To Nourish & To Cherish

This May marks 15 years of nourish-ing &  cherish-ing. I started the blog out as a sort of a personal journal with embarrassingly personal posts. But over time, the journal took on a life of its own. It has helped me find my voice, helped me resoundingly answer the question, “What is your friend?“, and has definitely played an outsize role in the family joke circles.

My family and friends have been marvelously sportive about starring in the posts, reading them and encouraging me. Over time, the nourisher became the cherisher, and vice-versa. Fiascos were looked on with amusement knowing it will take on a life of its own and pave  the way for amusement. Travelogues are interwoven with family  drama, and it makes it all the more memorable.

When I am out in nature stopping to admire the butterflies flit between flowers, 🌺 🌸 , I think of how I would capture these beautiful images in the one place I nourish and cherish. I have a phone filled with images of family, friends, travel destinations jostling along side the everyday wonders of sunsets, lakes, rivers, butterflies, mountainsides, grasses, flowers and trees, and still the photographs seem to lack a narrative. A narrative that words round out.

“To walk on Earth and fall in love with it. “, as Mary Olivers would say.

When I am reading books, I stop and wonder about particularly  well written passages. Books take us on incredible journeys and some of them, I manage to write down to nourish later on. Some books open my mind in ways I did not imagine possible, some others reiterate what I had nebulously known, while some others do the most marvelous job of soothing and calming the mind. For every article I do write related to books, there are probably 15 others that I didn’t get to finish writing.

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A friend of mine once asked me how I stumbled upon writing as a passion, and I found to my surprise that I had no clear answer. I remember a marvelous childhood filled to the brim with absolutely stunning and inspirational personalities, joyous friends, beautiful nature, dance, music, reading and writing complete with toppings of marvelous reveries and journeys into the make believe worlds. But somewhere in my early twenties I lost touch with it all. I meandered in the corporate world spending almost all my waking hours pursuing work and my part-time post graduate degree simultaneously. What time I had for reading was dedicated to academic work, and all other times were dedicated to learning and unlearning technologies to continue work.

Shoshin was in short supply.

Life in the meanwhile had brought me to the shores of the United States, opening a whole new world of possibilities. When I became a mother, something beautiful happened. I came in contact with the marvelous feeling of youth. Being an immigrant, the children’s books were all new to me, and with the children, I read and devoured books alongside them, reminding me of Kenneth Grahame’s note on the Wind in the Willows.

“A book of youth, and so perhaps chiefly for youth and those who still keep the spirit of youth alive in them; of life, sunshine, running water, woodlands, dusty roads, winter firesides, free of problems, clear of the clash of the sex, of life as it might fairly be supposed to be regarded by some of the wise, small things that ‘glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck’.”

With all the supposed ‘achievement’ of being in the big world, there was a niggling dissatisfaction though. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was missing my link to Art. When eventually, I stumbled back to Art forms, albeit in a much reduced fashion, I started feeling whole again.

“The most regretful people on Earth are those who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither time nor power.” – Mary Oliver

My hope and wish is for everyone to nourish and cherish their own creative powers to the extent possible.

 

Thoughts Gained & Lost

I looked at this note written a few days ago: both amused and exasperated at it.

**** The children said something – what? As I was walking around by myself, it came to me loud and clear, and now cannot seem to remember it! But remember, and remember to WRite about it!!

It had obviously been something marvelous that I felt the need write myself this note. I have tried and tried to jog my memory though. I don’t have a clue. It could have been anything.  Sports, tea, school, politics, travels, books or social media?

I remember the walk though.

The full moon was beaming – there was no other word for it. It looked larger than usual, felt much closer to earth and glowed a golden yellow in the early evening skies. I am a confirmed selenophile (a lover of the moon) there isn’t a doubt. The pinkish hues of the sunset was just giving rise to the purplish hues and slowly but surely the inky blues of the night would creep in, as though slowly covering the blanket gently over the world.

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The family had all called or texted me to look up at the skies from wherever they were, and I glowed in the beaming moonlight, fading sunlight and the glorious inner light born of happiness that the children in particular had thought of me when they had seen something beautiful.

I was enjoying the quiet of a moon that rises on an early evening over a week-end. Things seemed surreal in this light and time. This, I felt, was the truest way to bring oneself down to our marvelous Earth.

