around the library and when finally I washed up at the checkout desk, she came up breathlessly, and handed me a well-loved copy of Anne of Windy Poplars. “I knew there was another copy for you somewhere!” 

I thanked her profusely. I cannot tell you the joy I had in curling up with Anne that night, reveling in the quiet way in which the old rivalries between Anne and Gilbert blossomed into a companionable friendship, and then into love.

I said so to the daughter late that night when she found me reading well past midnight. Her eyes crinkled with laughter, and she said,”Amma! Look at you. Aren’t you just a little bit embarrassed to be fan-girling like this?”

“Well…since you ask, Just A Little Bit!” I said, but found myself laughing. “I can’t help it, I seem to like it, and well, makes me think of Appa & me a long time ago.”

“All right – TMI!” she said. (TMI for oldies as I was lovingly enlightened means Too Much Information)

But she nodded approvingly before adding, “I like that you are reading and watching Anne of Green Gables ma! Gilbert Blythe indeed!” Her back registered indulgence as she turned and left me to my reading. I chuckled, and became a little girl enjoying the twist of the trees, and the way the moonlight danced on the waters, till the mystical realms of dreams claimed me.

Kimêtawânaw – we all play

The daughter was giving me Tea. 

‘Tea’ I was enlightened earlier, is not the beverage that I love, but interesting events of note in her life. The child told me about her new teachers, the classes, the people around her – the ones who were mean, and the ones who weren’t, something about Discord, and something else about friends with their heart strung in different directions. 

“How long since school reopened?” I asked bemused at this barrage of interesting information. 

She gave me a sheepish smile, “Well… Mother. Would you like to hear this or not?”

I nodded and she rattled on about the joys of companionship. 

The son patiently listened to all of her tales with an intent and bemused expression on his face.

“What about you my dear? How have your days been going?” I said turning to him.

Thankfully, elementary school children are still spacemen and super-heroes. The throes of the heart have not yet occupied their minds. In his stentorian voice, he regaled us with a tale of a newly invented game that others had been willing to play along with. Time-tastic Adventures. 

Apparently, the den was tasked with picking a date in the past or the future, and then, they all play and enact games during this period. Medieval times, times in the future, making their way to the stars, or the fields for strawberry picking, it was all done together.

“Such an interesting game! Did you come up with it?” I asked

He looked shy and proud at the same time. “Yes! Did you guess because it was all about time?”

I nodded. His fascination with Time and playing outside is well known.

What about you ma! What’s your highlight for today? 

I told them about the antics of a particularly adventurous little squirrel that hot summer’s day when I had gone out on an errand. All the world preferred to shelter in the trees, or stay indoors, but this one was practicing for a hurdle race. He or she ran gaining speed, and elegantly leaped over the mounds on the fence. Not once, not twice but at least for 100 meters. The Olympic committee was probably cooling off in the summer heat, but I was there – I pulled the car over and watched the little creature leap joyously.

That evening, I opened this beautiful book, We all play = kimêtawânaw By Julie Flett 

Kimêtawânaw – we all play – by Julie Flett

In simple language and beautiful pastel colored pages, the joy of play and companionship is etched.

I smiled my way through the book, and as I closed my eyes to sleep, I thought of the little squirrel jumping over the hurdles in the heat.

The little squirrel somehow embodied the spirit of choosing joy in the pursuit of happiness on that hot day. 

Often times when out on a walk I would stop to enjoy the different creatures playing outside. The ducks splashing together, the squirrels chasing each other up and down trees and running across one’s path, the co-ordinated flying of the geese, and the deer bursting into what looks like spontaneous sprints. The urge to skip and pirouette in the sunset often overwhelms me. When I think there aren’t too many people about, I give in – feeling thrilled and somewhat sheepish at the same time, for adulthood frowns on these displays of spontaneity. But, like the children say, “People know you are the official kook of the house, so you’re okay ma!”

Well, kimêtawânaw – we all play!

The Boat of Life

Driving through the Pacific North Western coast can be lovely. Even though the vast areas around us shimmered in the heat, we were upbeat inside the car- the Umpqua river was keeping us company on the drive. Umpqua river – What a river! What a name! It was beautiful as the roads snaked and curved and we never once knew on which side the river would emerge. 

