Mystery of the Missing Keys

In P G Wodehouse novels, he often says that when people look at these sleepy country cottages they assume nothing happens. But come night, and it is a seething place of action. I felt the same in our sleepy quiet suburb. The lads and lasses in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York had retired for the night at 12:30 a.m. but No Sir! Not in our neck of suburbia.

T’was around the time Olaf & Anna sang “It’s Summer! It’s Summer” while yours truly went to work.

The house was filled with more plans than time or people to accomplish them. But the busy buzz of possibility was everywhere. Grandparents planned elaborate delicacies, aunts indulged the senior and junior citizens with games and food along with rigorous hiking plans, children made plans for movies and outings, older children made plans for hanging out with fellow teens. 

The household functioned like an orchestra – high notes and low tones harmoniously blending into one and another. Sometimes the violinist was missing, other times the banjoist, but the orchestra went on anyway. T’was during those one of those evenings when the count for those who planned to stay for dinner was fluid, that plans were made for teen nephew #1 who sweetly told his mother to leave the keys in ‘the usual hiding place’ for him as he planned to be a ‘little late’. 

So the fellow’s mother came to me knitting her hands and giving me meaningful looks. The pair of us before heading to bed hid the keys in ‘the usual place’, told the grandparents of all concerned and hit the sack. It was well past midnight. 

The phone call came even later. Nephew #1 was trying to keep the accusatory note out of his voice when he said the usual place was devoid of keys or any metal really, or wood for that matter, or crowbars. #Mysterious 

Filing the mystery of the missing keys for the morning, the fellow was let into the fortress. 

Now, I don’t know what you’ve heard about senior citizens – the ones I’ve seen on television are sanguine, snoring by 10, and up at 7 am for their spot of coffee and hot water. Not that party bunch in our home however. The trio partied late into the night well after we went to bed.

It was after the seniors had switched off their hearing aids and started snoring that the phone call came. The nephew, the poor fellow who had asked for the keys so he would not be left out on the porch was standing out on the porch in the night, looking like he had eaten a bush or two, climbed a tree or two, and scoured off a raccoon or two, all in search of a good key. 

After murmured sympathies, the fellow was let into the home, locked and padlocked like a fortress I might add. The next morning, I took it upon myself to solve the mystery of the missing keys. 

It turned out that one of the hearing aid wearing grandparents had a malfunction when the information about the nephews arrival was broadcast. So, they dutifully went about locking, padlocking and triple locking the doors before going to bed. Forget the keys – they would have been no use in a case of locked doors such as this one. All the grandfather had refrained from doing was pushing an almirah against the door. 

Hogwarts did a poor imitation of it when they secured the castle in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

“Who do you think is going to come and rob the place?” I asked taking my first sip of coffee for the day in.

A sputter of answers poured forth, none of them satisfactory.

I held up my hand, and stemmed the flow.

“Let me get this straight. You senior citizens partied well into the night – way past midnight seeing that we only went to bed at half past midnight. 

Then, before heading to bed, you barricaded the doors and windows so that so much as a moth couldn’t enter the house. 

And you were up at 6 a.m. to make coffee anyway. 

So when do you think any fellow can rob the house?! They had a slim hour in which to make an entry and even that was thwarted by nephews arriving. No wonder the thieves are all moaning and talking of a change in profession!” 

The household started laughing and all chagrin forgotten went about another day in which summer thrived in ‘leisured cosiness’.

The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which, as a rule, I particularly enjoy. I like the crackling logs, the shaded lights, the scent of buttered toast, the general atmosphere of leisured cosiness.

P. G. Wodehouse

It Takes a Village

It was going to be a busy weekend. 

“I’ll try my best to make it and may just stop over with my father – even if I am a little late. Hope that is okay.” I said to my friends. They had kindly invited us for my school alumni dinner – the pater taught at the school for around 30 years and I could see it was going to be a lovely occasion. 