The birds don’t fly any faster just because the world around them pants and coughs up smoke in automobiles charging from one place to another. The buds are still furled in the tree boughs or the plants below – they don’t rush to unfurl their petals just because February sped past, and beautiful March roared its way in. The grass sways to the speed of the winds whipping them – the winds react to the atmospheric pressures, no one can change their pace.

The world moves on measurably, one moment at a time. The full moon grew predictably over the past fortnight, and there it beamed at me, and my little family, wherever we were at that point in time.  I thought of different posts to write up, beautiful phrases flitted in, and then by the looks of it, evaporated just as quickly. If only I could shore up the energy and determination to write up all the lovely things that occur to me as I walk on!

Later when I read this Brain Pickings post on Walking as Creative Fuel, I nodded along at the wise words of Kenneth Grahame.

Kenneth Grahame – the author of Wind in the Willows wrote:
“Not a fiftieth part of all your happy imaginings will you ever, later, recapture, note down, reduce to dull inadequate words; but meantime the mind has stretched itself and had its holiday.”

Out on the walk that day, what he says seems to have been true. I relished the enthusiasm and the energy in the note to myself – the asterisks, exclamation points and the half-capitalized words written out in haste. It definitely wasn’t the first such note to myself.

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Well, the universe alone knows how many great works of literature have been lost, and gained by writers enjoying themselves on their walks. I am glad for the simple act of walking and musing. The meandering of the soul is special because of them.

 

Golden Memory Bubbles

I was excited beyond measure – I was going to see my dearest friend after almost two decades. It didn’t feel like decades had passed since I last saw her. The flutter in my stomach was the same as when school reopened after the holidays. I was eager, expectant and a little nervous.

As I took her in, the years fell away from us. I was so happy to hear her voice, see her smile and take in the movements that were so familiar to me as a girl. After watching me spend the evening with my dear friend, the daughter said, “You know I have never seen Amma this giggly and happy! It is like she is a teenager!”

“You know? There are a few moments that will shine in every one’s mind. It is one of the dearest moments in life when I sat next to the girl with wavy hair and a blue hairpin in Second grade. She stoutly stood by me even in ugly situations such as me being threatened with worms 🐛 and I hope I did the same for her. ” I said with a dreamy look in my eyes.

The next morning, I was lazing in bed, when a memory rose unbidden from the depths pushing aside decades of adulthood and surfacing the teenage self. It reminded me of Mole, Rat, & Badger in The Wind in the Willows.

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We had been “bunking class” as it was called. It was technically no more than taking a circuitous route to the restroom and back. But for some reason, our teachers did not like to see us “loitering” around the corridors as they so inelegantly put it. I would have preferred the term “musing along the corridors”. So, it was no surprise then that we were hailed in stern tones, almost as soon as we left class, by one of our milder and more patient teachers.

Inexplicably, we decided that the prudent course of action is to run to the girls toilets instead of back to our classroom. A dumber choice I cannot think of, for the girls bathroom was a good way off. Off we ran – charging down the corridors, and skating down hallways to the safety of the girls bathroom, giggling and encouraging each other to keep up.

When finally we locked ourselves in, we burst out laughing, heady with relief at outwitting the poor man, though it must have been glaringly obvious to him who the miscreants were. We were also dumb enough to call each other by name just in case he had any problems with his sight. Really! The collective intelligence of teenagers is to be seen to be believed.

I laughed in my sleepy state, and the teenage daughter gave me a quizzical look, “Why? what happened?” I sheepishly told her.

“You bunked class? ” she said a little incredulously. “Well…actually it shouldn’t surprise me that much. Thaatha (grandpaand paati (grandma) said that you were the naughtiest of the three children.” said she with a newfound respect in her voice. This summer was a revelation of sorts for her.

Within minutes, this confession had the most marvelous effect I could have wished for. The children and nieces piled on to the bed I was lounging on, and each one narrated their own school tales to much hilarity and pride. A glimpse into their world with no inhibitions is a marvelous gift. I looked into their shining and mischievous eyes, and listened to them. Amusing escapades revealing their beautiful personalities – fun-loving, good, loyal, sharp, sincere, and witty.

These golden bubbles to be treasured come unbidden, spontaneously and genuinely.

