Good Morning Bilbo-Style

Why I was unable to sleep early last night, and got up like an excited cat this morning is beyond me. Usually, I sleep like a sloth that had an extra helping of eucalyptus for dessert: just leap into bed at the end of the day, read for a bit, and pop off. That extra helping of eucalyptus probably contributes to the birds having to tweet very loudly to rouse the sleeper from sweet slumber (The birds have since taken to partnering with poetic alarms).

Poetic alarms and the secret to blooming like a flower.

I can’t say I leapt out of bed, that would be too much, but I did get up smiling. The promise of holiday cheer is definitely a factor.  I smiled sleepily to myself with the lovely realization that child-like enthusiasm only takes the promise of fun to be up and about. 

Also, it has to be a good thing if the first thing I thought of was Gandalf and his good-morning sequence with old Bilbo Baggins. There has to be a word for that sort of magic. 

“Good Morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.

“What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

“All of them at once,” said Bilbo. “And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain.

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I stepped out for a little garden stroll Shire-style, thinking and noticing the fine things nature had to offer that beautiful morning. I nodded appreciatively at  the brave show the snow peas were making again. Not for the first time did I admire these hardy low maintenance plants that give out so much joy. I have planted ferns, potatoes and lord knows what else, but they elude me. The fruit trees in my little strip of garden all require some expert care seeing that they bear no fruit. The occasional gardener who comes along to help has little to offer by way of advice, and I feel for the sorry trees in my care. 

I read books that said we have the knowledge of natural things in our very being, and nobody has yet planted a sapling wrong and all that sort of thing. Yet the plants in my care don’t seem to know that. Maybe I should read out some of these books to them. Like Frog & Toad reading to their little seeds to make them grow fast.

Everything in its Place – By Oliver Sacks

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I noticed the perfect structure of the budding chyrsanthemums, the beautiful symmetry of pinecones, and wondered why we humans have moved away from the beautiful aesthetics that nature has created for us. It is time we embraced Biomimicry in our design patterns.

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This modern tendency to create monstrous piles of rubble and call them buildings is tedious. Modern plumbing and electric lighting aside, what was the problem with medieval castles? And a little variety of structure?

I was trying to get a good picture of these beautiful little things when I noticed a neighbor who had come walking their dog give me a quizzical look as if to say “Do I not have better things to do?”

I felt this was the perfect time for the final “Good Morning!” Bilbo-style.

“Good morning!” he said at last. “We don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.” By this he meant that the conversation was at an end.

“What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!” said Gandalf. “Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won’t be good till I move off.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

References:

  • The Hobbit – By J R R Tolkien
  • Everything in its place – By Oliver Sacks
  • Frog & Toad – By Arnold Lobel
  • Biomimicry – By Janine Benyus

The Dream Within The Dream

It was Saturday morning. I got up, convinced I had come back to the real world. The world outside looked beautiful. The dew drops on the cherry blossoms glinted in the morning sunshine . A Californian blue jay was sitting on one branch and pecking at the flowers – such a beautiful sight is to be seen to be believed.

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Was that a really vivid dream or what? Covid-19 did feel surreal – what a dream?!

I sat on my bed the previous Friday evening exhausted. It was the first week of large scale disruptions – schools, offices, and malls had closed; crazy grocery shopping was behind us; and while I was grateful for being to work from home during all of this, I also realized that I was enervated.

That was how, you found me on Friday evening, determined to not think of the Corona Virus anymore at least for the night. I put it resolutely from my mind. I eyed the stack of books near my bed. I retreated to simpler times in an English village with Miss Read, I read about gardening, and I read about the life and times of Jane Austen in the 1800s.

The daughter was happy to not Coronaspeak anymore, and magnanimously offered to sit and watch Little Women with me. By the time, I went to bed, I had restored the mind to a semblance of normal.

Maybe the preceding Coronaweek was in my version of The Lathe of Heaven after all.

The Lathe of Heaven is a marvelous book written by Ursula K Le Guin. The book examines a scenario where a young man is gifted with the ability to make his dreams come – his psychiatrist realizes this, and uses his condition to his advantage. He attempts to change the world by offering to guide the young man. While under hypnosis, he makes suggestions and leads his mind into conjuring up dreams. One such dream reminds me of this scenario the most.

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He dreams for World Peace and for all of humanity to be united.

When he gets up, his dreams are realized. Humanity is united. United against the face of an alien attack. The aliens are already positioned on the Moon and are poised to strike Earth soon. Suddenly, Earthly borders and barriers melt away. All of humanity is united against the threat of green-belted aliens on the Moon

The psychiatrist tries making amends from them on, but the patient realizes what is happening and tries to distance himself. He is scared, vulnerable and refuses to fall asleep.

