Traveling with the Moon

I traveled with the moon on my trip to India. The full moon rose along side my flight taking off.  There was something poetic about traveling with the moon halfway around the Earth. 

The golden moon elegantly shone and sailed through the inky skies. Slowly, the golden orb turned silver, while the skies around it turned pitch black. Far above the Earth, the hues of the night sky seem richer somehow. Finally, during the last leg of my flight, it was a pale white against the rosy pinks of the early morning clouds and azure skies.

Amuse me while I chant like an enchanted kindergartener:

The Earth rotates on its axis every 24 hours.

The Earth revolves around the sun every year.

The Moon rotates on its axis every 27.322 days.

It also takes that amount of time for it to revolve around the Earth.

So, we only see the same face of the moon, yet the trick of light and its reflection gives us a different show every night.

I see you shaking your head and wondering whether all is well. It is. But, I felt the beauty of it all wash over me anew every time I peeked out at the moon from the aircraft window.

Moon high above the clouds

The only difference between the moon and self was that while my sights may have soared skyward at take-off, it was a pretty poor dance companion to the smooth gliding of the moon. The flight shuddered and blinked its way through the long night, while the moon gracefully accompanied – serene, shining, and sans fuss: Gravitational forces holding it in bay. Thousands of feet below, the ocean waves rose and fell, also dancing to the gravitational tugs and pulls of the beautiful mistress of the skies. Man made designs are cumbersome at best compared to those polished and tuned by eons of nature. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the marvel of flight – we took off in the darkness, and flew always across the world where it was dark when we reached it. I felt like the penguins in winter – huddling and peeping to the skies over a long, dark night. 

At my transit airport, I asked for a cup of coffee to keep awake through the night for my connection flight. The moon needed nothing. The cosmos, is, was, will be.  

Humankind’s movements seem jerky and and oddly designed in comparison. Interspersed with the human sounds and interruptions for food, restroom breaks, flights landing and taking off, the human trip around the earth, was lacking the moon’s elan. 

While thousands undertake journeys like this all the time, I felt a vastness and a soaring that felt un-earthly. In sharp contrast to just 24 hours later, when the world felt constricted, restricted and very much moored to Earth. With instructions to ‘Self Quarantine’, I stepped inside the home, and was not to see the moon make its journey around the planet for the next few days.

Human doings do not affect moons. At least not yet.

The Little Red Fox

I have written about the little red fox in the riverbed before. This little creature never ceases to fascinate me. Living amidst the geese, herons, grebes , ducks, deer and numerous cats, I am unable to determine where this creature came from. I have never seen another fox in the vicinity. His fox parents are missing, fox kin seem absent too. This fox is a mystery alright. Yet he is full of verve and sprightly leaps across the stream-like river, or takes a fast run without missing a step along its grassy banks. 

One day, when the rains had lashed down particularly hard, I stood there scouring the river to see where the little fox may have gone. I do not see him or her regularly, but when I do, it is always worth it. That day, as I walked up the levee to the raised river bank, I saw the little red fox sunning itself on a rock. Anthropomorphizing humans that we are, I craved to catch its mood as it lay there – was it satisfied, scheming, satiated? 

As if in answer, the fox raised its head, looked towards me and then nonchalantly curled up to sun bathe again. I am doing none of the things you think I am doing, I am thinking none of the thinks you think I am thinking. I am simply being.

Watching the fox

The little red fox is a crafty muse:

The little red fox is a crafty muse

She doesn’t appear when you need her

She grants a glimpse 

When she does, you better be prepared for poetry never announces its arrival:

It simply Is.

One day I saw the fox sprinting

Running faster than I had seen any living creature in recent times run

Not in fear, not in pursuit, 

For exercise maybe – it turned its head mid stride, and said with its eyes,

Just simply running.

Another day, I saw him lying on a rock

Sunning himself.

Was he brooding, contemplating or scheming?

As if in answer he raised his head and said

I am just being.