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Looking at people trying to get their canoe afloat on the river that afternoon reminded me of Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome again, and I resolved to read it again soon. With Covid rampant everywhere, the world around us seemed more muted, but the river seemed to assure with its little gurgles, eddies, swirls, and bubbles that life will go on. This too shall pass and any number of things we tell ourselves when in need of lifting our spirits. 

The truth is that Californian summers in the Bay Area can mean slim pickings with vibrant rivers. The Oregon coast was different – the Umpqua river was full, mature with the strength of the waters from the melting snows of the Cascades and we were driving right alongside its path as it made its way into the Pacific Ocean. 

As the road rose over the ridge carrying us over the valley of the Umpqua, the mists gradually rolled in signaling one thing –  we were nearing the oceanfront!  The trees were towering over us, and my spirits rose on that mist-filled afternoon.

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“The hills are alive with the sound of music! “

I bleated along as we drove through the hills, and the children exchanged a look that confirmed their worst suspicions. Their Mother Nature was with them. And with this Mother Nature in attendance, there would be no dawdling and letting things be. This would mean hiking and looking at things, and singing along. Sure enough, I ended my bleat on a howling note with great pride and turned around to see the cubs splitting with laughter. I coaxed and under the threat of more of my own singing, they relented.

Pretty soon, there we were, playing a weird version of Antakshari – we took a word or theme of the last few words we sang and started off the next one. Sometimes, the sentiment was enough. We were off trying to coax musical notes from made-up lyrics, singing with mesmerizingly accurate actions to our imaginary orchestra, and completely off-tune. 

“The wind never bothered me anyway….Let it go! Let it go! “  I said drawing in a wisp of the wind by lowering the window,

The daughter piped up from behind:

“The cold never bothered me anyway…”

“What?”

“It’s not the ‘wind’, it’s the ‘cold’.” Said the daughter and I said, “Yes dear – that’s what I meant. “

“MA! You can’t just change up words when you are singing them and say that is what I meant! ”

The husband and daughter are wizards at memorizing the lyrics. Yours truly, on the other note, is only magical when it comes to making up nonsense to fill in the tunes. 

“Yes you can! I sang nonsense to you kids all the time when you were babies!” I said

“Yep! Yay! And see how well that worked out!” said the daughter – sarcasm dripping from her voice, and we all burst into laughter. Say what you might, it seemed a perfect philosophy for a lovely life given all our little imperfections.

“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing. ”

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

I feel like I must say something witty about boats of life, and how it is the very thing that could turn into your life-boat, etc, but the lyrics elude me at the moment. Stay tuned – for you never know when inspiration will strike.

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.

The 💫 Comet 💫 Life

The past few days have been a flurry of activity with tiny little bursts of stardust and magic spun into the day.

We traipsed home tired, sleepy but triumphant. This was a Sunday morning well spent: we had finally sighted the elusive comet, 💫  Neowise. The previous morning, we had run outside at a similar time, and stood pinching our eyes, squinting at a resplendent Venus and thinking that if you cocked your head to one angle, and yawned loudly enough to get tears in your eyes, you could spot the tail. This technique made for some hilarious moments, but comets don’t seem to care much for sentient beings on some transient planet trying to catch sight of them in the wee hours of their morning, and we had to accept defeat and head home.

The next morning, however, we had managed a grainy sighting of the comet and we were jubilant. When the chocolate drink was gulped, and the little fellow was tucked into bed again, I lay in bed thinking of the comet 💫 . I could not shake the beautiful image from my mind’s eye.

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To the naked eye, it looked nothing like the images taken by setting one’s camera to a long exposure, but it was there alright. The burning star with a yearning, a lone star shining its torch as it scorched its way by numerous stars treading a path it had set for itself. An unconventional celestial object. Compared to the systemic order of the rest of the universe, there was a object that was definitely unconventional , a trail blazer (get it, get it?) Why an elliptical shape, and why 6800 years?

I went about the days after the comet sighting with a faint gasp in my demeanor. Imagine, as we are holding all these important meetings, combating pandemics, and trying to protest against all things unjust, here was an icy blob just spinning away on its own elliptical. 6800 years before it can peek at us again. Often as I went about my day, I wondered whether there was a possibility of sentient life evolving on comets. Comets and asteroids have been known to be microbe transporters, seeding the possibilities of life as they hurtle through the vast dark emptiness.