I walked into the daughter’s room. She was getting ready for her high school graduation the next day. She was decorating her graduation cap: she had drawn the picture of waves on which she intended to write the college name. I admired the waves so beautifully done and was pumping for that one to be used. 

The daughter’s drawing

“I don’t want to cut through the center of the ocean right there and spoil it.”

“You don’t need to Moses. You can paste over that so you don’t spoil the picture.” I said.

“Ha! Very funny! “

“Don’t worry, I will do something else!”, said the girl and settled down happily to some music and picked out her glue and art supplies. A few hours later, a beautiful hat with blue satin roses and other things tastefully aligned and decorated emerged. I gasped at the simple artistic beauty she had managed to achieve on a small hat.

As I sat there at the daughter’s high school graduation ceremony the next day, I hadn’t quite expected such a grand affair. There were proud parents, siblings, teachers, and of course, the high school children themselves. The hilarious stories of high school were swishing and swirling in the throngs as the names of the children were called. 

It seems only yesterday that we were all shoo-ed out of the pre-school classroom after dropping the 3 year old daughter. I still remember that lump in my throat as I forced a smile on my face. My eyes were beginning to smart. Blinking rapidly, I moved out so she would not see my acute feelings – in a room full of new children, new teachers, how would this child settle down? Well, she did settle down, and went on to enjoy her schooling.

Looking at the faculty who gathered there, I could see the joy and satisfaction with the set of children in the class of 2022. I thought of all the people in her life who had genuinely cheered and believed in her.

  • All her teachers, coaches, parents of friends, after school teachers, administrative staff.
  • The love of arts, dance and music being instilled by teachers who showed her the larger life and the elements to being happy and fulfilled despite academic and other life pressures.
  • All the volunteers and parents, who over the years, had set aside time to foster an environment for growth, learning and encouragement.

All the science fairs, debate tournaments, plays, dance and music performances, Ted Talks, sporting events : everything flashed before me in that beautiful instant when the children threw their grad caps up together in one harmonious, energetic motion. It truly does take a village to raise a child. I am so grateful to each of you who believe in our children and genuinely root for their happiness and success. Thank you!

Looking back at that first day of the daughter’s school through to the high school graduation, the days felt long at times, but the years incredibly short. 

The next day, the father & I attended the dinner with my high school alumni. We sat around the table, and as the stories and reminiscences tumbled over one another, a warmth filled the room. Like fine wine, the stories had textured beautifully with the passing years. Tales of haunted houses, maypole dances, plays with many children starring as actors, escapades of school mischief etc flew around the room. Teachers were remembered fondly, and the tales from the heartlands of the Nilgiris somehow managed to capture the misty rapture. Time and distance did not seem to matter much. 

It was apparent in that conversation that night, that the teachers had passed on to the children in their care, values and a way of life that we appreciate more in retrospect than in the throes of youth. It reminded me of this quote of Miss Read with regards to her old and esteemed friend and colleague who taught through 4 decades. 

Book:  Miss Clare Remembers

“She could only pass on to them the philosophy which sustained her throughout her life. She could teach them to face whatever came with calmness and courage, to love their families and their friends with unswerving loyalty, and to relish the lovely face of the countryside in which they lived. It might seem a humdrum, day-to-day set of values, but Dolly Clare knew from long experience that they could carry a man bravely through a lifetime’s vicissitudes.”

Miss Read, Miss Clare Remembers

On the way back after that dinner where we had relived the beautiful experience of school, I wished the same for the high school daughter, and the wishing-to-attend-Hogwarts son. The joys of friendships, shared spaces, tales of teachers, escapades and laughter.

Shark Splashers & Bear Growlers Creativity Index

“Why would I punch a shark in the nose?” I said swiping the phone with my hand as it rang on our evening walk.

The husband who had probably called with a view to getting a sane opinion mopped his brow on the other side. Was this really a good idea? He seemed to ask himself. After a second of stunned silence he said, “What did the poor shark do to deserve being punched in the nose by you two jobless folks out on a walk?” 