Foxes have fascinated mankind for ages. Fantastic Mr Fox – By Roald Dahl, 🦊 Fox and Eight – by George Saunders, so many animal tales on their ingenuity and resourcefulness, and yet they continue to enchant. The latest I read was a poem on a goodbye to a fox by Mary Oliver, that made me attempt this feeble one.

Solarium Magic

The son came and tugged me to the newly opened section in our local library. His eyes were shining as he said, “Come on! I found something that you’re going to love!” I cannot deny that I love it when something like this happens, and smiled. Off we went, climbing two stairs at a time. Christened ‘The Solarium’, it nestles in a sunlit section of the building – like a mini glass house, it basks there in the warmth of the Californian sun, and doing the good quiet work that is hardest of them all- converting sunlight to food. The area is dedicated to making gardeners of us all – there are seedling packets with instructions on how to sow and grow the seeds given to us. There are books on gardening nearby.  Feeble attempts to capture the glory and wonder of the real work.

I admit it, it has since become one of my favorite places in the library. I am in awe of gardeners – true magicians of the Earth I call them. My own feeble attempts at coaxing life to take root and thrive, only reiterate the power of the simple garden. I was talking to the son as to how we must all learn to grow our own food, make our own food, learn to sew and stitch out clothes etc. More and more, we live in a world where these simple things are becoming separated by layers of machinations and supply chain mechanics. 

When we were in Epcot (Disney World, Florida) a few years ago, I remember the children seeing the plants from which their beloved tomatoes and eggplants grew with awe. City children typically do not see these marvels of nature slowly doing their work, conscientiously and relentlessly.

Epcot green house

It was probably propitious that I should have found the book, The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros, just then in the new fiction shelf. The book is set in a time after a nuclear war, and how very very few people have survived the disaster. The mother-son duo manage to grow food for themselves in a glass house, and learn to thrive on their own. It is a fascinating read. It is by no means unique, but the narrative style is appealing and slowly draws you in. It is also something that I am sure everyone thinks of occasionally – the sad aftermath of an apocalypse. What would we do? Who would survive and how will they live? So many of our solutions depend on power. 

Mulling over these things early one morning, is when I heard about the ProtoVillage from one of my friends. 

Protovillage.org

  • Grow your own food, 
  • Make your own food
  • Weave your own clothes
  • Build your own home 

Inspired, I emptied the seeds from the Solarium, into a moist patch of mud in the backyard and watched as slowly, a few weeks later, little shoots and leaves sprouted from the Earth. I may have danced a jig.

“Nature never hurries, yet accomplishes everything.”

Lao Tzu

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

This Beautiful Earth

2022 started off with a marvelous opportunity to read poetry at the Coimbatore Festival of the Arts. The theme was to choose a poem that immortalizes a place you love just as T S Elliot immortalized London in his writings. I wracked my brain, and tried to find one place – but found myself dithering. I had a book of 150 poems open on my lap as we made our way to one of my favorite places on Earth – a peek under the ocean waters (Monterey Bay Aquarium).  But there was no poem on the oceans in the book. 

“How about this one? “, I asked and read out one sparkling piece after another.

The trick with poetry reading is to get the whole family shut inside a car, snag the front seat so the car’s audio controls are with you, and then to start reading poetry out aloud. It is a good strategy as long as one knows to gauge moods and cheese it at the right time. I had a thoughtful audience, an audience that gave me suggestions, and even recited some of their favorite ones for consideration. What more could one ask for?

The more I thought about it, the less I was able to zone in one place. Many places seem to hold something special – places we’d lived in, places we’d made memories in, and places we’d visited and fallen in love with. 

The more I tried to narrow down, the more I found myself drawn to the planet Earth. After all, I love almost every river I see, wish upon every stream and fountain – man-made or natural, love every tree, admire every flower as is wafts its scents through my senses, and adore the play of the evening light amidst the clouds. How could one place be selected? I did wonder about Mary Oliver’s poem on the unknown pond. The one in which she just refers to a nameless pond, since it could work for any pond, and I agreed with the sentiment. How many ponds have I since pondered over with that beautiful poem in mind. In fact, I have my own version of Walden’s pond, which is nothing close to Walden’s Pond that so inspired Thoreau in size or stature. But it is reachable from my home, and every time I glance upon its water, a new delight unfolds. Whether it is the pelicans, geese or ducks swimming there, or the play of the reeds movements upon its surface, every glimpse offers something lovely for the soul.

