Roving on Planets

Standing outside by the curbside of our home one night, my eyes were drawn to the beautifully illumined Sirius shining bright in the night sky. Sirius has been looking brighter than usual in the winter skies, and I have often stared at the blinking star wondering what was happening that far away in the Universe.  Every dot in the night sky suggesting a universe of possibilities. The space between dots showing the emptiness, the dots themselves, bright and important only because of the surrounding darkness

Almost subconsciously, my eyes moved over to the red spot Mars. For here, in our own solar neighborhood, we know that something is happening. Something of human interest, and intent. To think that on that distant reddish spot in the sky, 3 generations of rovers have spent the time taking photographs and trying to determine the existence of life on the planet, is surreal. Not to mention the fact that they have been able to transmit the pictures back to Earth for analysis. 

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The planet has long beckoned us with its allure. All those Science Fiction writers, who used the planet as the home for their fertile imagination, paved the way for these missions. 

Fiction on Mars isn’t new. In fact, the red planet invited writers as early as mid-1800’s to set their stories there. Long before knowing anything about the sounds on Mars, the temperatures, or the atmospheres; worlds were set in it. War of the Worlds had the strangest creatures that human imagination could think of (cephalopod like creatures), who could overpower humans. (This quest for dominance vs courteous co-existence is a pet peeve – why must we turn everything into a conquest? But then, do ants wonder the same about us?) 

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Throughout the week, the little cosmologist in the house interspersed our Earthly life with Mars-ly anecdotes and clips. 

Do you know? If we want to live on Mars, we have to have high metal barrier suits. If you go out on an adventure without a suit, there is so much radiation that it could kill you. “ (He had read a novel set in Mars)

Wonder what happened to all water on Mars. The video said there really was water there.” (He has been watching the NASA  videos with interest)

One evening, we sat together huddled up, watching pictures stitched together from the 3 Mars rovers: Opportunity, Curiosity, Perseverance. Barren desert landscapes, not unlike those in the Sahara desert or the Arizonian deserts, are all the rovers could see. In some shots, the commentator says the NASA team stitched thousands of individual images together to gain a clearer view. In some pictures, a blue sky is visible  (the commentator says that NASA colored the skies blue, so as to be able to see the images better, and I thought about how pretty blue skies are and how blue is a very rare color in nature. )

Curiosity and Perseverance will help us find answers. Till then, we have the opportunity to ponder and puzzle about these things. More than any of these curious wanderings, the one thing that the Martian landscape reinforces to me, is that our Earth is a beautiful planet – so vast in its diversity, and lifeforms. The Martian pictures make me want to go out and sigh and fall in love, look after, and cherish the one planet we can thrive on. To admire the miracle that is every tree, every lake, every cloud, every blade of grass, and every flower. 

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Not to mention the great miracle of life in the form of marine creatures, land based creatures and those that are able to aerially survey our beautiful planet. 

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If Martian 4K resolution images have taught me anything, it is to buckle down and look after the one planet we do have. If I am to be roving on planets, why not this beautiful one that has so much to offer?

“I walk in the world to love it.” – Mary Oliver

Making Cherry Blossoms

The daughter’s gift for Christmas was an embroidery kit. It was a small one, but detailed enough to give me joy. The gift made for many cold nights with the heater at my feet, music or some television in the background, the Christmas tree lights twinkling and the embroidery kit at hand. 

There is a kind of meditative feel to needling the thread and pulling it just so, and smoothing it this way and that. The restive spirit in me, usually rising and ebbing like a tide, was strangely lulled into calm and focus. As the little piece came into being, so did my peace. 

Many an unsullied moment from childhood spent in the sunny embroidery room in our Arts & Crafts building at school sailed before my mind’s eye, and I was grateful for all the things that we go through life learning to do.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do  with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

Watching my zen-like state, the daughter said she wanted to try crochet or knitting just for the fun of it, the son wanted to take up painting so he could draw for hours on end like his sister does. The resulting mess in his bedroom floor was appalling, and many a vocal chord strained at decibel levels only opera singers attempt, but the fun was real. 

If that isn’t a gift, I don’t know what is. I remember reading somewhere that the biggest gift we can give our children the ability to feel bored, and occupy themselves through it.

“I very much wished not to be noticed, and to be left alone, and I sort of succeeded. ” – Mary Oliver

Just in time, for the real cherry blossoms to bloom, my own little embroidery of the cherry blossoms and the blackbirds is done. While I stand looking at the real beautiful cherry blossoms, I know the embroidered ones are a poor imitation. But that does not take away the joy of cozy evenings. Hygge is real.