The son & I laughed. We were on our evening walk and the fellow was telling me a little story he had imagined the whole afternoon when I had droned on in one meeting after another. The thrilling tale involved Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, the Boston Tea Party, and somehow as I nodded along, the tale had an inexplicable presence of trained sharks by the British Army going after the American Revolutionaries. The revolutionaries, on their part, weren’t quiet either. They had trained bears. How the bears fought the sharks with the humans aboard made for a loud, raucous tale with lots of noise and action. I was a confused, if slightly inattentive audience. For one, the day’s meetings were not yet pounded of the system, and for another, a marvelous spring sunset was in progress. The egrets, ducks and geese were making a fumble of noises, and the son’s story did not quite hold my attention till the sharks and bears fighting sequence made an appearance.

I double tracked and asked questions not letting on that I had let my mind wander over the past mile. He gave me a swift look, and said, “I know you haven’t been listening. Fine! I’ll explain again.” And off he went from the beginning again. This time, the story was even wilder than I imagined while half listening. 

I shuddered a bit at the high moments of battle between creatures.

That night I did chuckle to myself on the sharks vs bear theme to the American Revolution.

It also led me to think of the Torrance Studies for Creativity (in the book, In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman) where they studied the different aspects of imaginative story telling in children and had an independent body of panelists rank the ingenuity, creative elements, and nuances to the story telling in primary school going children. The study apparently shows a drastic reduction of the creative elements somewhere around 1990. The correlation is plain. It is around the same time that the usage of the Internet and screen time soared.

The study is here:

The Creativity Crisis: The Decrease in Creative Thinking Scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking – By Kyung Hee Kim, School of Education, The College of William and Mary

It does make me wonder how many marvelous tales we will be missing with the advent of more advanced technologies. Even brilliant ideas such as code generators, image generators can either be used actively by us to better ourselves or passively used to distract and stop us from doing the hard work of utilizing our talents. Which way will we choose? 

I do hope the shark splashers and bear growlers continue to use their imagination to better this world.

A Whale of a Time

“Just read some book that is interesting, but not too interesting. Shouldn’t make me laugh too much, or make me say.”Oooh! That is interesting right?”, but make me sleepy in 10 minutes.”, said the son.

I said I would try. 

The strange specific request was because it was well past bedtime. The lights were off, but the young fellow was having trouble falling asleep. I could hear him chuckling at the conversation in his sister’s room, and getting up every few minutes to dart across and contribute. The rambunctious older sister and father were given a sober talking to so bedtime rituals could commence and I looked at the stash of books by the bedside trying to find one that would fill this vaguely specific request. The written world did not disappoint, and pretty soon, I had in my hands several books that could help.

However, the book on Whales seem to fit the description perfectly. It was interesting enough, the illustrations beautiful and the content remarkable yet not thrilling enough to keep one awake at night. It was like listening to Whale Song.

There is something remarkably therapeutic about the color blue.

Whales – by Kelsey Oseid

Seeing the pages in various hues of blue, with the lovely pictures of the most beautiful and interesting creatures on Earth made for a magical few minutes. It is no wonder that the daughter loves doodling with blues, and drew numerous pictures of whales.

The daughter’s drawing of Whales

The light blue on the pages lulled one to sleep and before long, the fellow drifted, and I tiptoed out with the book. 

Reading about whales on a weekday night is strangely relaxing. I kept going. Spreadsheets, documents, planning, working, cleaning – everything seemed irrelevant in the face of these creatures. The feeding, bubbling and the many aspects of the whales is beautifully shown. The illustrations in the book make it a relaxing artistic phenomenon – I have spent many nights since looking at the pictures in the book. 

