A Question of Time

The past week has been an interesting one in many ways. Emotions aside, what this meant in practical terms was that the nourish-n-cherish household ran on a clock. 

The map says it takes 45 minutes at peak traffic, but surprise of surprises, it took 62 minutes, neatly shaving off the buffer we had baked in for grabbing a snack. 

At 10:45, we would have to be there at Y parking garage so that we could get to X building at 11:00.

At 4:45, the flight leaves from Airport Here. That means, the time at Airport There would be x-12.5, but there is x+7.5 stop-over in between.

By pure chance during this time of frenzy, I had with me a slim book, Longitude – The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dave Sobel.

It made for an interesting read on how we managed to get time down to a science. Dava Sobel creates an excellent narrative around the problem of Time and Maritime navigation.

“Time is to clock as mind is to brain. The clock or watch somehow contains the time. And yet time refuses to be bottled up like a genie stuffed in a lamp. Whether it flows as sand or turns on wheels within wheels, time escapes irretrievably, while we watch. Even when the bulbs of the hourglass shatter, when darkness withholds the shadow from the sundial, when the mainspring winds down so far that the clock hands hold still as death, time itself keeps on.”

Longitude by Dave Sobel 

While many astronomers tried to solve the mystery of keeping time using the astronomical events in the sky such as mapping Jupiter’s moons and their eclipses etc, one man, John Harrison set about solving the problem mechanically with a superior clock design. Clocks of the fifteenth and sixteenth century lost time because their pendulums lost their swing with the swaying of the ships, the internal mechanics rusted with the moisture at sea, and numerous other problems.

Reading about Time and how difficult it must have been to measure, has always fascinated the son & myself.

I suppose Time has become such a cornerstone of our existence that it makes for a refreshing read to hark back to the times when time was an indicator and not as much of a martinet as it is in our over-scheduled lives today.

I was reading Mrs Pringle of Fairacre by Miss Read – every time when life demands a slowing down and it is physically hard to do so, a dip into the lovely village green of Thrush Green or Fairacre does the trick. In the Fairacre books, Mrs  Pringle is the competent school cleaner who is also a bit of a virago. Her scatter-brained niece Minnie Pringle is often featured – incompetent and maddening as she is, she helps(or hinders) Miss Read out now and then. In this snippet, Miss Read learns that Minnie Pringle, a mother of 3 and stepmother to 5 young children, never really learnt to look at the clock and read the time.

Mrs Pringle of Fairacre: About Minnie Pringle 

I had not really taken in the fact that she could not tell the time

‘Well, I never sort of mastered the clock”, she said vaguely, implying that were a great many other things which she had mastered in her time.

‘But how do you manage?’ I enquired, genuinely interested.

“I looks out for the Caxley’, she replied. ‘It gets to the church about the hour.’ (The Caxley is the local bus)

‘But not every hour.” I pointed out.

‘Yes…but there is also the church bell.’

‘It still seems rather hit and miss,’ I said.

Mrs Pringle – By Miss Read

When I read the above snippet, I threw my head back and laughed. Almost subconsciously, I glanced at the various apps on my smartphone to remind me about the day : there were calendars synced with my meeting schedules, alarms to remind me of certain events and classes for the children, timers to help the rice cooker turn itself off, the world clock app to let me know when it is okay to call my friends in the different corners of the globe. 

Maybe John Harrison (The man who came up with the design of a clock that could hold time during maritime vagaries such as storms and tidal waves without rusting or losing momentum in the sixteenth century) did not quite anticipate the extent to which the world would adhere to Time, but it is refreshing to think of a few people who are not ruled by the ticking of the clock.

Maybe we should have Do-Nothing Days in which neither the phones, nor the passing of time intrude. It will be a refreshing change for sure.

Note: The obsession with Time is called Chronomania and those who live in perpetual fear of time ticking, time passing have Chronophobia.

The Other Dog

The Other Dog – By Madeleine L’Engle

Written by the legendary author of The Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle, I could barely believe it when I saw the well-loved book in the library. This book is written from the perspective of their dog, Touché L’Engle and how she welcomed the other dog everyone calls a baby.

The Other Dog – by Madeleine L’Engle Illustrated by Christine Davenier

It is a light-hearted and joyous book celebrating the life of their first pet, Touché . At one point in the book, I stopped and laughed out loud.

The Other Dog – By Madeleine L’Engle

I always tell my master and mistress

when the telephone or the doorbell rings.