So finally, I settled on Planet Earth as my favorite. We Belong on Earth, is after all, a popular theme on the blog. Therefore, the poem chosen was A Grain of Sand – By Robert W Service

A GRAIN OF SAND

If starry space no limit knows 

And sun succeeds to sun, 

There is no reason to suppose 

Our earth the only one. 

by Robert W. Service

Followed by Carl Sagan’s ode to the Pale Blue Dot (written almost 45 years after A Grain of Sand – this ode is one for the ages) and then finally with by my own humble ode to our beautiful Earth.

As we walk upon this Earth, there is much to be grateful for, and much work to be done to fix our footprints on the sand.

The Human Earth

I was reading frantically the other night. I wanted to finish the book before the New Year. Earth’s History – 4.5 billion years in 8 short chapters by Andrew Knoll. I had galloped my way to the last chapter: Human Earth, when the eyelids lodged a formal protest, and refused to stay open.

A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters by [Andrew H. Knoll]

So, I did the next best thing. First thing in the morning, I came downstairs reading. There wasn’t much chance of reading in the mornings with the general comings and goings of life in the nourish-n-cherish household. But I live in hope. I sipped my coffee for all of three sips reading about Human Earth when I detected a faint fracas among the humans in the household. Cautious pricking of the ears is no use in the house. The father-in-law is steadily losing his hearing, and the mother-in-law was yelling at him for something and wanted him to know it. All the fathers-in-law in the street heard it, and so did I. 

I tried to read on, but before I knew it, I was called upon to act as referee. If one can shy away and gallop back to bed while sitting in the chair, that was me. Past performance seems to mean nothing. I mean if I were a batsman who has shown time and again that I didn’t know how to bat, would benign fortune keep giving me batting opportunities? Why then was I being called to referee a fight between them yet again? I had been given scathing reviews in the refereeing-department by both sides on every occasion in the past few weeks.

You see? Diplomacy doesn’t help. I find myself agreeing with both their points of view, much to their disgust, and annoy them both equally. Neither feels supported once I agree with the other, and I am given up as a bad job. They do seem to be united in this assessment of me, and I take that as a small victory in the peacekeeping operations. But beyond that, there is nothing I can claim to help with.

This was another day in the life of humans, and it seemed everyone was intent on huffing and puffing and blowing the house down. 

Though, I am not directly involved in all of this (thank goodness!), I tried to look mildly interested. It turned out to be nothing (quite literally nothing as is mostly the case) I clutched the coffee cup and sipped like the gods downing ambrosia, till the well of coffee ran dry. 

After some time, I declared I needed some fresh air and took myself off on a walk. 

As I walked on beautiful Earth on that cold winter’s day, I felt a fresh appreciation for the planet. The book talks of Earth’s geological clues that helped us resurrect the planet’s early history. Theories as to when the planet was really formed, half lives determining the age of species and their evolution etc. Beautiful timelines explaining the australopithicus and when homo sapiens came aboard.

Illustration from A Brief History of Earth by Andrew Knoll

In 8 chapters, it explains many things that we know in different contexts, and ties them up to Earth’s history. Oxygen Earth, Biological Earth, Geological Earth, and finishes with the chapter on The Human Earth – which is to say our influence on the planet. The most recent impacts of the last two centuries, accelerating climate change, and so much more.

As I sat there on a rock, looking at the river waters flowing, and the ducks and geese gliding on the waters, eating when they wished, I cast the mind back to The History of the Earth. In 4.5 billion years, so much has happened. One can only make educated guesstimates of the lives of all the creatures that preceded us. 

