The Statues of Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Always Remember

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

(98  and 3/4 percent guaranteed) 

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS 

Oh the Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss

Or this one?

Expand Your Horizon

The more that you read, 

The more things you will know,

The more that you learn,

The more places you’ll go

– I Can Read With My Eyes Shut – Dr Seuss

2-d Meditations in our 3-d world

T’was a week-end that I was looking forward to. Which meant I looked forward to sleeping in. The son, however, has an internal alarm that seems to work contrary to social expectations.

yawn

Anyway, the point is, the son came up bright and shining. I lifted my tub from the covers and moaned from under the covers at his exuberant greeting. Hmmm….Hmmm…..AAAyyynnsnjsjfhsjfh!

He bustled into the room carrying a suspicious looking questionnaire. Just as I thought, the blasted thing turned out to be a Physics quiz that started with the question:

“What holds the quarks together in the nucleus of an atom?”

Luckily I knew the answer to that one (gluons), but it went downhill from there.

By the time we had arrived at the last question, my weak force was battling with the gravitational forces holding me down on the bed, and I sprang out in one gravity defying leap showing a strong force I did not think I was capable of, and hustled the little fellow and the husband out on a hike. If I was going to survive any more Physics quizzes on quarks, I needed to get my spark. 

The discussion on his favorite topics led us to the fascinating topics of dimensionality, and I told him about a particularly fetching piece on Flatland geometry in the book, How The Universe Got Its Spots – By Janna Levin.

Flatland is a fascinating piece of work written by Edwin Abbott Abbott in 1884. He imagines a two-dimensional world in which all occupants are lines, flat shapes or circles, and also examines a social construct with this premise.  (People with more number of sides occupy a higher social position, with priests being circles. In Victorian times, women had no ways and means to careers, and therefore were represented as lines in that universe.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wv0vxVRGMY (Carl Sagan explains flatland)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatland

That day on the hike, we went up and down the hills in the beautiful three dimensional world we live in, discussing what it would be like in Flatland.

In our everyday lives, rarely do we stop to think of flatland fantasies, and when we do, it is all the more magical. I mean how would a sunset look in Flatland? What would a sunset look like if we were in 4 dimensional worlds? Is our entire existence just us passing through this 3 dimensional world?

The gluon quiz master was, in the meanwhile, practicing his martial arts as he spurred himself through the hills, chipping in here and there, while listening fascinated to the Flatland theories. “Umm…Wonder whether that happened to Ant-man when he went into the quantum world.”

Wandering along by the waterside, watching the wind rippling the waters, and rustling the leaves in the trees nearby, it was beautiful indeed to occupy oneself with thoughts of how a wind would be in Flatland: maybe it would be like an earthquake to 3-dimensional creatures such as us. Maybe our cosmic upheavals are the breezes of the 4th and 5th dimensions. Who knows?

“Imagine, if you were an orange, trying to pass through the two-dimensional world.”

You could only see a dot as it touches the surface, and then a circle as it passes through flatland, a circle that gets bigger and bigger, and then recedes in size. Smaller and smaller till it becomes a point again and then disappears altogether.

Just as an orange cannot ‘get up’ from the 2-d world,   we cannot flit in and out of our 3-d worlds. But imagine if we could. If we could give ourselves the gift of perspective (that is another perspective –nature and our vast cosmos give us a fair sense of perspective already, if only we care to look and reflect of course)

Flatland

I am sure scientists who are spending their entire careers contemplating questions such as these are far more qualified to answer, but the very act of thinking seems to be a marvelously magical act. We admired our fellow creatures on our 3-dimensional walk in the hills: The geese, pelicans, seagulls and hawks.

Does a laugh in Flatland cause ripples? Do our laughs cause the butterflies to flit?

“Here is a joke for you”, I said on  the topic of laughs in inter-dimensional space. “What do you call a seagull that flies over a bay?”

“A Bagel – get it?” (a colleague’s joke!)

The joke was met with moans and laughs alike.

By that same extension, are all our lives just us passing through this 3-dimensional world? Where does Kung Fu Panda meet  interdimensional Physics and the Tao of Being?

I shrugged my 3-d shoulders. How quickly the contemplation of the physical world morphs into the philosophy of being? How easily our thoughts can become magical?  