No one could be more efficient,

more energetic,

more conscientious,

or louder

about this than I am

Madeleine L’Engle – The Other Dog

I remember my friend telling me a few years ago that their dog, with whom I shared a birthday, and was always very proud of it, had taken it upon himself to take care of the children. Which meant that every time one of her babies cried, the dog would bark too, and every time the door bell rang, he would bark too. 

As a visitor to their home, I found it all very amusing. I would ring the bell, listen to the gongs echo through their house, then the dog would bark, and usher me in with welcoming wags of his little tail. While there, if the baby so much as whimpered, the baby monitor would amplify the sounds and relay it to the room we were in. But that wasn’t enough:  the dutiful little dog took it upon himself to also convey the message, and so there was a grand flurry of activity every time the baby got up. 

I remember laughing so hard at all this activity, and my friend, tired as she was with a new baby in the house, joined in, and laughed heartily too. The dog was thoroughly bewildered. Had he not conveyed the message properly? THE BABY WAS CRYING! Why were we standing around laughing so hard that we had to clutch our stomachs?

What a lovely peek into the past that book was for me? Reading about the story of how the book came to be was fascinating in and of itself. Long before she became famous for her Wrinkle in Time she had written the book, The Other Dog, but it never made it to a publisher. Years later, long after Touché the dog had passed on, this book was published. Touché was a little grey poodle who was adored by fans for his appearance in stage plays in his youth. Reading about Touché, it was apparent that long after this death, Touché is also adored by all his book-reading fans.

Touché’s debut was in the production of Checkov’s The Cherry Orchard.

We go through life seeing many people who might’ve made good celebrities, and I am glad to say I have a met a dog or two in that category too. But fame, fickle as it is, can sit very poorly or gracefully on certain characters. It looks like Touché was gracefully accepting of his time on stage, and never let himself down from the higher standards of deportment he had set out for himself. If I were a celebrity, I would’ve learnt a thing or two from dear Touché.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go – By Dr Seuss

There is a general hum of excitement when  an Amazon package arrives outside the home. Is it some exciting thing required for the college-bound daughter, or something that would make the husband excited for his myriad hobbies, or another household item that would make yours truly beam?

Usually, the honors of opening the packages are done by the daughter with her adoring brother watching on. Hope I set the stage sufficiently:

Amazon package on porch

Children of house all expecting something for themselves open it

Oh The Places You’ll Go – By Dr Seuss

Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr Seuss. I held the book out to her and gave it to her as a college-going gift.

“Why would I take a children’s book to College Mother?” She said rolling her eyes and wishing her mother would have more sense. 

Her grandparents, on the other hand, were truly thrilled by the book. 

“What an excellent book ma? It was written the year before his death and has a lifetime of wisdom in it. Excellent book!” said the grandfather.

“Written in such simple terms for children to understand too. ” said the grandmother.

The grandmother and grandfather united in praise of a book shook her a little bit, but how could she? A near-18 year old, always sharing her ripe wisdom with her adoring brother, accept things that easily! 

I saw her steal a glance at the book.

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes

You can steer yourself

Any direction you choose.

Dr Seuss – Oh! The Places You’ll Go

I, for my part, was an amused spectator. This book was one of Dr Seuss’s that I read multiple times over – every time I face a bleak stop at the waiting station, or an exciting time where I hope to soar.

Waiting in Life

Dr Seuss’s book is an energetic reminder that life throws many curveballs, and somehow in this shared sense of struggle and being, a human camaraderie emerges. 

And when things start to happen,

Don’t worry. Don’t stew.

Just go right along.

You’ll start happening too.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go – By Dr Seuss

Every human has struggles, has ups and downs, waiting periods where nothing seems to happen. 

Every time, I talk to my friends and colleagues who in the course of their careers have inspired and taught me, I think how incredibly lucky I am to have had the ability to work with people like them.

And how, without our knowledge, we all lifted each other up.

You’ll be on your way up!

You’ll be seeing great sights!

You’ll join the high fliers

Who soar to high heights.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go – By Dr Seuss

And then, in particularly stressful periods, when you are in the waiting station, and have to learn to un-slump yourself, I read that too, as a reminder that life is never a smooth ride and everyone goes through phases of the not-so-happening, not-so-good.

Yet, at the very end, when the book assures you that all will be well. You do develop an optimism and hope that everything will turn out well in the end.

“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 – By Dr Seuss

It is no wonder that this book is popular as a gift for anyone starting out a new phase in life. 

Or not. It is a gift for all the times you need a reassurance of all that life takes.

Feeling Blue?

Fascination with the color blue I realized on picking up the books, BLUE – In search of Nature’s Rarest Color – Kai Kupferschmidt, is not a nourish-n-cherish household trait, but a universal one, and what a lovely revelation that was. 