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I roam the rain-washed earth with fresh eyes, admiring, paying attention to the petals and the chrysalis. I stand watching the black birds, swallows and hummingbirds swooping and swirling swiftly by the cherry blossoms. The other day, a squirrel nibbled at the blossoms and shook the tree, sending a heavenly shower of petals down below. Blessings come in all forms, don’t they?

I bent down to pick up a cherry blossom flattened by the heavy rains last night, and marveled. There was no needle creating one petal at a time, no tugging, pulling, no mistakes. There was no satin stitch, stem stitch, or leaf stitch. There was just perfection. The soft petals of the blossom perfect against the dark brown branches off the tree, set against a marvelous blue sky flitting with white clouds, assuring me that this is Earth. The black birds against the sky perfect in their own way.

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I whipped out my phone for yet another photograph, for it seems to be that beauty such as this must be preserved. But the beauty is in the ephemeral isn’t it? We try to capture it in photographs, prose, embroidery and art, but they all, none of them, hold a candle to the real thing. The true joy is in paying attention.

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” Mary Oliver

Autumn 🍂 🍁 🍃 of Hope

T’was the week-end of gifts. I had no idea how much I yearned for the promise of hope, till I felt the nimble feeling in my heart again.

I stepped out into the autumn 🍂🍁🍃 day with the children after a bout of dancing in the kitchen. The day was beautiful. Overnight, the Earth seemed less harsher, with the summer heat replaced by a nippy feel in the air, and a blue, blue sky with wispy clouds lilting away their day. I bent every now and then picking up a autumnal bouquet of sorts. Yellow, maroon, red, greenish-yellow, yellowish brown, greenish-red, and everything in between. 

“Don’t you feel like dancing 💃  though?” I asked the daughter, and she said firmly. “No! Not out here.”

“Oh – its okay!” Said her little brother coming to my defense. “Everyone knows she is a bit of a nature kook, it should be alright!”, and I laughed. My reputation was intact with the children.

The gingko trees were waving their golden green flags in the air – proudly proclaiming the daily joy of living to those who would stop and take a moment to take it all in. I stood there thinking, that the day is a wonderful one indeed if we have within us the power to pause and wondersavor the simple act of Shoshin, and marvel at the sheer audacity of life. Every night reminds us of the cosmic wonder that is our life. It affords us a peek into the darkness in which we float, the bleakness of it all, if there were no light. Yet, there is light, and more importantly, there is life!

“Remember the gingko tree my dears?!” 

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“Yes! We do – we missed it last year, but if all the leaves don’t fall at one shot, you’re in for a rough time!” Said the daughter, her voice ripe with indulgence.

I stuck my nose down the yellow lilliums on the path, came up with a nose of powdered pollen, and promptly wanted to sneeze. 

The children gave me pitying looks and the daughter said, “Look at you! Like a little dog sniffing at flowers and raising that long beak of yours into the air!”

I had no idea dogs had beaks, but setting that aside, I said, “Behaving like a puppy?! What greater accolade could a mother get? I am a very happy puppy 🐶 indeed!”  As soon as we came home, read out to the family in one rapturous gasp a poem written by Mary Oliver in the book, Dog Songs:

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Luke

I had a dog
who loved flowers.
Briskly she went
through the fields,

yet paused
for the honeysuckle
or the rose,
her dark head

and her wet nose
touching
the face
of every one

with its petals
of silk
with its fragrance
rising

into the air
where the bees,
their bodies
heavy with pollen

hovered—
and easily
she adored
every blossom

not in the serious
careful way
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom—

the way we praise or don’t praise—
the way we love
or don’t love—
but the way

we long to be—
that happy
in the heaven of earth—
that wild, that loving.

Shortly afterward, I headed out on another walk. This time, because the day promised rain, and as the first droplets pattered down, I listened to the music of the heavens. How parched our dear Earth was, how bereft our souls without hope?

On the way back from another gorgeous walk, a rainbow 🌈 peeked out. Hesitantly at first, and then with pride, with conviction, the universe’s assurance of not just light, but light with wavelengths between 380 and 700 nanometers on the visible light spectrum.

That is Hope. Hope is Joy. Joy is Peace. Peace is Love.

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Our Attention, Our Imagination, Our Opinion

Poetry has seeped into our lives yet again. At times I wonder whether poetry, music and art are all luxuries that only dare to raise their heads when the busyness of our pointless existence relinquish their clutch, or whether poetry, music and art enable us to go about our busyness with joy and acceptance.