Sample page to show the beauty of the illustrations in the Whales book by Kelsey Oseid

Whales also gently reminded me of my recent folly: It has been sometime since I went on a children’s book reading spree. So, I went about rectifying this immediately. It is no wonder the old spirit has been feeling jaded lately. Nothing like a dose of magic, art, laughter and childlike stories to rejuvenate the spirit. Sometimes, when we make a Whale of a Mistake like that, all it takes is a trip to the library to invite the guardian of the spirit to visit again.

I look forward to reading this lot, and having a whale of a time.

Children’s Books

What’s our hurry?

“Oh! How I love the fiery glow of the sunset and how I missed our quiet garden“, I said leaping out of the car after my long dredge of a commute back into the office. It has been two years since Covid shut office spaces down, and I cannot say that I missed the crowds on the trains, the noise of the city, or the snarling traffic inching along at peak times.

“I am so happy to come back to this suburban paradise from the hustling, bustling city!” I said sighing happily and taking in deep gulps of fresh air. I flitted to the rose buds starting to form, flew to the jasmine bushes sending wafts of jasmine-ly scent into the evening air, and lovingly tousled the lavender bushes. I suppose butterflies when let loose in a meadow from a bottle do the same.

I looked up to see the daughter giving me that look: the one where she is wondering whether it is prudent to have my head checked for bumps.

I am such a country mouse my dear!” I said by way of making conversation.

“I wouldn’t want to be a cat in a world that you are a mouse, that is for sure!”, said she, never one to falter at smart quips. 

I straightened my shoulders haughtily and wanted to retort. Sharply. With sarcasm, speed and humor. 

Nothing came. 

I shook my head and tried to fetch some quip, anything. Nothing.

I stood there fumbling and stammering. Maybe the pace of the day had taken it all out. So, I finally laughed. 

It was while I was out sauntering on a mild spring morning a few days later that I remembered the study on the pace of life in the book, In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman. 

In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman

In the book, Alan Lightman writes of the study where people’s average walking speed was measured across a decade. The speed was measured in suburban places, cities and bustling city centers. Apparently, the walking speed had increased considerably. An average woman of today in San Francisco city walks faster than an average woman in the 20th century. Makes us pause and think doesn’t it? What are we hurrying towards?

Excerpt from the book:

A momentous study by the University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with the British Council found that the walking speed of pedestrians in 32 cities around the world increased by 10% just in the 10 year period from 1995 to 2005.

How did we arrive at this point in the history of the world?

First, there is business. The pace of life has always been driven by the pace of business, and the pace of business has always been driven by the speed of communication. In 1881, in a book titled American Nervousness: its Causes and Consequences, physician George Beard noted the increase of nervousness and stress in the public caused by the new communication technologies of the day: The railroad and the telegraph. Today, its the Internet. 

In Praise of Wasting Time – By Alan Lightman

It is no wonder that spending time in Nature is such a soother, acting almost like an analgesic. The pace of nature hardly varies. 

Like Lao Tzu says: 

Nature never hurries, yet accomplishes everything.

Lao Tzu
Bryce Canyon National Park

Purpose, Meaning 🌌 ? Experience 🌿

I was sitting on the window ledge talking to the daughter of this and that. Outside, it was a beautiful spring day. All the world seemed to be up and about. Bustling, blooming, tittering, fluttering, racing. “Life seems abuzz with a sense of purpose and so full of meaning today, don’t you think?” I said lazily to the daughter. I myself was content sipping coffee in my night suit.

She laughed and said something to the effect of meaning being humbug or some such thing. I sipped my coffee and waited. Seeing that she had lapsed into painting, I prodded on giving her the talk about finding the meaning of life, and how some days are more important than others etc. When she still didn’t bite, I pulled Mark Twain for support. 

“But you know what Mark Twain said? Two days are the most important days of your life. The day you were born and the day you figured out why you were born.”

“And who is Mark Twain exactly to be talking about this? “

“Mark Twain!”