Blue – In Search of Nature’s Rarest Color – By Kai Kupferschmidt

There are blues that are particularly attractive in clothing. For instance there was a deep sea blue nickname M S Blue, for the famed singer, M S Subbulakshmi first stylishly wore saris win that rich blue to concerts. Then there was the copper sulphate blue, turquoise blue, peacock blue, sky blue and navy blue.

I understand the yearning to write about the color blue. Who hasn’t been uplifted by the blue waters of a lake or ocean, or the sight of the blue skies first thing in the morning? Blue seems to assure us that we are here. We Belong on Earth – on this Pale Blue Dot.

Nevertheless, the book has many interesting aspects to the color blue. Starting from ceramics to precious stones and textile colors, the color blue has always enamored artists and patrons alike.

I found myself gleefully reading about the color, YinMn (pronounced yin-min) blue created by Dr Mas Subramanian that was later honored by having a color of its own created by Crayola the Crayon company.  Made from Yttrium, Indium and Manganese, the color created a blue wave in the world of colors.

The chemical formula of YInMn Blue is YIn1-xMnxO3.

You can read about its serendipitous discovery here: https://chemistry.oregonstate.edu/content/story-yinmn-blue

YinMn or Oregon Blue – Image from Wikipedia link : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YInMn_Blue

As I sat watching the son in his swim class, I felt a forced sense of ease settle upon me when I opened the book to read. The swimming pool was tiled with light blue tiles, the white lighting overhead made it a calm enough locale even though there were about a hundred people in the pool area. Waters do have a calming influence if you let it. This summer, we have been swimming a little so we could appreciate the wonders of the underwater 🗺 world 🌎 in the Pacific Ocean. Closing my eyes, I can still visualize the vibrant school of fish and the large turtle in the blue waters. 

The Sea Turtle near Kauai, Hawaii

I always imagined the creatures of the ocean having an even higher frequency range of light perception than humans. So I envisioned them swimming and living in a brilliant world of coral reefs and kelp forests with the myriad shades of blue contributing to its beauty. Imagine my disappointment then that the book while explaining the cones that are present in our eyes to detect color indicate that whales, seals and many denizens of our blue seas cannot perceive the color blue and may well see the teeming coral reefs as grey on grey. 

Image from the book as given on the Amazon page

That made me feel blue – I am not going to deny that. (Though I must admit the color blue has never made me feel blue, so I wonder where the expression comes from.)

Art work by Daughter

This book has re-awakened a dream of two science-based books that I have been meaning to write for children.  One on colors and another on how different creatures perceive our world. 

When can I become a mermaid?

To explore the forests of kelp

Or a butterfly

Or a blue jay or a hummingbird

So I can see the gardens of life abound through their wondrous roving eyes.

The Comedic Snorkelers of Kauai

Previously, when we’ve dipped our senses into another world, it was while being firmly rooted in our own. Peeking into the aquariums and viewing areas so painstakingly built for us by the ecologists and marine scientists, I always sent a wave of gratitude to those who enabled these magical moments. 

Snorkeling for the first time in an ocean was mind boggling.

It was with excitement and trepidation that we stood there listening to the instructions from our guide. Contrary to most snorkelers in the region, we were not experienced swimmers. As we slipped our feet into the paddles, a gurgle of hilarity hiccuped its way up and the children & I exchanged glances and started laughing. We did look ridiculous.

Getting a peek into the world of the ocean has always been a dream. Reading essays such as the Enchanted World by Gerald Durrell made the desire stronger.

Any naturalist who is lucky enough to travel, at certain moments has experienced a feeling of overwhelming exultation at the beauty and complexity of life

But there is one experience, perhaps above all others, that a naturalist should try to have before he dies and that is the astonishing and humbling experience of exploring a tropical reef. You become a fish, hear and see and feel as much like one as a human being can; yet at the same time you are like a bird, hovering, swooping and gliding across the marine pastures and forests

Gerald Durrell – Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons

While it had been so easy to slip our flippers on and off on land, the moment we had gentle waves lapping against us, simple tasks became a comedic trial of incompetence. I was glad to see that experienced swimmers struggled just as much as we did with this task. I may have smirked, and if I did, who could blame me.

As we moved on looking into the waters and observing the fish, there were moments when the flippers propelled us forward, and moments when the lungs rebelled with the excessive sea water that we were drinking in with each breath.(It takes some time to find the right degree, adjust the valves etc).