In the book, Forgotten Beasts by Matt Sewell, he uses his imagination and creativity based on the fossilized shapes of the bones found and tries to give us an image to work with.  How were their eating habits, their social constructs? We don’t know.

In the book, Life in the Garden, by Penelope Lively, she makes interesting observations based on tree rings, to figure out the years in which the trees had to endure drought, and the years they had an abundance of rain. 

But the human life? Short as it is on the timeline of some trees, it is minuscule on the timeline of the Earth. 

Would future generations of neonids or whatever-name-they-give-themselves try to look back at 2020 and 2021 as Covid years? Would they reconstruct the social dilemmas, and habits of homosapiens? We seem to be leaving an outsize impact on the planet now, but how will it manifest hundreds of years from now?

I walked into the home, and found the parents-in-law diligently cutting the fruit of the banana tree. An arduous task, requiring immense patience, and concentration. The father-in-law was peeling the layers of the banana flower and extracting the seed within. The mother-in-law took these, and rubbed it against her palm to expose the edible pieces of the vegetable. 

Vazhapoo – the banana flower

I watched them amused – working harmoniously, their morning spat forgotten, united in the making of the banana flower dish (vazhapoo paruppu usili) that would’ve stumped any species on Earth thus far. 

The House of Dreams

Finding a nest of your choice is no mean task in the Bay Area, but we managed it thanks to patience and resourcefulness on the part of the husband.

We moved in to our new nest this year, so it seems only fitting that I read Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery twice in 2021. Once, as soon as we moved in earlier in the year, and again, when I have been flitting to Prince Edward Island in Canada later in the year.

It seemed too much to ask for all the things dear to one in a home, and so we kept on looking for years on and off. The new nest, may have some things that realtors, buyers, and property assessors don’t seem to take into account, but these things played a big role in my mind. Our realtor stoically bore with refusals of homes based on reasons that drive statisticians up the wall.

‘But’, they say, ‘proximity to freeways matters more than proximity to a stream.’. I see them exchanging looks that suggest worry on my behalf. 

‘Trees? You can plant as many of them as you’d like – why would you look for trees near your home? I mean. Just trees. ‘ I disagreed. I loved the sycamores, fruit trees, and the cypress trees in our small strip of land in our previous home, and insisted on having many trees nearby.

Walking paths for elderly people? One person asked me why I did not consider putting elderly visitors up in a hotel when they visit and buy that mountaintop house anyway. I gasped. No – a flat, safe area would be required for the visiting grandparents to take their walks in.  

So it went. 

One was rambling, one was tumbling. 

One had a nice backyard, but one did not live in the backyard. 

One had a swimming pool, but no trees. 

Really, it is curious to see how houses have developed over the years. 

Our new nest is far from perfect – the kitchen has a wine cooler in prime real estate territory (for teetotalers most of the time, this feature is being used to store yogurts and juice boxes for the children). I need a stepping stool to get at the closets with spices. 

But there are things past closets and wine coolers. Trees, for instance, or a home library and a ledge with a window looking into a marvelous tree for another, and, the best gift of all – a walking trail by a river nearby. Reminds me of the passage in which Gilbert Blythe tells Anne of Green Gables before their wedding about a little house he found for them at Four Winds Point. That is how I felt. There was no other way to feel. 

“So far, good,” said Anne, nodding cautious approval. “But, Gilbert, people cannot live by furniture alone. You haven’t yet mentioned one very important thing. Are there trees about this house?”

“Heaps of them, oh, dryad! There is a big grove of fir trees behind it, two rows of Lombardy poplars down the lane, and a ring of white birches around a very delightful garden. Our front door opens right into the garden, but there is another entrance–a little gate hung between two firs. The hinges are on one trunk and the catch on the other. Their boughs form an arch overhead.”

“Oh, I’m so glad! I couldn’t live where there were no trees– something vital in me would starve. Well, after that, there’s no use asking you if there’s a brook anywhere near. That would be expecting too much.”

“But there is a brook–and it actually cuts across one corner of the garden.”