“I know who Mark Twain is. Point is: of course his saying would be skewed towards purpose and meaning and all that because that is what he spent his life trying to find the answer to. I just don’t think there is one grand purpose to each of us you know? I mean, saying that we all come to this Earth with one grand purpose is subscribing to this theory of God putting us all here for this-and-this-and-this. There is nothing like that. The accident of life happened. A thousand things could’ve gone wrong, could’ve gone differently, but they panned out this way and therefore we are here. When we are here, I get that we must do things to be useful, happy etc, but that is it. There is no, like grand scheme of things or whatever!”

“So, you are saying it is okay for me to be wasting time like this, when I could be doing anything.”

“Well…again. There is no wasting time.”

“Ah – but that is the arrogance of youth isn’t it? Time isn’t exactly ticking for you all.”

“At your fine age, it is. “ she laughed a bit too callously for my taste, but that is youth all over. 

“So, you are saying that if all I want to do is look at the wind rustle through that pine tree, it isn’t a waste of time.”

“Sure…if that’s what you want to do!” she rolled her eyes and I couldn’t blame her. Watching wind rustle through pine trees isn’t exactly teen-buzz.

I get that you are cuckoo when it comes to nature stuff. But we’ve all got to do stuff we don’t like, stuff we like, stuff that’s just got to be done whether you like it or not. But whatever it is, if you are experiencing it, it isn’t a waste of time. And yes, all this stuff about meaning of life etc has been done by philosophers who spent their entire time trying to figure out the answer to that. If you were to pick any random person who lived 200 hundred years ago, what was their purpose? I don’t know. But if they lived happily, then I suppose they had a good life, and that’s what matters.”

I looked at the child astounded. There she was, teaching me to experience life, when she seemed to have only been born a few short years ago

“And this thing about the most important days of your life. The pressure of a thing like that could completely throw enjoying the day you know? I mean I could say it was the day I got a brother. But it wasn’t you know? It was more like a normal day with a wailing baby sure, but in time,  he grew up to be a brother that I enjoy. Don’t tell him that!”

She isn’t the philosophical kind. She is barely the deep thinking kind, yet she has this refreshing outlook that bodes for a contentment in life that I strive for. At this fine age, as she so eloquently described my age, I still confuse achievement, purpose, meaning and life. Here she was, happily painting one minute, off to hang out with her friends the next, while keeping up with her course work, and all that was required to be done.

But I disagreed with her on one thing. I do think there are special days and special moments – even if we don’t always celebrate them. The day she was born is one of them. 

The whole chat left me feeling like I had read that quote by Ursula K Le Guin again. It never fails to enlighten and uplift.


“Things don’t have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What’s the function of a galaxy? I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters. What does matter is that we’re a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.”

Ursula K Le Guin

The Physics of Space & Time

The husband and I have been married for 20 years now.  Plans were great. Let’s go on a trip to the mountains, by the lakeside, near the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Instead what happened was that the phone calls flew over the mountains, past the lakes and through the oceans as we reminisced the 20 years together. I had to come to India to look after the old parents, and the husband was making calls everyday to ensure I had the right masks, the right tests, and the right flights. 

While the day turned out to be a special one anyway with loved ones calling and making it a special one, I found myself reveling in the words of James Baldwin:

James Baldwin on long distance love

“Pretend, for example, that you were born in Chicago and have never had the remotest desire to visit Hong Kong, which is only a name on a map for you; pretend that some convulsion, sometimes called accident, throws you into connection with a man or a woman who lives in Hong Kong; and that you fall in love. Hong Kong will immediately cease to be a name and become the center of your life. And you may never know how many people live in Hong Kong. But you will know that one man or one woman lives there without whom you cannot live. And this is how our lives are changed, and this is how we are redeemed.