The feeling of being in a Wind in a Willows sort of world deepened:

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“A book of youth, and so perhaps chiefly for youth and those who still keep the spirit of youth alive in them; of life, sunshine, running water, woodlands, dusty roads, winter firesides, free of problems, clear of the clash of the sex, of life as it might fairly be supposed to be regarded by some of the wise, small things that ‘glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck’.”

I wished for these children nothing more than the warmth and strength of the gift of lifelong friendships that allow them to smile just thinking of them.

Beavers & Skunk Weeds

We were out in the mountains, and had stopped for a little walk into the wilderness. Stellar jays popped in and out of the bushes. The marshes ahead had water logging the path, and in the beauty of the day, that too became an adventure. We plopped into the water, squealing as the snow melt felt its way through our shoes, past the socks and then our toes. 

It was the perfect spot for The Wind in the Willows. There was a swift flowing river, the marshes nearby looked supple and full of life. “Look! There is a water-mole!” I said pointing to swift movements in the river. We peered to the movements in the opposite bank looking excited. I was quite prepared to find the water rat and the mole enjoying a cup of tea together after sailing down the river on a wooden boat. 

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“How do you know it is a Mole Amma?” said the young son looking at me with awe.

“Why – by looking at it of course!”, I said confidently, forgetting for a moment how nature always finds a way for me to eat my words, and in this case was quite eager to do so within a mile.

It was a marvelous day – with a touch of Spring still about. The nippiness in the air did not smell Summer just yet. It seemed to be just the sort of day to abandon Spring cleaning for a glorious day outside with one’s friends. I know that was what I was doing and not a bit guilty too. This is what days like these were sent for.

“To walk on Earth and fall in love with it. “, as Mary Olivers would say.

We had the most pleasurable hour discussing The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Some books are blessed with gloriously sunny spirits. I thought of Kenneth Graham’s words that it was a book meant for those who want a whiff of childhood. He said, it was

“A book of youth, and so perhaps chiefly for youth and those who still keep the spirit of youth alive in them; of life, sunshine, running water, woodlands, dusty roads, winter firesides, free of problems, clear of the clash of the sex, of life as it might fairly be supposed to be regarded by some of the wise, small things that ‘glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck’.”

 

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I looked around me rapturously taking in my surroundings. What better place to imagine looking for Toad, Mole, Badger, and Rat? This was a beautiful setting with a fast flowing river, probably making its way into the larger lake below, and the fertile river marshes were thick with forest cover – the area of transitions as it were.

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Where the marshes meet the river, 

Where the river meets the lake, 

Where the brush meets the forest,

Where the distant clouds meet the snow capped mountains,

Where Spring meets Summer

In short, a place

Where the spirits meet the soul

Walking along this setting, I was thinking of the beautiful concept of Biomimicry and all the wonderful things such a place can teach us. 

The Magic of Biomimicry

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As if nature heard my thoughts, within moments we heard a family talking about
Skunk Weeds. This was the first we had heard of Skunk weeds. The grandmother behind us on the trail was telling her grandchildren that if ever there were stuck in the mountains and in dire need, they should consider skunk weed instead of toilet paper. I looked at the weeds they were pointing at, and they did not look soft. The leaves looked like they had a scratchy texture, and we giggled at the unsaid thought of the effect it would have on already sore bottoms. Dangle a piece like that in front of school going children who like reading Captain Underpants, and it is easier to keep a kettle of boiling water from singing and bubbling.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!” I said deftly trying to keep the conversation clean. I cannot say I had much success though. 

Skunk weed, contrary to the smells it evokes, is quite neutral smelling. It is also exceedingly soft, and surprisingly strong. 

“Ha! That should teach us not to judge something by its looks.” I said as I stooped to touch skunk weed for the 15th time. I had never encountered anything this soft, and completely biodegradable. Wet as it was with the recent rains and snow, it had an alluring freshness to it that I can imagine even now just by closing my eyes. 

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 A few minutes later, the son pointed excitedly at a sign. “Look amma! That was not a mole, it was a beaver!”

I drew up next to him to read a note pinned by the wildlife ranger that said something to the effect of: Be Quiet and nice – all of you please! We are now hosting a family of beavers!

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Luckily, I did not become a veterinarian was my private thought. But there was something so special about finding ourselves in the midst of a beaver family surrounded by skunk weeds, that the aspiring naturalist in me accepted the humorous mocking and relished the humble pie willingly.

If I were to immerse myself in this version of The Wind in the Willows, I should be ready to have my moles replaced by beavers.