A Rose is a Rose

We were out hiking one day in mid February. The son and I eagerly packed our snacks, water bottles and headed off as the sun rose. It was a golden day in which we stood under trees listening to the blackbirds trilling overhead. Squirrels scuttled past with their duties, while woodpeckers drilled in the trees above. New born calves stood demurely by their mothers. We stopped to sniff at the flowers every now and then, looking indulgently at the buds waiting for the spring bloom. A thousand smells rent the air, and I said “How marvelous it must be to be a flower in spring time?”

He laughed – the sort of tumbling laughter that children have, and we adults can do with from time to time. His words tumbled out between his giggles, and he said, “Did you know? That a flower 🌹 comes up when its ovaries burst open?” 

I gasped dramatically and the little botanist went on to explain what his teachers must have told him in school. I listened enamored, wondering not for the first time why we ever grow out of schooling, and the shoshin of childhood.

Anyway, there we stood with the beauty of spring all around us. The rains had made the hills green, and in this verdure, it was hard to imagine anything but positivity and beauty. It was hard to imagine that in less than 2 weeks, the world would be reeling under the influence of a virus.

Talking to my colleagues & friends over virtual calls, and phone, reading what people have to say over Social Media, I feel a general sense of overwhelm, gloom and what-next overpowering some. Some seem to have taken to the new normal, doing the best they can with the new set of circumstances, others not so much. The relentless news cycles have been pounding us with streams of news that reminds me of Oogway. 

Oogway, the wise turtle: “There is no good news or bad news, there is only news!”

Master Shifu: “But Tai Lung has escaped” (But Corona has escaped!)

Oogway, the w turtle: “Oh, That is Bad News!”

Oogway & Shifu

As human-beings, we are always forward looking. We want to set forecasts for corporations, we want to predict & measure, and when all of these things are fluid, it is understandable to feel unmoored. 

We want to know we are in control of things, only rarely do we realize that Control is an Illusion. 

Walking past rose bushes one evening during this time, we stopped to admire the buds ready to bloom. I thought about the beautiful poem by Mary Oliver. A poem I often think of when the human calls of productivity and being busy beckon. 

Roses, 🌹🥀  Late Summer – Blue Iris 

 – By Mary Oliver

I would be a fox, or a tree

full of wing branches

I wouldn’t mind being a rose

in a field full of roses.

 

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.

Reasons they have not yet thought of.

Neither do they ask  how long they must be roses, and then what?

Or any other foolish question

rose

 

Turtlish Thoughts

When the children are hanging out nearby, I am amused to see they take the phrase literally. I find them hanging upside down from trees looking like bats wondering why the world cannot be more topsy-turvy on occasion. One day, I found them on the monkey bars like this: one fellow upside down, the other swinging wildly. One child cart-wheeling on the floor, (hop, skip, jump, cartwheel),and chatting about Turtles. I don’t think they realize how the scene must seem to adults who have long given in to the expectations of the adult world, and walk upright at a reasonable speed and acceptable gait. I grinned at the unusual scene and they smiled and waved, before resuming their chats.

The scene reminded me of the Kung Fu Panda movie. Thoughts of Monkey, Mantis, Viper, Crane, Tigress , Shifu, Po and Oogway are always welcome.

kung-fu-panda

Sometimes, when a bunch of stuffed shirts are droning on in self-important tones at the tail-end of an exhausting meeting, I think wanly how much more fun it would have been if we had jumped up and down, cart-wheeled a few times and hung from tree branches while discussing ‘Strategic Improvements to Aid And Abet The Committee’. Every bit helps.

That night, with the wind whipping up a mean rhythm outside, I suggested visiting our old friends in the Valley of Peace, and embrace the challenges of the Jade Palace again. The Kung Fu Panda series has long been a favorite in the household, and we all nodded. Movie nights are never an easy democratic process, but I was glad we all agreed on ‘Kung Fu Panda‘ that night.

Oogway, the turtle, holds a special place in our hearts, partly because, measured and slow is not something we do – we are forever racing from one place to another, hanging upside down with friends on monkey bars, competing to deliver the quickest quips and generally making quick pests of ourselves in the home. Oogway, on the other hand is the coolest dude. The turtles: Oogway of Kung Fu Panda fame, Crush of Finding Nemo fame and Toby of Kindergarten fame, have all been much loved and have taught us so much.

img_4965

It was no surprise then that we reached for the ‘Always Remember’ book by Cece Meng and Illustrated by Jago.