What a journey this life is! Dependent, entirely, on things unseen. If your lover lives in Hong Kong and cannot get to Chicago, it will be necessary for you to go to Hong Kong. Perhaps you will spend your life there, and never see Chicago again. And you will, I assure you, as long as space and time divide you from anyone you love, discover a great deal about shipping routes, airlines, earth quake, famine, disease, and war. And you will always know what time it is in Hong Kong, for you love someone who lives there. And love will simply have no choice but to go into battle with space and time and, furthermore, to win.”

James Baldwin

It turned out to be propitious indeed that I was in the very city that our wedding took place in, and the husband was in California  – the place we went on to make our home together. As James Baldwin so eloquently put it, ‘we simply had no choice but to go into battle with space and time’.  I remember my sister asking me before my wedding what my favorite place was, and somehow I answered ‘California’. I’d never been there, I simply knew the person I loved was there. She threw her head back, laughed and teased me well. I deserved it. Hitherto, I had never missed a heartbeat in saying ‘Lovedale’, and here I was, already switching my answer to a place I had never seen.

As we sat down to a meal that evening, in my parents’ home, the stories of our lives spun its enthralling web around the little table. How we welcomed the wrong bridegroom party at the station all those years ago, only to realize after unloading all the luggage that it was a different wedding party with the same name(!) South Indians, especially of the previous generation could all be gifted a baby book of names, for they named their sons and daughters after their favorite gods and goddesses, and the popular ones studded the streets like stars on a clear night.

The wedding photos that for two decades had not been taken out for a viewing suddenly found itself in demand. I looked at the album to find some loving aunts and uncles no more, some whose rich tree cover had thinned out over time, others whose foliage had turned color in the intervening decades, children who had become adults and went on to get married and set up their own families. 

The march of time maybe relentless, but the memories are timeless.

The Librocubilarist’s Dilemma

Folks were visiting the new nest. I was cleaning to ensure that the humble abode impressed them favorably.

That is to say, I was scrubbing beneath sinks, and behind blenders as though they were health inspectors who walked in with those examination pads in their hands, wearing steel rimmed glasses, censorious expressions, and a tough grading point scale for house inspections. Of course, like most people who visit the home, they were perfectly warm folks who cared more about the smiles on our faces as we greeted them, than the scrub factor in the sink. But.

The inspector general in me commanded everyone in the home to smarten up too.

“Put away all those books, crayons, papers and toys – your floor should be clean.” I said looking into ‘Imagination Island’ the name the son has given his room. He gave a compliant nod gallantly suppressing a scowl. He knew this mother. She would flop back into the loving one in a few minutes once she felt the warm companionship of the folks visiting the home. But till then, it was better playing along. 

The daughter, competent and nonchalant as always, set off on a brisk walk saying, “I’ll run a vacuum over the place when I come back – don’t worry!” Her back registering duty deferred, her ears twitching to music, and an almost imperceptible nod to her little brother that she understood just how he felt when the cleaning-amma-before-guests-arrive made an appearance. 

I looked in to see how the husband was faring. He stopped what he was doing and said using his rare tone of exasperation, “You really need to get a hold on this mess here! Should I get you a bookshelf?”

I nodded – looking sheepish, guilty, and every bit a hypocrite after my instructions to the children to put away their books and toys. My bedside was a Mess. The number of books tumbling over each other were appalling. There were children’s books, non-fiction books, fiction books, and comic books, all jostling amiably together, and trying to keep on the make shift shelf (We had not yet furnished this space).

Some of the books were on piles on the floor – all in all an admirable spot to pick one up and start reading, but I resisted strongly. The clock was ticking, the payasam was boiling, the heater whirring working steadily to raise the temperature to that sweet spot of comfort, the rasam simmering, the fruit ripening. It would not do to read just then.

Tsundoku looked like a cute Japanese word evoking warm feelings of people with their list of unread books, chipping away one book at a time. Gluggavedur – that beautiful word that invites one to sit cozily inside and read while the weather outside is colder than it seems from inside the house. I am sure I picked one up and put it away with enormous willpower.

