Spring Fever

“Why do goats looks so stern? I thought they are happy especially now in spring-time. Like lambs in spring-time could also mean like goat-kids in spring-time, no?”

The children exchanged looks. They knew to diagnose my bout of Spring Fever. I am seen scuttling off to sniff the air and marvel at life sitting up and stirring from its sleepy winter state. I head into the house looking flushed and happy. By evening, I am tired, but refuse to reduce the dose of spring bounding. But still this talk of stern looking goats had them worried.

“Ma?! You okay? Why are we talking of goats now?” said the daughter a mock-solicitous look in her eye, and I laughed out loud, and told them the context of the goat-ish tale.

“Well, it all started like this. Do you remember last Friday evening being  particularly beautiful? So, I shut the laptop with a whim, and headed out into the sunset. The hills were alive with the magic of spring. I told myself poetically that I could not bear to be a cell in a spreadsheet anymore. I wanted to be a newly sprouted leaf on a tree, a whimsical flower fluttering away in the mild breeze, or a Finnish fainting goat chewing thoughtfully at that latest blade of grass.

“Not for me the confines of mankind! Get rid of the shackles, and head out! “ I said.

” Uh-hm – someone would think you have a mission you are fighting for. How many times will you take pictures of the cherry blossoms and the clouds, and the sunset, hmm?” said the children but I waved these things away. Days like this are not meant to be wasted indoors arguing about the wisdom or lack thereof of going outdoors.

For a few months of the year, our neck of the woods resembles fairy lands, or the lands of the gods, or maybe heaven itself. The occasional rains, the burst of wildflowers, and the sunsets are all glorious. So much so that I find myself wandering around the countryside apparently lost, but really just finding the inner self. At least it is what I tell myself when that pile of laundry needs washing or that closet needs cleaning. Marie Kondo urges me to better myself, but Early Spring is more inviting. 

The fox squirrels atop the plum blossoms look naughty, while the fainting goat looks stern, the horse in the pastures peaceful, and the sunset glorious.

Where was I? Yes, on the stern looks of Finnish fainting goats. I had often wondered while reading the Three Billy Goats Gruff why the author went in for Gruff, but I see the choice of the word as I stood there admiring the serene setting against which the Finnish Fainting goat stood in its patch of farmland.

“Anyway, ” I said getting back to the point of stern goats, “I suppose if I had foul folks like me boggling at their spot of residence in that manner just because it is Spring, I would be gruff too! But the goat has a manner that is at once endearing, sober and majestic. The clump of fur on its chin growing away like a goatee (Get it? Get it? Goats have goatees!) made it look wise, and the green grass it chomped on made the world look a sweeter place.”

The children moaned not unlike the goat, and said, “Why not just call it a goat, why this fancy Finnish Fainting Goat?”

img_1352

“That is easy my dears. Google assures me that the picture I took of the goat is a Finnish Fainting Goat. And in any case, I doubt you would have listened patiently if I said I would tell you a story about a goat. No you would not have. But a Finnish Fainting Goat got your attention, did it not?” I said feeling clever.

“Ma?!” said the daughter, clenching her teeth. “You haven’t told us the story of the goat. You told us about the goat…you know what?! Never mind!”

“Yes…Never mind.” I said using that conciliatory spring-time tone, and said, “I will take you hiking there to see the old fellow. I am sure you all will like him. Looks like a satyr of your Greek myths. There is your story! Percy Jackson stuff on our next hike! ”

I ignored the ensuing groans. The fainting goat satyr and narcissus blooms will help.

The Physics Of Myth

“Which is your favorite tree?” asked the children one day.

I am often asked questions like this, especially by the elementary school going son. Your favorite color, your favorite food, your favorite flower and on and on till I shriek in agony, at which point he flips to – when was the first time you ate with a spoon, when was the first time you touched a frog, when did you first climb a tree?

I thought about the favorite tree one though: which one was my favorite tree? Is it the oak tree that I plonked my satchel under every day in school, or the flowering jacaranda trees under which we had steaming hot cups of tea with friends, or the tall eucalyptus tree that edged our street towering majestically against the skies signaling home was nearby, or the fir & pine trees that contributed to many an amateur flower arrangement lending beauty and joy to the surroundings, or the willow that made one want to relax just by its shape and allure, or the gingko tree that makes me smile on a evening walk, or the oleander trees that sag with flowers in the summer, or the fruit trees in my backyard that are so hospitable to squirrels ,or the redwood trees that urge me to be like them: strong, resilient and upright, or the curious, curvy bristlecone trees that remind me they are older than our oldest myths, or the pine tree with an elephant head that reminds me of the time the son as a toddler tried to fit his understanding of Physics into Myth?

 

It was a tough question and I told them so. The son scenting a ‘wild’ story from his childhood asked for the story, and I mock-sighed before telling him:

“One day a couple of years ago, when you were very much a toddler, and had just started attending a preschool, you picked up a book from the library about Lord Ganesha. You were thrilled with the find because Indian mythology is hardly found in the libraries in America, right? Lord Ganesha Curses The Moon – was the title. Appa and you settled down to read together at night.