Could Covid-19 be a version of a dream playing out? It certainly feels like that at some times.

But if this were a dream, how would we know? I went and stood outside below the Cherry tree, and the cherry blossoms flitted down and landed gently all around me. The California blue jay was still there having a blissful breakfast as it let the petals float to the ground below. One petal settled on my hair, and I felt it. It was solid and soft. It was real. That settled it – the preceding week of Covid-19 must have been a dream.

Slightly shivering with the morning cold, I traipsed into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. It was full: stacked with extra cans of milk, vegatables and 2 cans of soup – so, we were in the Covid-19 reality. That wasn’t a dream.
The blue jay was confirming what with me exactly? That this too was a reality?
That our realities have a tendency to get warped?

I related this the daughter and son as they walked into the kitchen looking sleepy and exuberant respectively. The husband said, it did feel very much like a scenario in the movie Inception. The Dream within a Dream. That is how we always depicted it in our dumb-charades games.

The day wore on. As Saturday ticked into Sunday, I saw the digital clock in the microwave glow 11:59 – a moment in time that the young son loves to see. Maybe this was a reality within a reality too.

I am going to bed. After all, this version of reality does have some aspects that I dreamt about too:

  • I did hope to get a month to spend with the children at home.
  • I did hope to be able to spend at least time together without external demands on our time, to hear the clock tick in the quiet of the home.

I can understand why the whole thing seems so surreal. While some problems certainly unite humanity like Climate Change and our effect on the Planet, none seems to be as urgent and visceral as the Covid-19 reaction. It is happening, it is real, it is what it is.

This week seems less surreal than the week before. We have settled in to new realities of life. The life in which the simple, bare necessities of life will come to you. They’ll come to you!

 

Refection on Reflection

I often feel this way after some heavy reading, or hard periods of news activity. Frazzled, taut if you know what I mean. On edge. One fine day, a voice in the upturned cauldron piped up and said, “Look, I know you mean well, and all that, but the old brain is not quite suited for deep learning, heavy news and all that lark. We’d better leave all that to the algorithms, while we potter around in the sunny recesses of the spring garden. What? What do you think of that?” I took a serious look at the proposition, and nodded along enthusiastically. Everyone should do what’s best suited to them, right? So, I should .. eh..potter and totter, nourish and cherish, or perhaps enjoy refection on reflection.  

So, it was with a wholly energetic outlook that I went on to read several books to air the musty brain a bit.  P.G. Wodehouse – that unwavering rallier of spirits rallied like nobody’s business, and started off by soothing the sore spot at once:

The Pride of the Woosters is Wounded, By P.G.Wodehouse:

If there’s one thing I like, it’s a quiet life. I’m not one of those fellows who get all restless and depressed if things aren’t happening to them all the time. You can’t make it too placid for me. Give me regular meals, a good show with decent music every now and then, and one or two pals to totter round with, and I ask no more.

It was after I had revived after a spot of humor that I went in for a bit of magic. The Wisdom of the Shire by Noble Smith. It is a lovely little collection of essays on Middle Earth. The courage of Hobbits, the lore of the Ents. As I started reading the little book on Magic, it made me realize why we love Lord of the Rings so much that it endures on a century later. The hobbits are lovable in a way that is easy to relate to. They lead us to the joys in a simple way of life.

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The Wisdom of the Shire

Hobbits like a good meal, think nothing of throwing in an energetic walk in the Shire, enjoy the companionship of fellow hobbits and are generous enough in their outlook. Some of the essays on the Hobbits were:

Eat like a Brandybuck, drink like a Took

Sleep like a Hobbit

It seems they know how to enjoy a magical do-nothing day as often as possible.

Incidentally, A Magical Do Nothing Day is a wonderful children’s book written and illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna. The book practically tugged at me in the library. Some titles speak to your heart, and this was one of them.

A Magical Do Nothing Day. Swirl it around, and feel that sense of peace descend upon you. The book gently takes you on a slide down the mountains, a whirl among the leaves, a dip in the pond and the exquisite pleasure of touching a snail.

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For each of us, a Do-Nothing Day would be different. I am curious to hear what a Magical Do Nothing Day signifies for you. Please share your ideal version of a Do-Nothing day with me.

I had several Magical do-nothing moments recently. Moments  in which the children and I learnt to skip stones in a pond, or I stood mesmerized by a cherry blossom tree that looked like garlands on every branch. The beauty around us is ethereal, and that makes it all the more inviting to go and enjoy nature.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower – William Blake