Illustration of Gluggavedur from the book: What A Wonderful Word – By Nikola Edwards

But these books were past all these sweet words. This suggested a problem. Order was in order. 

Wish this librocubilarist (one who enjoys reading in bed) luck.  The more I read about words like librocubicularist and lectiophile (one who loves reading), the more I am grateful for the reading habit. The ability to dip into a different dimension, learn something new, and roll beautiful ideas around in the head before sleep is precious. No matter how humdrum the days, how mired in the human aspect of living we are;  a good sip of ideas before bed can uplift the spirits before blessed sleep claims our consciousness.  By virtue of being in a better spot, aren’t our dreams that much sweeter? I suppose they are.

Reading with the children

Amidst the chaos of earning a living, and living the life one has earned, sundry to-do lists get longer and longer. The bedside still needs managing. 

Imagine my surprise then, when a friend stopped by on Christmas Day with a gift for the home. One she said reminded her of me. An antique piece of furniture – a desk that could hold my piles of reading material, and shaped like an encyclopedia.

I plan to wear the pajamas that another kind friend had gifted me for my birthday saying: “My week-end is all booked up”, and get my bedside in order.

My dear indulgent friends and family spoil me so, and I am grateful for it.

Next up: 2021 Reading List

Tweet Talk

The cheery morning had us all chirping – much like the world around us. A beautiful, bright, sunny November morning around the time of Thanksgiving is always a special time. The glorious world around us transformed into multi-colored hues, and the auditory world rich with the orchestra of birds made our human companions on the trail more friendly as well. Every single one of them cheerily greeted one another on what a lovely morning it was. The world seemed to be in harmony.

Geese lifted out of their slumbering fields and flew squawking great big messages to one another as they splashed down into the lakes and rivers nearby. The blackbird murmurations overhead trilled and flew flashing their streaks of red in marvelous patterns overhead. The californian blue jays swooped among the marshes and the trees, their brilliant azure feathers twinkling and shining in the rays of the sun. The great blue herons and egrets stood waiting in their great cloaks of grey and white, relishing their solitude and just being part of the great lovely world around them. 

I read somewhere that people who were among many birds were generally less stressed in life, and I could readily imagine why. The joyous chirps, blending together in a great, harmonious orchestra along with the swift usage of wings to fly up and above, taking one’s spirits with you is enough to reduce the stress. 

I sniffed rapturously and we walked on. The ponds in the marshes seemed perfect for reflection, and the mind wandered. I took some pictures: not too many, and certainly not of great quality for posterity. There were talented photographers  for that. I have several friends whose photographs have that essence of transcending the current space and time and tranporting you to that very moment they captured. How they manage to catch the birds in flight is beyond me. I said as much to the son, who gave me an amused look at yet another blurry picture I took of a nesting heron in the marshes. 

Seeing how enamored I am with our winged companions in this world, the daughter got me a book titled Bird Cottage – by Eva Meijer for my birthday. I look forward to reading it. I looked at the son as we walked on in companionable silence, and told him so.

“Now, I am reading a book on hummingbirds.” 

“I am sure you are!” He said with a smile on the corner of his lips.

“Less sass young man. It is a fascinating book. “

“That’s what I meant. You would like to read a whole book on hummingbirds. What’s it about?” he said indulging me as he walked on.

I was proud of the fellow. He had been promised a short, zipping bike ride with the wind blowing against his face. Instead, here he was on a long walk. On the trudge back, he said, “I think I am going to go home and replace my legs with another pair. They hurt!”, and he laughed raucously at his own joke.

“It would be nice to fly on home, wouldn’t it? Become a hummingbird so we can fly swiftly and purposefully home every few minutes if you so wish!”

I told him about this person who lives in Marin County who takes on orphaned hummingbirds and nurses them back to life. “They need to be fed every 20 minutes all day every day till they are strong enough to be released into the wild.” I said.

“Wow. Why do they eat so much? They are so tiny!”