Do extremophiles have what it takes to feel?

I mean, if we were to have evolved on a comet rather than a planet, would we have had such success in determining the nature of physics and the laws that holds the cosmos and the universe within which we thrive? How would time be measured on a comet? If rhythms helped us discern music, what would music have been in a comet-ic life? Our own days on Earth are neatly sliced into hours, minutes, and these days blend into weeks, months and years. Before we know it, we have made one full circle around the sun, and the seasons have changed along the way in predictable ways.

But none of that would be true if sentient life such as ours had evolved on a comet instead. There would be no days, no seasons, no predictable cyclical rhythm to our days. The sense of adventure as we drew near other stars and planets would probably fill the time. But time itself may have no more meaning, or much more meaning depending on how one perceived it.

These musings were sources of mild amusement, while life itself marched on with a comforting rhythm down here on Earth – dawns, days, dusks, nights, weeks.

Did the seagulls, deer and ducks think of such things?

Ahh! Comet life!

Comet Chasing * Chocolate Charms

The children have a shared liking for Calvin  & Hobbes. The adorable pair have been the source of many hysterical giggles between the siblings in our home. In the son’s room, there is a cartoon clip of Calvin & Hobbes that seems to tickle both his whimsy and his innate rapture and curiosity of the universe we live in.

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If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they would live a lot differently  ✨- Calvin & Hobbes

A few weeks ago, I was typing out an email with the ounces of concentration I could muster at the end of a 12 meeting day, and I wasn’t exactly thinking  about 💫 comets, stars, pulsars, neutron stars, black holes, and parallel universes, when the little fellow shot into the room bursting about comets. I turned around , and my face probably looked like some of the spreadsheets I was looking at, for the son gave me a pitying look that seemed to indicate, “What good is a day when you haven’t thought of these important things?”

I laughed at the incredulity on his face: Stars, superclusters, muons traveling the speed of light, quirky  quarks are all thriving right beside his world of super-powers for super-heroes, who are incidentally gifted with important sounding superpowers such as gamma-rays and electromagneto-muon-transporters and what-not. 

“Did you  know Halley’s comet is going to come again in 40 years?” said the son still bouncing and glowing from the stash of chocolate chips he has been chipping into while reading his little books on Physics.

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“Yep! Sounds about right. I was around your age when I saw Halley’s Comet. So once in 76 years means …” and I trailed off.

“What?! You’ve seen Halley’s comet? Aww…..so lucky!” said he, and I had to laugh at his yearning. I did remember the cold nights awaiting the turn at the telescope to catch a grainy sight of the Halley’s comet. I must say that the whole experience felt worth a lot more given the rapture with which he listened to the comet sighting. I seem to remember the hot chocolate provided to the young astronomers more than the telescope and the grainy image itself.

Maybe the universe really did hear his yearnings that day, for within a few weeks, another comet came our way: the Neowise 360 comet sighting was supposedly possible from where we lived. I was so happy for the little fellow. He could barely contain the excitement in his system when his father said at the lunch table that the comet would be visible at 4:30 a.m. He got up and ran upstairs to his room. We were exchanging quizzical glances at this when he tumbled downstairs and said, “Yes! I set the alarm for 4:30 – I cannot wait to see it!”

I had to admit; the young astronomer’s enthusiasm put us to shame. So, for the next few nights, we bundled up and comedically traipsed from location to location in the wee hours of the morning looking for a comet sighting. The clouds were there in one place, some low mountains in another, and then, finally, we managed to find a plain spot in which we caught a grainy sighting.

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Knowing that we caught a fleeting glimpse of something that is not going to come by to see us for another 6800 years is strangely moving. I have to tell you though, that similar to the Halley’s comet sighting, the hot chocolate after coming back, and the the long tail of wishes accompanying the comet sighting, definitely made the hustle worthwhile. 

That morning, the rest of the comet chasers had no problem falling back to sleep, but I did – the comet had kindled dreams of long ago: dreams born of comet chasing and chocolate charms; dreams woven with the magic of stardust 💫 and comet trails – bright, shiny, sparkling, path-breaking and aspirational.

Bill Watterson was absolutely right: People who spend time looking up at the night sky do live life differently!

 

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