Either way, I am simply grateful to experience the effect of these soothers to our lives.

The news can be a whirlpool, not just pulling those who happen to float nearby into its swirl, but also sending a whirlwind to attract those on land. Of late, every week seems to be packed with a year’s worth of news. All of this of course results in an enervating tug of emotions. 

We do not know whether the farm worker in the 17th century had this many opinions he needed to have, or whether the soldier in the Dark Ages had a semblance of control in his fates. All we have experience of, is this time, and this age, when we are being called upon to not just have an opinion, but also to voice them and defend them almost relentlessly. 

How the world clamors for opinions and stands? Having a world leader who takes pride in swirling the world around for his endless rollercoaster is exhausting. This is Gaslighting we are told, that is Egotism. Here we are, endlessly naming, categorizing, instead of just appealing to an inner sense – Yes? Or No? Which is it?

It is also deeply instructive for us as individuals. A lesson on ourselves. How much do we want to dragged into the endless show put on for us; how much do we want to rectify things, solve problems with creativity and resilience; and how much do we want to be pulled here and there, like specks in a whirlwind?

The other day, I saw a heron standing patiently in the shallow waters of a river, waiting patiently. I was out for my evening walk, and I had to stop and admire the heron. The heron was going about its business of living, observing quietly, waiting patiently, and if in the process of being, a wandering soul got a lesson or two out of it, that was good, but that wasn’t its purpose.

I chuckled to myself thinking of what the heron would say to me if I asked it about any of the world’s problems. Would it laugh at me or with me at the problems humans have created for ourselves?

The heron in that moment taught me the simple act of keeping still and untangling the strains of thought. That this isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.

Sometimes, sitting and reading a piece of poetry evokes the same feeling. Take the poem, Yes! No! By Mary Oliver for instance. 

How necessary it is to have opinions!

I think the spotted trout lilies are satisfied, standing a few inches above the earth. I think serenity is not something you just find in the world, like a plum tree, holding up its white petals.

The violets, along the river, are opening their blue faces, like small dark lanterns.

The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.

How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly, looking at everything and calling out Yes! No!

The swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppyrocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

How often I have stopped to look at the heron taking a short flight from the river nearby and wondered whether its opinions were sought, and whether it mattered. They should, for our opinions and actions have definitely resulted in less than ideal living conditions for them. 

Mary Oliver in one short sweep of her pen was able to capture all this and more in the poem, Yes! No!

P.S: I love how the swan in her poem wants to live in a nameless pond. Our planet is just that isn’t it? A nameless, priceless habitat that we have bestowed a name upon.

Heron flying

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.

 

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

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Is It Only Tuesday?!

I don’t like to go on about First World problems when the world is grappling with the stifling effects of the Covid-19 lockdown, but as a chronicler of the Nourish-N-Cherish household, my job is a tough one. There is much to write – my list of unwritten posts grows by the day.

In the latest news, I had to shoo out protestors before my meeting started. The protestors were noisy, marched with placards and while their motion held merit, I could not allow protests of this nature to carry on into my meeting slot, plus they did not have the critical mass of individuals required to ban the protest altogether.

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The morning had started with the son asking “Is it only Tuesday?” and we laughed.

“Yes it is only Tuesday my child – only the second day since school closed! I hear you!” I said. The daughter was singing the Disney song “When will my life begin?!” and looking forlorn before her day started. Covid-19 has us all in Shelter-in-place mode, and that has thrown all of us in a loop.

While we are grateful for the ability to be able to work from home during these times, it also makes for an interesting dynamic in the home. Do we wear gloves and arm wrestle for the office space? The daughter has online classes and is therefore quite happy to be holed up in her own room.

In what is a low move, the Television in the house has decided to go into social distancing and is sheltering-in-place. When asked to glow and sing, and generally make merry, the television has decided to go mute and shut down with a satisfying click.

The daughter, when she heard of it, moaned and said
“What?! Oh my goodness! Do you really think we can spend all that time together without TV and not drive each other nuts?” I laughed and said that I was touched she thought that way of her kind family. She rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean!”

The son rallied as best as he could and said it would be lovely since he has never spent a summer with parents with all of us at home through the day. I was touched, and also glad to see the silver lining. He, too, did not take the TV blow stoically, however.

That is how I found the pair of them crouching and writing up protest slogans on a piece of cardboard, which in happier times would have been used for making traps for St Patricks Day. patricks_day_ij-v1

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They came marching noisily protesting for the TV and I found myself laughing.