“Then,” said Anne, with a long sigh of supreme satisfaction, “this house you have found is my house of dreams and none other.”

Anne’s House of Dreams – By L M Montgomery

The river near the home has nourished us in several ways. It is very like the stream in the passage above, although it isn’t exactly in our backyard. We live in a suburban area built up by such factors as Strong Economic Growth, Silicon Valley culture and all the rest of it. The river is a few blocks away, but it is there. Just flowing, and relaxing us whenever we can get away from it all to take a peek.

The trees don’t form a bough, but they rustle and tousle with the winds. And the chirping of the birds is quite enough to charm one.

Slowly, but steadily, the laughter, companionship of friends, and love is transforming the house into a home. To that, I am grateful.

The Books That Lit Up 2021

There were times in the past year when I felt the old reading habit was flagging. There was simply too much going on to properly immerse in the beauty and peace of it all.

Yet, somehow, looking at the list, there is a good combination of old favorite authors, re-reads of a few books – like visiting old friends again, and a marvelous spattering of new idealogies, new authors etc. The good old books did manage to light up my existence throughout the year, and I am ever so grateful to have access to them.

The Magic of Reading

Magic

Notable ones in the magical section include

  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon – By Kelly Barnhill
  • Icefall – by Michael Kirby ( loved this one for the Norse myths and the voice of the bard)
  • The One and Only Ivan – by Katherine Applegate (prompting a desire to learn to use paints and explore visual arts) 🎭 .
  • The Starry Skies – Grace Lin

Writing:

The art and craft of writing is a universe unto itself. Notable works in this genre in 2021:

The Wondrous Universe

  • Questions Asked – Jostein Garder & Akin Duzakin
  • A Pale Blue Dot – Carl Sagan
  • Cosmos – Carl Sagan’s Audible Book (in the most scattered fashion possible during 15 min car pickups and drop-offs, but it still managed to seep its way in like a raindrop permeates a thick coat somehow )

Non-fiction (only mentioning notable ones that made an impression)

Poetry:

As Ursula K Le Guin said in her Conversations on Writing with David Naimon, fiction is from the imagination, while poetry stems from contemplation. I suppose I benefitted from the contemplative minds of many stalwarts. The favorite among them this year was The Sky Full of Bucket Lists – By Shobhana Kumar. The book makes an appearance on my bedside table often, and every dip into it leaves me marveling and admiring the empathy and contemplation of life that Shobhana’s beautiful mind brings to life. (Please read it if you haven’t already – Shobhana also happens to be a dear childhood friend.)

  • A Sky Full of Bucket Lists – Shobhana Kumar
  • Emily Writes – Emily Dickinson and her Poetic Beginnings – Jane Yolen, Christine Davanier
  • Dreams from many rivers – Margarita Engle
  • Dr Seuss books : The King’s Stilts, Horse Museum ( A post on this book is long simmering in my mind. One beautiful meditative evening with crepuscular glory is rattling inside to be written about – soon!) . Several re-reads such as Horton Hatches the Egg and many more.

Humor

This section has me revisiting all my old book friends most often. Any new suggestions in the Humor genre are most welcome.

  • An Anthology – P G Wodehouse 
  • A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
  • The River Bank and other stories from the wind in the willows – Graham Greene
  • P G Wodehouse (old favorites such as Uncle Fred in the Springtime, Code of the Woosters, and some others that were short story collections that our local library has acquired)
  • Miss Read (A visit to the Cotswold area in the UK is always a pleasure – in Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter)
  • Birds, Beasts & Relatives – Gerald Durrell
  • The Shooting Star – Herge

Children’s Books: (again – only the notable ones mentioned )

The Anne Section

We moved in to our new nest, so it seems only fitting that I read Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery twice. Also, the children made me watch Anne with an E on Netflix by touchingly creating a profile called ‘Amma’ for me, and I have all but moved into Prince Edward Island in Canada for the past few months. I joyously re-read the entire series, and then some, and have had lots of fun comparing the contrasting Moira Beckett’s version with the original ones.