Anyway, so, remember the story? It went something like this:

The moon used to beam as a full moon every night. One day, the moon laughed at Lord Ganesha when he tripped and fell in the forest.  Ganesha promptly got angry at the moon, and cursed it into oblivion.The whole world plunged into darkness (this was before electric lights remember?). At this, the book painted some gory pictures of the problems faced by the population because it was completely dark. People fell, people bumped into each other, people were robbed. Soon, everyone begged Ganesha to take back his curse. But he couldn’t. His word being law and all that. 

So.

An impasse was reached, and soon the king of Gods, Indra, came to him and asked him to do something about it. Ganesha thought and thought, and finally reached a compromise. He said the moon could grow from no moon to the full moon, and then shrink back again to no moon. That ought to teach him not to laugh at people. The moon agreed, and that is how it remains to this day.

ganesha_moon

After the story, Appa asked you, “What do you think of the story? Do you really think that is what happened?”

You had that serious look on your face as you thought about it, and you said, “Yes, of course. That’s when the moon must have started going around the Earth, and the Earth started spinning, so the moon could grow bigger and smaller.”

“Appa told me what you said later, and ever since I think of that story and remember how you fit your understanding of Physics into that mythological story when I see that fir tree with an elephant head.”

“Did I really do that?” asked the son laughing heartily, and I smiled.

It was true of course. His response had us flabbergasted, for we hardly ever consciously think about how we continually shape our worldly views and understanding. We subtly and subconsciously incorporate the stories we hear, choosing to consider which ones to digest and which ones to leave.

“So, as you see, I cannot only name one favorite tree. I love them all. Just like…”

“We know…. we know! Just like you love us both!”, said the children, and I smiled my favorite smile.

In Boysenberry Jelly & Mistletoe Jam

On the drive back from the Inyo Canyons, in one day, we found ourselves dealing with gusty winds, a snow storm and a rain storm before the day was out. The Wind, The Snow & The Rain – Part 2.

We were now stuck in a snow storm. The highway men had come and swapped the rustic freeway sign to ‘Snow Chains Required’ and left. We had snow chains and I supposed they worked.

By the time we had pulled out the snow chains, we were covered with snow. Our brains were exhorting the toes to wiggle but there was no inclination from the toes to w. Miss-tle-toe for you. The nose was thirty degrees below freezing point. Rudolph the red nosed reindeer anyone? Ours had turned a lovely boysenberry color and had a reindeer been about would gladly have chomped off our noses. We peered into the snow chain package. The husband beamed like a snowman with a crooked twig for a smile and said he had opened the case prior to leaving in a rare state of prescience. I gave him the my-hero look and fumbled for the instruction manual. There it was: in 8 easy steps, it laid out how to install snow chains.

Take clip, Clasp to the tire,  Move to opposite side of tire,  Do something on the side of the tire facing the inside of the car, Take clip and clasp to the tire,  Rotate the chain under the tire and, Clasp,  Click

It looked easy enough to do on a sunny day with our garage door open, some music in the background and no car on top. But the instructions seemed to have completely missed the car on top of the tires in the pictures. One look at the tires, the snow, our freezing hands, and the car on top of it was enough. There are times when we look competent, and times when we don’t. This was one of those times when we were not. Looking c I mean.

reindeer_snowchains

It is at moments like this that the husband really comes into his own. While I was fumbling with the instructions, he was gone. One second, I was oh-see-this-ing to him and the next moment, I was oh-see-this-ing to a sympathetic looking fir tree. He bolted like a hare into the tavern conveniently located on the opposite side of the road, and came back with an eminently more competent looking chap from the pub. The cherubic fellow rubbed his hands together and said he could help. ‘I have done snow tires before, but you really should try it out once you know. ‘ he said plainly putting a decent face to his thoughts.

In less than ten minutes, the chap had installed the snow chains. I clasped his hands with gratitude looking like a dying duck who had just been given a new lease of life. I quacked on to thank him effusively and went so far as to call him a brother in need. The daughter, keen as always, asked me why I said that since she was not sure her Anand Maama would be any help with installing snow chains even if he had been in the car. A fair point.

There is something grandiose about snow chains. I suppose emperors frequently feel this way once they wear their crowns. They get a swagger, a dangerous over-confidence. The snow chains were the crowns to the tires, and off we went all smiles, confidence and swagger.

Post snow chains, in about 43 seconds, we found the car doing the reindeer-magic-mushroom sequence again with renewed vigor and whim. The car was not just mobile but intent on being perpendicular to the road and spinning a good 180 degrees.

Nature had not even shown her fury, and there we were spinning on highways, making boysenberry jelly with our noses, playing mistletoe with our toes,  and wondering whether we would be able to get out – snow tires or not, before nightfall. In what is a miracle,after about an hour in which a child tumbling could have overtaken us, we emerged into the rain and not an ounce of snow. It was as if they were different worlds.

As we were fumbling on the roadside in the rain to take the snow chains off, a brilliant red fire truck pulled up behind us, and the firemen helped us out smiling and chatting amiably all the while. We did the dying-duck-thank-sequence, and off we went on our way driving in the pouring rain.

In one day, we had whipped past gusty, gale-like winds, glided helplessly in a snow storm and thundered through a heavy rain storm.  The bright blue skies had turned grey and murky to ink blue and thunderous all in the span of a few hours.

We tottered into the house for a hastily made rasam and rice, and sighed like octogenarians with our feet in front of the heater that there was no place like home.

A Nefelibata’s Santa Claus Myth

I rarely save the works of art that my children produce. For one, there are so many, and for another, while some of them are hilarious, they are no masterpieces (yet! – I read somewhere that good parents don’t say things like this and always leave the doors open for whatever the future might bring. If the future springs the brilliant artist, I don’t want to be the lousy mother thwarting the Sotheby’s auction, do I?)  So, I have no way of comparing the drawings of the six year old daughter to see what hidden psychological messages were in there. According to this news article, deciphering a six year old’s drawings can give us remarkable insight into their minds.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/12/08/368693069/kids-drawings-speak-volumes-about-home

I tried analyzing the work of the 3 year old son, and I could make out nothing. He asked me to guess what the picture he was holding up was, and I told him it looked like a very shiny pig or a jellyfish. He cackled loudly and said that he tried to make a pink christmas tree. I don’t mind tapping Freud from his grave and asking him to interpret that, but I am pretty sure, he’d choose to remain dead.

Jellyfish or Pig or Pink Christmas Tree?
This is my drawing of course, because I did not save the original one – but you get the gist.

Anyway, this brought an interesting question to mind. What if I interpreted my own drawings? I had in a recent drawing placed a house on a dog’s tail (which was kindly brought to my attention by a reader later on)

See house on dog's tail?
See house on dog’s tail?

What would that mean in the light of the latest letter to Santa? The daughter had asked for a dog. She very well knows there is no Santa for the past few years at least, but just plays along to see what she can get.

Regular readers of the blog know that the request for a dog in the household rears its head every now and then. It is usually silenced by me (a trifle vehemently at times) or in a more wishy-washy sort of manner by the husband, who then looks sorry when confronted by me on what he meant by saying, “Maybe we will think about one in a few month’s time.”

“How many months?” asks the daughter expectantly

“What do you mean by months?” I say pushing a couple of daggers out of my eye sockets, and the husband scurries for safety.

Hitherto while asking for a dog, she had relied on techniques such as “You don’t have to do anything. We will look after the dog.”  (By saying ‘we’, she includes the toddler brother who stands around nodding enthusiastically without having the least idea as to what it takes to have a dog in the household. The few occasions he has been in the presence of one has been spent like a monkey on a tree with a lion prowling down below) The matter gained traction again a few months ago and I wondered where the renewed vigor was coming from. Now, I was getting the old oil, “Oh! Don’t you miss not having someone to cuddle up with, now that we are all grown-up? Hey! You know what might help? A dog!”

It was only when I went to talk to her teacher a few weeks ago that the mystery was unraveled. Her teacher had told them how to form a convincing case, say, on how to get a dog, and she assures us that she had never held a class in such rapturous attention. Apparently, she had told them to come up with points that will help their cause, for example: come up with what the other party will gain out of the proposition. The daughter, having racked her brains, could easily see how I would poke holes in the We-will-look-after-dog theory, and went in for the psychological wringing.

Well, I was not buying it (yet). Let me explain why. There are some images that cannot be easily wiped from one’s brain. Two vicious specimens come to mind. Both of them were not more than 5 inches in height, long and had tempers like vipers about to be curdled in whatever-vipers-are-curdled-in and bites like adders. To their considerable repertoire of talents was the fact that they could smell like hounds ( which they were), and ornamental nose though I had, it was completely useless in detecting dogs hidden behind bushes. The results had been extremely disturbing. A physical education teacher of mine, once saw me leg it up 67 stairs at one go in the pouring rain and opined that the best way to train me for the forthcoming Athletics Championships was to set a couple of dogs after me. Not pleasant I tell you. Not pleasant.

Now, I know that dogs in the United States are extremely docile beings and rarely bite. But I am not sure I can move past the canine horrors of my past and embrace a dog in the household.

More than any of that,  I am not sure I need another living being to look after, I have 4 large fir trees, 3 fishes, 2 children, 1 husband, 1 apricot tree , 1 cherry tree, many plants to nurture and often have visiting parents. Maybe the Myth of Santa has to be officially busted this year, I thought to myself and peered at the letter below the tree and saw amendments.

There, in brackets it said: (I know my mom will not like a dog, so can I have some king doh if not a dog?)

I like this pragmatism even though she is lost in the clouds of her imagination, an imagination liberally spotted with unicorns and dogs sometimes. (I found an interesting word that means just that by the way – Nefelibata)