I was reminded of the New York Times article that a friend shared with me a while ago, “Let Children Be Bored”. One thought in that article particularly spoke to my heart, As children, we rarely complained of boredom, because we knew where that would get us. It would get us the task of cleaning our room, or cleaning up our clothes cupboard, or worse yet, the haunted, “Why don’t you study?” refrain. It was vastly better to draw five hundred versions of a snowflake than to concede your boredom to an adult.

Thich Nhat Hanh said, We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.

Life is boring and the sooner we learn to keep ourselves occupied, the better for us. We learnt that lesson quickly did we not? So, why do we feel the obligation to whip out a form of entertainment for the children or feel the need to engage them in anyway? By doing so, are we not starving the creative self in some way? The eternal self , as Mary Oliver calls our creative self, needs solitude, it needs boredom to whip up an imaginary world, a novel game or a piece of Art.

Three days of no television, shelter-in-place mandates, no school, and continuing work will quickly have me begging for the Television, but for now, I have a list of chores ready.

“Come children – let’s start dinner! While you put away the dishwasher, why don’t you help me with the vegetables?” I said in my best head-chef voice humming loudly – “When will my life begin!?”

I heard the daughter say, “Is it only Tuesday?!”

Read also:

 

For Small Creatures Such as We ( Sasha Sagan )

As I set out the kanu leaves in the backyard on a bitingly cold morning , the rain drops from the trees above dripped onto my back. When one refers to shivers down the spine, I suppose that is a literal enough description. I charged back into the warmth of the kitchen multiple times as I drew out the squiggly lines with rice flour – quick kolams to appease whom or what I did not know. I am not one for following rituals every much, but some how I like this one.

Kanu Pongal – Celebrated during Makara Sankranthi

Rains are lashing the Earth, and I am grateful. Last week, we celebrated the Indian version of Thanksgiving, Makara Sankranthi – the beautiful festival thanking Mother Earth for providing us with plentiful food, a nourishing environment, and so much more.

Kanu is typically celebrated by having the daughters in the family set the morning kanu for two reasons: (1) our forbears supposedly come and eat the offerings as crows, (2) the girls pray for the well-being of their brothers, who then give them gifts for their prayers and wishes.

In our feminist household of course, we have long since modified the ritual. It isn’t just the women who set out the kanu for the brothers – we all set the kanu and pray for our siblings’ well-being. We celebrate not just gratitude to Mother Earth for feeding our rather populous brood of humanity with her harvests, but also for the gift of sibling love in this large world.

Coincidentally, I picked up the book, For Small Creatures Such as We, By Sasha Sagan. (The daughter of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan). After all, her father’s Cosmos book and her parents’ TV show, Cosmos, still has me ringing with the Joy of Existence every time I dip my feet into the “shores of the cosmic ocean“.

Sasha Sagan’s book does not disappoint. She says, and I quote:
Beneath the specifics of all our beliefs, sacred texts, origin stories, and dogmas, we humans have been celebrating the same two things since the dawn of time: astronomy and biology.

I sat there savoring that sentence for its simple truth, and elegant choice of words. Festivals and rituals are our ways of making sense of ourselves with respect to the larger cosmos – and her book marvelously outlined rituals and festivals in various parts of the world in different cultures and religions.

Discerning the sentiments behind the rituals is a particularly savory task, partly because I have a healthy skepticism about the Gods, and oscillate between being a secular agnostic and a believer. For those who are Secular in outlook, Sasha Sagan’s book is a marvelous read. It encourages us to come up with our own models for celebrating life in this cosmos.

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That cold morning as I set out the kanu, I wondered, not for the first time, why we set out cooked rice pongal for the crows. Is it to acknowledge our evolution as mankind to be where we are? Using fire to cook, was probably the single biggest leap in our journey, followed by becoming agriculturists from the hunter/gatherer mode. How different would everything have been if these two had not happened?

I especially thought of the brilliant poem she had referenced in the book by Vietnamese Zen Master, Thích Nhất Hạnh :
In this plate of food,
I see clearly
the presence of the entire universe
supporting my existence.

I also read a poem by Mary Oliver on Rice in the book. Blue Iris, and together with the books For Small Creatures Such as We, and Cosmos, it makes for a marvelous way to start the decade.

Rice – A Poem by Mary Oliver

It grew in the black mud.
It grew under the tiger’s orange paws.
Its stems thicker than candles, and as straight.
Its leaves like the feathers of egrets, but green.
The grains cresting, wanting to burst.
Oh, blood of the tiger.

