The Secret of the Wings

So many days in the past few weeks, I have tried desperately to snatch a moment here, and a moment there, in the midst of hectic, crowding days of meetings, expectations and deadlines. Sometimes, I peek out of the window in the precious moments between ‘Leave meeting’ and ‘Join meeting’ to catch a glimpse of the beautiful November days with its soft sunshine through the yellowing leaves, each leaf 🍁🍃🍂 taking its chance to show its beauty to the world in a grand flourish before it lets go. The evenings are dark by the time the little tiles on my meetings are gone, and I clutch my coat about me as I stare at the tiny ✨ dots lighting up the night sky instead. 

So, we went:  before the crowds hit the mountain resort for the Thanksgiving holidays, the husband worked his magic and found us a little house that was free for a couple of days only. 

All of the Californian plains that we traversed for the 100 odd miles was bursting forth with fall colors. The reds were particularly fetching against the browning hills. Traffic was very light, and as we started climbing the Sierra Nevada mountains, a nippiness crept into the air. It is the lunar waxing phase, and the moon was out early in the afternoon keeping us company as we climbed the mountains. The fall colors gave way to the snowy reaches, and soon, it was apparent that here, it was no longer Fall. Here it was Winter.

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The journey reminded me of the scene in the Tinker Bell movie where the warm fairies peek into the winter lands. The orange, yellow and the brilliant reds slowly gave way to evergreens and a world blanketed in snow. There is nothing half as marvelous as a sunny day with wispy clouds against the azure skies and a snowy backdrop. This was winter wonderland alright. 

Mulish as I was, I took off on a walk as soon as we reached our destination. I huffed and puffed up the steep hills, my lack of exercise clearly showing in the panting under the mask. I was grateful for the mask for it held the warmth of my breath in as I walked on towards the snowy reaches affording a view of the vast Lake Tahoe from up above. The moon twinkled its milky light on the snowy  reaches below, and I stopped here and there to take a picture. I remembered reading in The Sea Around Us that some of our ancestors thought the moon was made up of ice (it was a much older notion of course). It was an appealing theory – standing there in the light of the moon, with the thin glint of the snow light all about me, I could imagine how our ancestors came up with that one. 

I like to see how we made leaps in understanding, and I feel the joy of every discovery almost anew as I gain even a little understanding deeper than before. One of the things that still astounds me is the spatial intelligence required to figure out our position in the cosmos. I watch the constellations change their positions in the sky every night, I notice the moon at a different place and time, and yet, every time, I marvel at the leap of understanding for mankind. 

Read: The Man Who Deciphered the Heavens – a post on Nicholas Copernicus

That evening, the movie of choice was Tinker Bell’s Secret of the Wings. The daughter and the son overruled all the action packed thrillers suggested by the hardworking man who found us the cabin in the first place, and we settled in to watch the feisty fairy instead. Tinker Bell, the impulsive little thing that she is, is curious to see what the winter wonderland is like. Since the fairies of the warm lands are banned from going over to the winter side, of course she wants to go. It only seemed fitting to sit and watch the little movie together. 

Closeted in what looked like an adventurer’s cabin, with the soft light of the snow reflecting against the moonlight outside, a fun movie, and the warmth of food and beverage created the magic that Tinker Bell and her friends were creating up in Pixie Hollow. The pixie dust swirled and poured out in to the world, and we did the same with our comments. 

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We sought peace in the less popular trails. It was a trip meant to process the year, and say thanks to the world in spite of all that has happened during the year, or because of all that has happened during the year. I feel most like Anne of Green Gables when she says she does not know how to pray, but when out in the woods, looking up at the great gifts of nature, she can just feel a prayer and let it out into the universe. 

Isn’t it magical when our most positive thoughts take on wings and soar?

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“I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep, woods, and I’d look up into the sky–up–up–up–into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer. …” Anne of Green Gables, By L M Montgomery

To Fall In Love With Earth

 “Good going amma! You are doing well. Just try riding a little faster, okay?”, said the daughter, and then the children gave me a thumbs up, and smiled encouragingly. We were out cycling on a relatively flat trail in the mountains nearby.  I was amused at the encouragement. It was true that I was in worse shape than I expected. 

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It had been decades since the days of pointless cycling up and down the hills, and the old spirit was reviving with every pedal stroke. I looked up yearningly at the tree-tops, and the pinecones hanging from them. All Earth looked and smelled inviting, reminding me of the gratitude for having such a beautiful planet on which to live. Today was not the day to rue the state of our laws, or how fast climate change is creeping up on us. Today was a day to feel grateful for what we have, so we may learn better to conserve what we have for future generations better. It was in this moment of great gratitude that I was admiring the tree-tops against the clear blue skies when I promptly veered off the bicycle path and crashed into some brambles nearby. 

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I tottered back to the path to chuckles from the daughter.  The husband in the meanwhile, was acting as though as he was in his teens again and cycling with both hands off the handle bar. The elementary school going son, gave me a shrug and said, “Show off!”. But I caught him trying to take his hands off the bar one at a time, and smiled to myself. 