It is a beautiful book that talks about an old turtle. After the turtle dies, all of his friends remember him lovingly in their own way. It is a lovely book showing us how far and wide our impacts can be by living a fruitful and useful life, sticking to simple tenets of compassion, loyalty and friendship.

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The marine worlds always make for the best illustrations, but even so, Jago’s work in he book is mesmerizing. The characters (dolphins, starfish, baby turtles, whales, sea otters) remember Old Turtle, the compassionate companion, the adventurer, the teacher, the explorer. We, by our very being, mean different things to different people and this beautiful multifaceted aspect is illustrated in pictures splashed across the ocean in hues of blue and green.

Side note: For adults, a similar book about the far and wide reaching impacts we have on others, is a book by Miss Read, Emily Davis. A school teacher by profession, her life is remembered fondly by those whose lives she affected. Often times, we think of these large sized impacts but the most powerful ones are right by us all the time.

miss_clare_remembers

Our companions on Earth have always fascinated us. I remembered fondly watching a baby turtle sun itself on the rocks in Spring  a few months ago. A friend once told me that once we start paying attention to the world around us, it tells us in so many ways what we need to hear and how.

So, what does it mean when a turtle enters your thoughts so apparently suddenly and steadily? Does it mean that we need to synchronize our movements with the animal companions that are paying us visits? In this case, s..l..o..w……d..o..w..n ? Well, my turtle teachers will be proud of me indeed to see me following their example so well. I am sitting cosily in bed as I write about these dear creatures, and look forward to slowly drifting into a world of quiet contemplation, and gently falling asleep while the Earth slowly but steadily hums and thrums on outside. The flowers may bloom or they may not, the shoots may grow or they may not.

 

“Your mind is like this water my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear. “ – Oogway

Live Like a Hibiscus Flower

It is the first day of Spring according to Google. We, of course, have been enjoying the excellent effects of spring and its bountiful air for the past few weeks. The robins are out, the blue thrush are cackling, the humming birds are as quick as they ever were and the squirrels are still bustling about looking busy and sincere. The cherry trees are in full bloom. For one to feel truly blessed, all one has to do is stand below a fully bloomed cherry tree when a squirrel is up there on its many branches tooting out something to nibble on. The little movements create a rush of movement and the cherry petals dislodge themselves from their fragile mooring to the flowers and float down, bathing you in a rush of happiness. One can squeal in happiness, but that would startle the sincere fellow doing you the favor of showering petals and scuttle away from the tree. It is all in good fun. 

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms

One day, the toddler son and I went on a longish expedition instead of taking a walk down a well-beaten path. That was when we saw a Crane. There it was looking magnificent and pure white in its marsh and pecking at something. I have always wondered how it maintains its pure white coating. With all the excellent bleaches and cuff-n-collar liquids in the house, I can never really get white to remain white for very long. I suppose it requires a certain interest and dedication in that sort of thing. I am hopeless at it and the family is better off dressed in darker hues. Which is why I sat there gaping at the crane standing in the marsh looking pure white. Fantastic I tell you. Fantastic. I must take lessons in maintenance from it.

Crane Missing the Panda
Crane Missing the Panda

The son was obviously pipped too at seeing this beauty for he grabbed my arm and said that the Crane was missing the Panda. My mind swirled for a second to get its moorings, and then I laughed. You see, we have been watching the excellent Kung Fu Panda movies and short animation clips recently. Crane, Monkey, Tigress, Viper, Shifu, Mantis and Po are welcome visitors in our drawing room. We have all become great fans of the series and often remind ourselves to unleash our Inner Po and take life lightly, or learn to live like the Hibiscus flower. (The hibiscus flower only lasts for a day it seems, but in that time, not only does it live its life, it also ekes its happiness and cheer into the world around it.)

In short, we have been mooning around fields and traipsing up hills, creating those little bubbles of memory that we can throw our minds back to whenever we wish.

Whatever may be the circumstances, step out and take a deep breath. Maybe, you too can sigh like the toddler son and say, “Hmm…I am happy Amma!”

Happy Spring Everyone!