I don’t want you to just sit at the table.
I don’t want you just to eat, and be content.
I want you to walk into the fields
Where the water is shining, and the rice has risen.
I want you to stand there, far from the white tablecloth.
I want you to fill your hands with mud, like a blessing.

As more and more of us move towards urban hubs for living, the less we realize all that happens to make food available for us to consume. How many of us have seen rice plants, or coffee plants or pepper vines – actually even if we have, how many of us consciously think of the journey from farm to table in its cooked form?

It is truly an enterprise of staggering proportions to realize how much has to happen for smooth functioning of Society, and it is lovely to read a book that is so full of joie-de-vivre

I like the concept of  thanking Mother Earth for her bountiful gifts to life (Did I mention this already?). When it starts off with fierce winds ripping branches from your backyard trees, followed by glimpses of sunlight illuminating the clouds during the sunrise, followed by mild rain, and then seeing a glorious double rainbow; what is not there to feel thankful about?

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Books:

The Great Quivering of Autumn

“I just witnessed the Great Quivering of 🍂🍁🍃 Autumn!” I said as I stepped into the house flushed with the exercise and thrilled with the beauty of a blustery day. “Luckily, I checked the weather before heading out.” I said taking off my light jacket.

“What’s she saying?” said the daughter, raising her sleepy head from the couch, and pulling her teeth out of a bagel.

“Its windy outside!” said her little brother, already practicing that teenage eye roll, and the art of turning poetry into the prosaic.

I rolled him up and said, “You too buddy?! Come here – you would have loved it. you know that? I saw so many hawks – I have never seen so many of them soar up together in great big circles like this. All of nature quivered. Trees shook, branches swayed, waves lapped at the shores of the lake, and leaves, oh my goodness – so many leaves went quaking to the floor. I stood with my arms apart like this and just stood there!”

“In the middle of the road?! Appa, I told you not to let her out alone!” moaned the teenager, and we all laughed.

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No amount of pictures and videos will do the least bit of good when you catch glimpses of the rays filtering through the quivering leaves, or feel the light caress of falling leaves against your skin or catch the beautiful leaves of all colors against the blue skies. How does one capture the beauty of seeing a dozen hawks soar overhead, or the awe of seeing the pelicans do their little ballet dance of fishing, or the susurration of the leaves murmuring in the wind. There is a word for this: Psithurism.

As I gathered my little brood around me for a hot cup of tea after that invigorating walk, I shushed them to peek outside to see what I meant. The leaves were fluttering down in our garden, but there was another creature up and about at work regardless of the winds. 

“Bulby!” said the son excited.

“You named the squirrel? He can give you rabies you know that?”

“He can, but he won’t, and certainly not for naming him! You talk as though he is yearning for our company. I assure you, he isn’t. Just watch what he does. Bulby never fails to entertain.” I said, and the son nodded fervently. 

After sometime, we all burst out laughing at the squirrel’s antics. We have seen him hide great nuts in the soil every now and then, he nibbles and gnaws at the fruit on our trees, I have seen him scamper on seeing us sometimes, other times he watches us as though he doesn’t mind allowing us to enjoy a spot of nature with him. Today, he dug up my recently planted flower shoots, and dug something out, looked at us and furtively patched the garden up as though nothing had happened, and scurried. He had something on his mind, maybe a gut feeling of what was to come.

The morning out amidst nature, and finishing up with Bulby’s antics made me think of one of Mary Oliver’s poem:

From the Book of Time – By Mary Oliver

I rose this morning early as usual, and went to my desk.
But its spring,

and the thrush is in the the woods,
somewhere in the twirled branches, and he is singing.

And so, now, I am standing by the open door.
And now I am stepping down onto the grass,

I am touching a few leaves.
I am noticing the way the yellow butterflies
move together, in a twinkling cloud, over the field.

And I am thinking: maybe just looking and listening
is the real work.

Maybe the world, without us,
is the real poem.

The wind whipped and whooshed around all day. By evening, the winds had gathered speed alarmingly, trees that had swayed earlier in the day were lying broken, roads closed, emergency responders were keeping the populace further up North informed about the situation, power was down. It astounds me every time how forceful nature can be. But it also made me stop and think – the hawks had been more fitful than usual that morning, the squirrel was bustling more too. The animals knew we were in for a rough time, and responded, while we waited by our gadgets to give us the news.