“Well! They are tiny and almost fully lungs – so you have to give them tiny portions every few minutes, so they can survive and thrive. A hummingbird mother is a very busy one. She has to fly in and out of the nest every few minutes feeding, and looking after her little ones, till they are strong enough. Just like most babies.” I said. He looked confused and awed. I addressed that look and said, “Even human babies need to be fed every couple of hours throughout the day for the first few months. You know that?”

He had a vague idea until then that babies were work, but he had no idea they needed to be fed every 2 hours.

He was quiet for a few moments digesting this piece of info. I swooped in, and gave him what the early days of human baby care looked like. I rounded it off saying, “Yep! You do all that, and what do they do? Sass you on walks, and roll their eyes when they are teens!” He laughed raucously frightening a goose nearby, and we spoke of this and that, the great web of life, and the fantastic nature of living.

Pirates Vs Ninjas

I suppose I can laugh about it now. Though the crick in the neck disagrees just a teensy teensy bit.

The whole unfortunate episode reminded me yet again of how marvelous children are. Allow me to mist my eyes up a bit and remember.

“What are you doing?” I said to no one in particular though there seemed to be a herd of elephants in the room above me stampeding through the forests and jumping into the river.

Just imaginating!” Came the familiar reply, and despite the elephants-in-room feeling, I smiled. In our home, the act of pure imagination has been given a verb-form all on its own. Imaginating, we call it, and go about our business of imagination without batting an eyelid. 

A few hours later, I asked him, “Won’t you hurt yourself? Jumping and tumbling about like that – from the bed, to the table and back again through the chairs?”

He smiled and said simply, “No amma! I won’t hurt myself. Besides, it is the only way when you are trying not to put your feet on the floor.” He rolled his eyes. Must adults be this thick?!

I felt a big cloud of fog roll into the brain. “But, why must you not put your feet on the floor, my dear?”

A sheepish grin met my innocent query, and he said he was pretending to be a ninja fighting pirates, and ninjas do not walk on floors like normal people. Pirates, I was told, had no problems jumping vigorously into battle, and the elephants-thundering-sensation must have been the pirates piece of the imagination, not the ninjas.

I praised the universe for an imagination, and went on to soothe my head, while he blithely tumbled and crouched and leapt from one vantage point to another in the battle.

Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,

There I’ll establish a city for me:

A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,

And a harbour as well where my vessels may ride.

This one is sailing and that one is moored:

Hark to the song of the sailors aboard!

And see, on the steps of my palace, the kings

Coming and going with presents and things!

Robert Louis Stevenson – Child’s Garden of Verse
A Child’s Garden of Verse – Robert Louis Stevenson

The next morning, the sun peeked out from behind the autumnal clouds, wondering whether or not to shine, when it happened. I miscalculated the depth and the breadth of the bed, and tumbled out. I suppose it would have been one of those funny videos when watched in slow motion, but all I remember is a pretty tumble, and a sort of dull crick in the neck before I rolled again and came to be a pile on the floor. 

The sun is a star. We see thousands of stars at night. But do you see thousands of them by day when the sun has decided to show itself too? I wasn’t sure, but that was what I saw. Within moments, I had the loving son rushing downstairs for a glass of water and packet of frozen peas, while the husband tried to help me up, and assess the bone-situation given my propensity of breaking them

For concerned readers, I am fine. Nothing happened except that I am still sore. Three days later, I asked the son wistfully how he managed his imaginating. My neck still felt sore and my head hurt when I tilted it just so. The house needed cleaning and the food needed cooking, and the neck needed resting. What was to be done?

He looked sorry for me, and shrugged. “Maybe you can imaginate that you will win your castle in battle?”

“That sounds like a good plan. My castle only needs cleaning before the army arrives. I can dance and make merry in preparation for the royal ball?!” I said, and we smiled.

I was a royal queen who was also a fantastic dancer as I cooked and cleaned. Robert Louis Stevenson would have been proud.

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