The son had graduated to a bigger cycle for the first time and his face registered joy, and a little trepidation, as he stopped pedaling and went whizzing downhill. The adrenaline was pumping, and his cautious nature was kicking in at the same time. When we stopped for a break a few minutes later, he looked happy, and ready to start pedaling again. 

Out amidst nature that day was a wonderful balm for the soul. The air still felt nippy – there had been a light snow and rain at night, but the clouds had scattered nicely and the trail had some wet patches through which we went zipping with joy. The skies were blue, and the glistening snow and raindrops on the trees in the path brought about a pristine joy. 

The fresh, moist, clear air reminded me of Kate Harris when she wrote in the book, Lands of Lost Borders:

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“I’m not sure where I go when I spin wheels for hours on end like that, except into the rapture of doing nothing deeply—although ‘nothing,’ in this case, involves a tantrum of pedal strokes on a burdened bicycle along a euphemism for a highway through the Himalaya.” 

― Kate Harris, Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road

We were not in the Himalayas. We were on safe biking paths with brilliant nature folding us lovingly in its embrace on all sides, and yet the feeling was the same. There was harmony there between human souls and the Earth, and I could only hope that we never truly lose touch with that feeling. This is our only home after all.

We stopped for a while to take in a small hike around a place that has the wonderful combination of meadows, marshes, forests and river. A more Wind in the Willows kind of setting I could not have imagined, but there it was, and like the rest of the surreal day, I found myself feeling increasingly happy at being there. As we walked listening to the surging snow melt in the fast flowing stream nearby, I felt a sense of clarity, and I thought of Mary Oliver’s words:

I walk in this Earth to fall in love with it. – Mary Oliver

The Contentment Unit of Measurement

This Spring, we are with Bala, that gullible grandfather with a booming voice, hearty antics, a retired man with a ros-ie outlook on the working life, and genuinely enjoying the company of his grandchildren: young blood and all that.

As I have written before, what with the pace of life and so on, we decided to take a short trip up the hills to Lake Tahoe. It was a marvelous time to visit. The mountains had had a fresh sprinkling of snow less than two days before our visit, but you’d never know it, the way the sun beamed down upon us as we ascended the mountains. Pure bliss. Lake Tahoe is one of those places that can soothe as well as it can pump adrenaline for the adventurous. And why not? There is a pursuit there for every one. From the quiet walks, to the serene views, to the snow, there is Paradise right here.

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We stayed at a house with a kitchen in it, so the mother was content. Finding a good kitchen in which to make a warm meal to feed her family at the end of the day is what makes the mother happy. So be it.

After a hot dinner, I sat with my legs-up on one of the fuzzy armchairs for a spot of reading. A reading light provided just the right amount of light, the son played with his cars on the floor, the daughter arranged the setting for a board game, the fire crackled merrily in the fireplace, and it was a cozy scene. I had picked out a magazine on mountain living or some such thing, from the conveniently placed magazine trove nearby. It turned out to have rather a lot of material and pictures on houses in the area. Lovely pictures of clean houses with vases, throws and plumped up cushions. I mused on the cleaning effort that goes into an everyday home.

One time I remember dropping into a friend’s house without calling in advance and was struck by how neat the whole place was. Not even a key was out of place. My own key was missing from the center table where I had placed it. I looked for it while leaving, only to find that my friend’s then 3 year old son, had taken the keys and put them away in the Keys Drawer. I was so impressed.

Things are different on our side of the spectrum. Oh so different! When I walk into a hotel room for instance, I can slice and dice the room in a jiffy and tell you how it will be after a day or two of us in there. I can tell you where exactly the rental papers will be strewn, where the keys will be plopped, where the chargers would be hanging and tangling themselves, where the socks will be bubbling out of the shoes and where the wet towels would be laid out.

I thumbed through the pages, all the while admiring the neat photographs, and wondering how people lived like that. The husband belongs to the jolly category of people who will tell you that a squeaky clean place like that must

(a) belong in a magazine for photographic purposes or

(b) be a hotel,

and then proceed to flop his coat on the recently cleaned couch.

Of course, this is a source of trouble in the dear home. For me, not him. For the misplaced coat never seems to bother him. He is convinced about the too-neat-to-be-a-home theory. A theory in which he is ardently supported and praised by his loving father-in-law, who thinks nothing of stewing brochures and magazines in every available spot in the house.

Storms, Televisions & Other Things
Storms, Televisions & Other Things

The father was sitting across the hall with an equally attractive home living magazine in his hand. He wobbled up in few minutes  to show me a stately mansion with an impressive number of bedrooms and large garden. The grin on his face was set to ‘Tease Thy Daughter’ and he said “So, how about buying something like this for a vacation home?”

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I looked at him and said with a quake in my voice, “Can you imagine cleaning a place like this?”

Contentment comes in various forms – mine is in the size and shape of a three bedroom house.