Whether we were watching the fish, or they were watching us was a philosophical question for I felt the fish swim by in delight and make several loops and gags around us. Schools of them – probably curious, and laughing at our inefficiency with the waters.

The fish frolicked, the humans shuddered; the schools of fish glided and gurgled happily while we sputtered and choked; the fish changed direction seamlessly while we struggled. If we entertained our piscine friends, I am happy. 

Several minutes into our dip and frankly embarrassing foray into the ocean, our guide came gliding up like a fish himself and signaled us towards a large turtle (she-turtle he said), and we nodded. “It is illegal to touch a turtle these days, but you can see it from afar.”

We changed course (which is to say we all spat out some sea water, gulped some air and water, sputtered some more and set out in the approximate direction) flipping those comical looking flippers hard. And there, right in front of us was a large turtle with elegant fins swimming graciously in the waters. For those brief moments, we weren’t bumbling sea-water drinking sputterers lost in the ocean, but mesmerized and equally graceful spectators to one of the most elegant creatures on the planet.

This was magic. Days afterward, I can flash back in my mind to that clear image of the turtle with its large fins swimming on by us. A face structure that enables it to look like it is smiling and amused with life, the turtles smooth motion as it cut through the choppy waters of the Pacific Ocean was amazing.

How do bone structures, ligaments, tendons, and all the things that hold an organism together evolve by design to function thus? What marvelous creatures sentient beings are? Nerves, neurons, cells, tissue, blood, ligaments, flesh and bone- but all of this coming together to become thinking beings with intent.

I obviously have been looking for pictures of all that satisfies this marine curiosity ever since. My curiosity was rewarded by this book :

The Art of Instruction – Vintage Educational Charts from the 19th and 20th centuries

The pages indicate the anatomy of many marvelous creatures. 

The Anatomy of a Sea Turtle isn’t in this book, but the pictures of jellyfish, cuttlefish, herring fish, starfish, whales and numerous other fascinating creatures makes it a marvelous book to peruse.

Starfish anatomy

For the Sea-turtle anatomy: This is  a useful link

Smithsonian Sea-turtles

What an enormous wonder it is to be a sentient, logical, and functioning being in this complex world? For that one marvelous dip into the world of the sea creatures, I am grateful beyond words can describe.

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. 

🐓 🦆 🦢 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

The Enchanted Turtles

We are back from a beautiful few days in Kauai, Hawaii.

There is something about the light and sights of an island paradise that always amaze me. Even the darkness seems to be scented by a different tint of light (could it be that the surrounding oceans make for darker skies and the magical stars spread their light more?)

As Gerald Durrell says about the island of Corfu in his writing:

“Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen. Each day had a tranquillity, a timelessness, about it, so that you wished it would never end. But then the dark skin of night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us, glossy and colourful as a child’s transfer and with the same tinge of unreality.” 

Gerald Durrell, The Corfu Trilogy

One morning, two days into our vacation in the Garden Island, Kauai, we decided to have a slower morning. We had been rushing and ticking sights off our list ever since we arrived. So, that morning, we lolled and strolled nearby. A tourist magnet like Hawaii doesn’t have too many hidden gems, but walking through the streets has gems enough. We strolled to a nearby lagoon or bay with some rough hidden spots. We sat on the rocks watching the waters slosh into the rocks below. There is something surprising every time we stop and still our senses. 

10 minutes into sitting on the rocks and watching the waters below was enough. We spotted 3 large turtles almost all at once. The children and I squealed at the turtles 🐢 swimming and sloshing in the rough waters below. To see a large sea turtle in the ocean is a gift few get, and even fewer appreciate. As for us, we were thrilled. 

The delight and serendipity of a sight like lit the world around us. Even now, when I close my eyes, I can see the magnificence of the sea turtles coming up, looking around and ducking back in with the waves. 

That afternoon, a helpful lady at the resort told us about a hike in a mahogany forest, and off we went. Through the forest, with the sun light filtering though the green canopy overhead, there was a diversion marked ‘Enchanted Forest’. How could one resist a path marked thus? Off we tread into the enchanted forest then, and enchanted it was. There were clumps of touch-me-nots every few feet, and the quiet of the forest only interspersed with the chittering of the exotic Hawaiian birds was magical.

That evening, as I closed my eyes for the night, the turtles came unbidden to wish me good night – sloshing and rolling in the tumultuous waters of the bay. I clutched the firm  bed, made probably of mahogany wood, and couldn’t help feeling a sense of gratitude for the enchanted turtles and forests that bless our days on Earth.

“I walk in the world to love it.” – Mary Oliver

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.

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