  • Anne of Green Gables – L M Montgomery
  • Anne of Avonlea – L M Montgomery
  • Anne of the Island – L M Montgomery
  • Anne’s House of Dreams  – L M Montgomery
  • Anne of Ingleside – L M Montgomery
  • Rainbow Valley – L M Montgomery
  • Rilla of Ingleside – L M Montgomery
  • Christmas Tales from Avonlea – L M Montgomery

Please do share your lists too, so we may add to our to-read lists for the coming years.

The Librocubilarist’s Dilemma

Folks were visiting the new nest. I was cleaning to ensure that the humble abode impressed them favorably.

That is to say, I was scrubbing beneath sinks, and behind blenders as though they were health inspectors who walked in with those examination pads in their hands, wearing steel rimmed glasses, censorious expressions, and a tough grading point scale for house inspections. Of course, like most people who visit the home, they were perfectly warm folks who cared more about the smiles on our faces as we greeted them, than the scrub factor in the sink. But.

The inspector general in me commanded everyone in the home to smarten up too.

“Put away all those books, crayons, papers and toys – your floor should be clean.” I said looking into ‘Imagination Island’ the name the son has given his room. He gave a compliant nod gallantly suppressing a scowl. He knew this mother. She would flop back into the loving one in a few minutes once she felt the warm companionship of the folks visiting the home. But till then, it was better playing along. 

The daughter, competent and nonchalant as always, set off on a brisk walk saying, “I’ll run a vacuum over the place when I come back – don’t worry!” Her back registering duty deferred, her ears twitching to music, and an almost imperceptible nod to her little brother that she understood just how he felt when the cleaning-amma-before-guests-arrive made an appearance. 

I looked in to see how the husband was faring. He stopped what he was doing and said using his rare tone of exasperation, “You really need to get a hold on this mess here! Should I get you a bookshelf?”

I nodded – looking sheepish, guilty, and every bit a hypocrite after my instructions to the children to put away their books and toys. My bedside was a Mess. The number of books tumbling over each other were appalling. There were children’s books, non-fiction books, fiction books, and comic books, all jostling amiably together, and trying to keep on the make shift shelf (We had not yet furnished this space).

Some of the books were on piles on the floor – all in all an admirable spot to pick one up and start reading, but I resisted strongly. The clock was ticking, the payasam was boiling, the heater whirring working steadily to raise the temperature to that sweet spot of comfort, the rasam simmering, the fruit ripening. It would not do to read just then.

Tsundoku looked like a cute Japanese word evoking warm feelings of people with their list of unread books, chipping away one book at a time. Gluggavedur – that beautiful word that invites one to sit cozily inside and read while the weather outside is colder than it seems from inside the house. I am sure I picked one up and put it away with enormous willpower.

Illustration of Gluggavedur from the book: What A Wonderful Word – By Nikola Edwards

But these books were past all these sweet words. This suggested a problem. Order was in order. 

Wish this librocubilarist (one who enjoys reading in bed) luck.  The more I read about words like librocubicularist and lectiophile (one who loves reading), the more I am grateful for the reading habit. The ability to dip into a different dimension, learn something new, and roll beautiful ideas around in the head before sleep is precious. No matter how humdrum the days, how mired in the human aspect of living we are;  a good sip of ideas before bed can uplift the spirits before blessed sleep claims our consciousness.  By virtue of being in a better spot, aren’t our dreams that much sweeter? I suppose they are.

Reading with the children

Amidst the chaos of earning a living, and living the life one has earned, sundry to-do lists get longer and longer. The bedside still needs managing. 

Imagine my surprise then, when a friend stopped by on Christmas Day with a gift for the home. One she said reminded her of me. An antique piece of furniture – a desk that could hold my piles of reading material, and shaped like an encyclopedia.

I plan to wear the pajamas that another kind friend had gifted me for my birthday saying: “My week-end is all booked up”, and get my bedside in order.

My dear indulgent friends and family spoil me so, and I am grateful for it.

Next up: 2021 Reading List

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. 

%d bloggers like this: