Clouds & Rain

Rain Rain Go Away

Come Again An-other Day

The son was plucking away at the notes on the keyboard. I recognized the nursery rhyme and said, Let’s sing it as :

“Rain Rain Come Again

We have had none To-day”

He gave me a quizzical look, and started laughing. “Is this your words have meaning thing-y?”

“Well…yes! I mean everyday the forecast starts out as 100% rain, and then by the time the day rolls over, it is down 80% and then 40%, and then a tiny squirt like the clouds are having unitary tract issues. “ I said. 

Once their guffaws subsided, I sang along 

“Rain Rain Come Ag-ain 

We have had none To-day”.

I pondered about the garden-beds knowing that they should be bursting forth with clovers right about now, and the daughter would tell me not go about removing them, as they are so pretty. I mock-sigh, but enjoy this exchange every year all the same. I love the clovers too. The three-headed beauties remind me of the resilience of life, and the sweet and sour nature of life itself. When all the world is waiting for a spring, the snowdrops and clovers are the only ones brave enough to poke their head out and take into that leap of life.

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I am so glad to say that the first proper rains of the season descended on us this week. The sounds of the rain provided a beautiful back-drop as we went about our days. At nights, I relished the sounds of the gentle pattering rain, and the smooth whishing of the trees in the backyard. 

How beautiful gentle-ness is and how different from the gale-force winds that had ripped branches off a few days earlier? 

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I took a proper walk relishing the solitude of the fresh Earth two days after the heavy rains yesterday. Clouds were everywhere and there is nothing at all that nudges the philosopher awake like clouds and the smells of clean Earth. Thousands of seeds seem to have taken the leap of faith with the waters that descended over them in the past week, and the hills were green with possibilities. The poignancy of the writing in the book, Lab Girl, By Hope Jahren, nudged me. I stood there, admiring the fresh shoots, and relishing what she wrote:

“Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” – Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

The possibilities of beginning and waiting play out endlessly in our lives. Sometimes, it is with the need for action, the time to spurt forth. At others, it is in the waiting. The time for things to play out so we can gain clarity. For those of us who favor action, the waiting of the seed is an important lesson. At others, the spurting of life itself is the nudge to take the leap of faith.

I came back with that look of contentment that the family recognized: there was no denying it, I had photographs to show them, and though I recognized the medium could hardly capture the magnificence of Being There, I still reveled in showing them pictures of all the wonders I had seen. 

Sometimes, nature astounds me with variety: In one day out with nature I saw hawks, wildcats, squirrels, turkeys, deer, herons, grebes, fresh shoots of all sort of flora and fauna, not to mention the play of the light through the clouds at sunset. A friend of mine feels that animals cross our paths to send us a message. I think the menagerie I encountered was trying to send me the message that life is beautiful, if we take the time to live it fully, creatively and wholly.

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Some of the books in January had already set the message :

  • A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
  • The River Bank and other stories from the Wind in the Willows – Graham Greene
  • Friends at Thrush Green – Miss Read
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon – By Kelly Barnhill
  • The Water Princess – Susan Verde (Childhood experience of Georgie Badiel)
  • Emily Writes – Emily Dickinson and her Poetic Beginnings – Jane Yolen, Christine Davanier

That evening, the son plucked at the notes for Clouds on his keyboard, and the clouds flitted above:

See the Clouds, in the sky

Wonder how they, Fly so high!

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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Weather Monsters

“Have you gotten your bags ready?” my friends’ voices piped over the phone. 

“Uh – not yet. Got a bag down from the loft – will get to it.” I said shuffling my feet as I said so.

“Well..what are you doing now?”

“Writing about the weather over the past week.” I said somewhat sheepishly, and a loud laughter emanated from the other side. 

We toodled off with the sentiment of “Well Nero fiddled, I write!” but I am not going to lie. I was rattled, and went off to pack the emergency kit. The wildfires were too close for comfort – the air has been thick with smoke.

Exactly a week ago:

The days had been stifling in the heat wave that gripped the land. Oppressive waves rose from the shimmering hills nearby, and the eyes squinted for respite after the briefest strays outside. Some evenings had a splattering of clouds giving rise to splendid sunsets, and while I swooned my way through the evening walk, I yearned for a bit of rain, if nothing but to smell the parched sizzling earth cooling off a little bit. 

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I may have wished too soon.

For the very next day, I was looking at the most improbable of sights. I had set a whimsical alarm to rouse me at 5:30 a.m on that Sunday rearing for a hike before the sun started beating down on us. 

While I am always crooning about Nature and talking about it being the greatest soother of all time and all that, I often forget nature’s fury. I live in California where we pay a weather-tax. For the most part, the weather conditions are soothing, flowers bloom the year around, and though I yearn for more rains, it is a mellow nature that greets me most days. But that morning, I listened astounded as thunder rumbled overhead and the noise penetrated the double-paned windows, and then in the darkness the whole house stood illumined for a few seconds. I glanced unwittingly towards the sleeping children, and I stood awed.

We have easily gone more than two decades without thunder and lightning storms of this magnitude in this area. What was going on? 

I whispered to the husband – “Wow! Rain was not even in the weather forecast huh?” and stood mesmerized by the window wondering whether a walk was still on the cards if not a hike.

The husband looked at me and said, “Are you nuts?! Who goes out in this weather? Hiking at that. Nothing doing – if this is you wanting to watch the rain, pull up a chair and sit by the window!”, and he went right back to bed.

So, I did just that – I woke the son and showed him the lightning and the rain pelting down. It made for a magical morning, but I hadn’t completely realized the harm a storm of this magnitude can unleash on an already dry and parched Earth. In under 6 hours, there were more than 10,000 flashes of lightning starting over 300 fires that continue to rage across the Bay Area.

Time Lapse based off Satellite images of the Lightning strikes and subsequent fires in the area.

In just a few days we had experienced everything from heat waves to lightning and thunder storms – all in the midst of a pandemic no less. The air quality deteriorated significantly as the fires raged and fire fighters poured in from everywhere to contain the fires. 🔥 The sheer magnitude of the fires 🔥 they were dealing with had simple folk like me blanching, but these teams had strategy and they were working tirelessly. The tenacity for a job like that! 

In our skies, an angry sun shone through when it could through the smog.

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One week later:

Wildfires continue to rage over thousands of acres of land. Beloved forests and mountains ranges that have provided solace and comfort to millions of people over the years have been lost to the fires. My heart caught at the news that Big Basin Redwoods were damaged badly. Though redwood trees are supposed to be extraordinarily resilient to fires  and would probably make it past these fires, I grieved. Every time I visited these forests, I have come back not just refreshed, but spiritually in a better place as have thousands of tree huggers over the years. A true space for forest bathing or shinrin yoku as the Japanese call it.

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It has been a week since the lightning strikes. 1 week in which more than 60,000 acres of land have been burnt, with ominous statistics of 5% fire contained, fire alerts etc.

California Redwoods 

2020 seems to be determined to make its mark.




 

November Novelty

A Version of this post appeared in The India Currents Magazine – the article focuses on communication.

The quality of the evening was ethereal. The cold November evenings had begun to set in. I had turned the thermostat up a couple of notches, the white light effused a warm glow against the fall colored curtains. Halloween was still fresh in everyone’s memory, Diwali had snuggled in, and spread its share of warmth and joy even amidst some moments of disquiet with raging fire and wind whipped storms.

 

 

I surveyed the house and felt a surge of warmth course through me. Dear friends and family were visiting, and I was glowing with pleasure at the companionship of the evening. The house had been through the cleaning wheel: which is to say that the closets were groaning and stuffed to their very brims. I warned guests to open any closet with care warning them that a dozen things could tumble out. All the children – residents and visitors, nodded with sincerity, but I found them an hour later playing hide-and-seek, and amazingly finding place to hide in the very closets that I thought sent me a clear memo to not put anything else in there. Oh well!

The conversation was ebbing and flowing with the fine food and beverages among the young and old alike. Jesty topics were making their way towards hefty ones, and laughter was being sprinkled with wrinkled looks of concentration as differing viewpoints were proffered, and evaluated. The beautiful feeling of minds changing slightly from their earlier stances mingled with the exasperation of trying to string complex thoughts into words – one word at a time, were at work, and I marveled at humanity once again.

“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.”
― William Hazlitt, Selected Essays, 1778-1830

Can we get better? Absolutely. But I sometimes feel we lose sight of marvelous gift we have of empathy and of trying to understand one another. Moments in which we bestow upon one another the inestimable gift of attentive listening with a view to understanding. I was reminded of the saying, that I read somewhere a while ago.

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity – Simone Weil

When we talk of meaningful moments, it is moments like these that we wish to savor. November is unusually so – whether it is because it is my birthday month or the time for Thanksgiving, and therefore a time for gratitude, or something else, I cannot say, but I find it is a good time of year to look back on the past year, reflect on the grains that made up the texture of the preceding months, and those months layered upon years, like a tree adding a ring to its makeup.

Sappy perhaps? But so is life. 

 

 

It is the time of year when I select books with happy endings, the time of year I make it a point to snuggle in with my books and children,  buckle down and write more for November is Novel Writing Month.

The air is nippier, the nights longer. It is also the time for crunch parties for in the area I live the trees are resplendent with the colors of Autumn. The gingko trees are turning gold (post coming up soon). There is no greater joy than seeing life scurry about in these changed surroundings. The promise of rain is in the air. Misty mornings make for a magical start. Even the waxing and waning of the moon brings with it a new joy for the nights longer and the evenings bring with it a different texture of joy. Kawaakari is sooner (Kawaakari – a beautiful Japanese word denoting the rays of the setting sun on a flowing river)

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It is a time to send thanks for all the small and big things in life. A time in short for us to enjoy Hygge. A wonderful word the Danish have, denoting the warmth emanating from inside even as the winters outside grow colder.

Here is to a wonderful season of the upcoming holidays, of nurturing light in a dark world.

A Pluviophile’s Song

The night lamp was on, and I had a harried, desultory look on my face. It had been one of those days in which a lot had happened, but nothing had really happened. Days sent to try stout persons souls. The husband came and told me that I should probably try meditating for a bit, but I shook my head stubbornly. What if I fell asleep? 

He looked at me amused. His eyes danced with the unspoken words: Who are you and where is my wife?

I laughed, and understood the look. A Lover Of Her Sleep if ever there was one. I  told him I wanted to read a little, since I have been falling behind in my reading, and he shook his head indulgently. I really do think you should sleep though – you look so tired!, he said, a line creasing his forehead as he looked at me. I swatted at the idea like a pesky fly, and surveyed the bedside table. 

I don’t know how to use the word Tsundoku correctly in a sentence, but I had Tsundoku-ed the local championship leagues. Piles of books were stacked – children’s books, fiction books, non-fiction books, and all looking enticing and inviting. 

Tsundoku is a beautiful word denoting the piles of unread books by one’s bedside.

Tsundoku (Japanese: 積ん読) is acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them.[1][2][3]

The term originated in the Meiji era (1868–1912) as Japanese slang.[4] It combines elements of tsunde-oku (積んでおく, to pile things up ready for later and leave) and dokusho (読書, reading books). It is also used to refer to books ready for reading later when they are on a bookshelf. As currently written, the word combines the characters for “pile up” () and the character for “read” ().[4]

I picked up a serious tome, and settled in. I had no idea I had been scowling till I started smiling a few minutes later. It was the musical patter of the rain. The beautiful rain was coming down in bucketfuls. I opened the curtains, and reveled in the beauty of the rain lashing down against the windows, soaking the tree tops, and flattening the flower beds. There is nothing prettier than the night skies sending torrents of rain. 

I loved the word Pluviophile. Meaning a lover of the rain, it seemed to have a nice ring to it, a word meant to bring a smile to one’s face.

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I opened the door, and watched the rain. I felt the cool breeze caress my face, and felt a surge of gratitude. I had said to my friends only a few days earlier that it will be lovely to have another bout of rain before the summer months set in and the neighboring hills turned brown. The Earth had already started emanating a slightly thirsty aura, and I yearned for the smell of rain against the hot Earth. 

I have been looking for the word that captures that welcome scent, and found one recently. 

Petrichor (/ˈpɛtrɪkɔːr/) is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. The word is constructed from Greek petra (πέτρα), meaning “stone”, and īchōr (ἰχώρ), the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

The Pluviophile in me smiled at the word and tucked it away for future use. 

The weather forecast had predicted a Storm. In the US, it is never Rains but Storms. The rain I had watched was not a Storm. A Storm is when the rain huffs and puff and stomps its weight around. But this was no Storm. The street lights cast a lovely light on the clouds overhead and the raindrops pouring down. The world looked mellow and in that moment of watching the rain, a calm descended upon me.

After a few moments, I traipsed back to bed. I lovingly surveyed my Tsundoku pile again, and set my tome aside. It was time to read a Children’s book. Storm by Sam Usher beamed up at me, and I snuggled in with the lovely book.

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A beautiful book that captured the joy of playing outside after the rains and storms. I have never flown a kite successfully, and the book made me want to. The illustrations are mellow works of Art, and after admiring all the pictures in the book, I slept the sleep of the tired but happy.

Raining on the Parade

I bowled along as usual trying to catch my commuter train. My bag was flung behind me with a velocity that can knock rhinos off their feet, my car beeped hurriedly as I locked it and I charged as fast as the recently rain-soaked streets would allow me to. Why I don’t leave just 2 minutes earlier is a lingering soul-searching question. There are days when there is a game and the trains are crowded, but these are mostly during the evening commute, not mornings. But this morning was different. People were milling around the station first thing in the morning. All of them were dressed in Orange and Black, like they belonged to some sort of Halloween fraternity. Closer observation, however, revealed that they were devoted followers of the SF Giants team and that team, having won the game, was having a victory parade that day to which all the enthusiastic fans were going. I could have checked the news before leaving I suppose, but that would have made me charge for the next train not this one.

I squeezed myself onto the train, and hoped for the best. What I was not ready for, was for folks to glare at me just because I was not dressed in Orange & Black. I was wearing a pretty royal blue and black skirt and I admit I could have been more warmly dressed for it was a rainy sort of day. (I could also have checked the weather before starting. ) But I still did not think that people would be so worried about my feeling cold. I mean, their concern was touching and a trifle disconcerting. Freedom of dress and all that, what?  (I suppose that is not a fundamental freedom, but it felt like it was worth tacking one on, on that long train ride) There was a guy who looked at me and pointedly yelled, “Giants Rule!” to great back-thumping and cheer. I smiled ruefully and looked down avoiding all eye-contact. (Avoiding eye contact is another art you master over the years of traveling with a wide variety of co-passengers : some dotty, some dodgy, some rude, some out to make an ass of you, but mostly ordinary folk like myself that no one wants to bother with.)

I was glad to get off at my station, only to be met with more stares as I walked down the crowded streets towards my office. The rain was coming down pretty heavily and I was enjoying the raindrops and trying to navigate the crowds. The parade was to pass through the main street artery of the city and people were spilling out of liquor stores and doughnut shops. The combination of excess sugar and liquor on a rainy morning was a bit too much to contemplate. I was glad to enter my office and look down safely on the crowds from the window. That was atmosphere enough for me.  I checked the news on arrival and found that I had missed a triple hat draw: It was the SF giants parade, Halloween and Critical Mass (which means all cyclists take to the streets and blow traffic flows to the wind from their rooftops). Combine all three events together to imagine the traffic snarls and train crowds.

Various reports jostled at me : The local school authorities had requested folks to attend school that day instead of the Giants Parade. Another report said that it was to be an alcohol-free day. I grinned and sneaked a peek at the street below. It was 9:00 in the morning and the liquor store across the street looked like a very busy place! A number of children, evidently of school-age had not listened to the school authorities pleas and were looking happy and excited too. The sea of Orange & Black was like watching a large, mutating cloud. Strangely exciting and slightly unnerving.

Giants Rule

It was only when I touched upon the topic of dress with a colleague that he enlightened me on the stares. Apparently, I was dressed in the colors of the opposing team that the Giants had battled so valiantly to win against. As if the weather gods were not doing it enough, I had rained on their parade. The staunch supporters of the Orange & Black Giants team,  who braved the colds and rain, probably thought it was excessively rude of me to flaunt the opposing teams colors on their faces. Sigh. I can only thank my stars that people were nice enough to not do anything more than glare at me. Still, it seemed prudent to cover up with a jacket on the ride back home! One can never be sure of the effects of a day full of alcohol, rain and sugar, can we?

Rain, rivers and glaciers

California found itself in the eye of a storm. The storm has been pounding the daylight out of the state with no restraint. When I say daylight out of the state, I mean it. A quick walk at noon requires flashlights, raincoats and squashy boots.

Umbrellas that hitherto held their spokes up high now cower under the wrath of the skies.

A helpful illustration to drive home the point

This is the second umbrella of mine to suffer this fate. Umbrella sales have been brisk. Stores did not have time to run new price tags raising the price, and resorted to sticking ridiculous prices using scrap paper and licking the back of it for glue.

The rain water has become fast rivers and paper boats meet terrible fates. One tends to stop and muse about fast flowing rivers and slow flowing rivers and hardly flowing rivers. So, what does the world give to innocent ponderings such as this. The kind that could someday change the premise of the World? This.

The world has been mistakenly led to believe that all the glaciers in the Himalayas would melt by 2035.

Himalayan Glaciers Vanish
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6991177.ece

Bopa Uncle and Kreeta Aunty were enjoying the morning sun-rise from their porch house in Darjeeling. Bopa uncle always wanted to impress Kreeta Aunty and randomly pulled studies from his imagination with numbers that appealed to him. He went a bit overboard with the sun glinting and blurted out a bit dramatically perhaps, “By 2035, you take my word, by 2035, all the glaciers in the Himalayas will be gone.”

Kreeta Aunty did what was expected of her and gasped. Little did Bopa Uncle know that his jaunty boast would make it to the Times. So, while the angry skies have been trashing umbrellas and swaying trees, the world finds out that the whole thing about glaciers in the Himalayas was a fib all along.

Sigh!