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It is marvelous how Mary Oliver puts her finger on the pulse of the Earth :
Maybe just looking and listening is the real work,
Maybe the world without us is the real poem.

The Art of Breathing

A colleague caught me mid breath one day. It was one of those days that butterflies would have looked on me with mixed emotions.

On the one hand with pride: When did this caterpillar learn to flit like this?

On the other hand with amused tolerance: The half-wit seems to be forgetting the sweet joy of collecting nectar amidst pretty bright flowers, with all the fast paced flitting. Forfeiting the sweet thing about flitting – tut tut!  Flutter tutter utter nutter! (I am not high up on the poems caterpillars learn to sing about when still creepy crawlies; and the butterfly metaphor only goes so far!)

Anyway, it was one of the many days in which I flitted about the old work spot tasking, multi-tasking, sub-tasking, reminding others about their tasking, setting reminders for my own tasks and so on. Thoroughly immersed in my second self that Mary Oliver so succinctly calls the Social Self…yes, it was one of those days.

Mary Oliver’s, Upstream, is a book of many marvelous essays.  The essay, Of Power and Time, talks about the three selves in many of us:

•The Child Self

•The Social Self &

•The Eternal Self.

 

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Though in the essay, Mary Oliver, refers to the Eternal Self as the artistic self, I like to interpret it as the Creative self.

• The Child Self is in us always, it never really leaves us.

• The second self is the social self. This is the do-er, the list maker, the planner, the executer.

• Then, there is the third self: the creative self, the dreamer, the wanderer.

T’was during one of these trying days that I remembered the deep breath technique my Yoga teachers had tried to teach me about. Take deep breaths, and concentrate on it filling your stomach, feel it coming in and out of your nostrils and so on. So, I started my deep breaths as I was walking from one meeting to another. Deep breath, exhale, deep breath, exhale and so on. I had thought no one watched, but one colleague caught me, and grinned. “That should be your GIF you know?” he said.

I nodded sheepishly, and went back to my brand of breath-less flitting within minutes.

Later that week-end I ran into this beautiful children’s book in the library. A book that was just waiting to be written. A beautiful capture of all the different types of breath, Alphabreaths 

Written by : Christopher Willard (a clinical psychologist) & Rechtschaffen MA, Daniel (a counselor)

Illustrated by:  Clifton-Brown

 

 

The book is a lovely read urging us to Breathe like a Dolphin taking a dive, or our favorite one, The Ninja Breath – silently and slowly. The illustrations too make for a marvelously relaxing read. Please check out their Youtube clip : here

 

 

Mindful breathing and Yoga are excellent concepts to teach the children, and I am always in awe of those who can take complex concepts and make them palatable for the consumption of young and old alike.

If you happen to come home and find the son and I swimming like dolphins or getting ready for a Star Trek mission on the floor while Yoga-ing along with the Cosmic Kids Yoga series by Jaime Amor , do not be alarmed. Her yoga videos are appealing and fun. If, along the way, we do something to calm ourselves down – then great, else, we have had a great time.

There are so many aspects to the Philosophy of Being (I am amused it has such a strictly medical sounding name: Ontology)

Ontology is the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being, and reading the Wikipedia page itself boggles my simple mind (A post on the Study of Philosophy is sitting up on its hind legs and begging to be written). Maybe, what is required is a Ninja Training on Ontology. Excerpt from the wiki page:

Such an understanding of ontological categories, however, is merely taxonomic, classificatory. Aristotle’s categories are the ways in which a being may be addressed simply as a being, such as:[9]

  • what it is (its ‘whatness’, quiddity, haecceity or essence)
  • how it is (its ‘howness’ or qualitativeness)
  • how much it is (quantitativeness)
  • where it is (its relatedness to other beings)

*** Taking a Y for Yawning Breath before a Z for zzzz breath about now ****

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Keeping ontological explanations aside, if The Nature of Being comes down to simple techniques of breath, fluidity and movement, it makes the simplicity behind it all brilliant.

It was one of those ‘Simple is brilliant’ types of  quotes that I went looking for. I know many brilliant blokes and blokees have said marvelous things about simplicity -I know old Leonardo Da Vinci said something about it, so did old man, Einstein. In any case, looking for one of those made me fumble on this one by Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl

From Wikipedia: Thor Heyerdahl became notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, in which he sailed 8,000 km (5,000 mi) across the Pacific Ocean in a hand-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands. The expedition was designed to demonstrate that ancient people could have made long sea voyages, creating contacts between separate cultures.

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