An Orchestra of Avocets

A few black and white birds, most probably avocets, if I remember correctly were flying calmly around me in great circles. They seem to have their beaks open, and relishing whatever they were eating as they flew. They were completely at peace around me, and a great sense of serenity swept through me watching them. My vantage point was perfect. I was on a hill overlooking a lake and the avocets darted in and out at times, but glided seamlessly at others. I had just decided to not reach out my hands and touch the beautiful birds  so I could have them comfortably flit above me for a while longer, when the alarm went off. 

It was one of those nights that melt into morns – seamlessly, and far too quickly. It is a blessing indeed to be able to get up when in the midst of a beautiful dream, so surreal, calm, peaceful and oh so vivid, and I felt a great sense of possibility and serendipity as I bustled through the morning and hustled the children to school. 

The son & I hummed and listened to our favorite Disney songs on the way to school. Before starting what promised to be a full day I wondered what a group of avocets are called. Then, my meetings called and I forgot all about them.

Before piling into bed sixteen hours later, I said to the daughter, that I wished to be a hedgehog. You know just curl up under a cosy tree and forget about everything and sleep. I don’t know if hedgehogs really do so, but they definitely look like it.

I have often wondered while standing and admiring birds and other fauna in suburbia whether they ever feel the same way. Do we give them peace the way they give us peace? Do they decide to stop and look at us so they can feel peaceful as they go about their days? I think not. But what a lofty goal that would be. I suppose we are curious creatures to many of our fauna friends.

That night, I opened the book, Sweet Dreamers – by Isabelle Simler, and was I in for a surprise?

This is a children’s book that shows the many denizens of the planet settling into sleep. A bat hangs upside down, while whales float with one eye closed amidst jellyfish floats, and koalas hug eucalyptus trees. There is a page for hedgehogs curling up to sleep.

The hedgehog in the book, Sweet Dreamers

It is a sweet lyrical book, but the illustrations are what seals the book. On every page are stunning revelations. Scratch that – they are beyond stunning. Every page looks like the artist got up after seeing themselves in this joyous avatar in their dreams and just captured the sensations. 

Children’s book illustrations are always a joy to behold – this one tugs ones attention. 

Before flitting to sleep, I checked what a group of avocets is called. They are referred to as an orchestra of avocets. What a fitting collective noun for the birds of joy?

The Elusive Soother of Souls

We were at a party of sorts where good friends gathered for the evening with families. Adults, senior adults, teenagers, tweens, kids all jostled together happy to see one another.

The children got eating out of the way as soon as they could, and started playing in that vigorous fashion that makes me want to drop everything and join them. 

Mounds_of_food

People with food on their plates drifted like continents and grouped and regrouped for conversations. At one point, I found myself amidst septuagenarians talking about sleep, or lack thereof. “Go on and tell them how little I sleep!”, said the father-in-law to me.

 “He does have difficulty falling asleep…”, I said carefully, casting a longing look at the children playing outside.

He gave me a wilting look for this lame endorsement, and decided to stick it out on his own.

“I was never like this. I cannot sleep these days. I used to sleep the moment my head touched the pillow.” he said

“Me too” agreed an uncle.

“It would take sometime to fall asleep, but once I did, I could sleep well without interruptions.” said an aunt.

“How many times can one turn this way and that? How many times to say our prayers?”

“It is such a big problem. What do you think we should do?” they asked, looking at me earnestly.

Sometimes, I get when it is a rhetorical question, and nod. Other times, I behave like a particularly dimwitted penguin, and start telling an ostrich how to bury its head in the sand. I go on to make comparisons between the similarities in nature between sand and snow and how it is all a matter of technique.

penguin_ostrich

“Well, sometimes when I am excessively tired,  I find a hot bath before bed helps.” I said.

“I take a hot bath every night. Nothing helps.” my father-in-law said looking miserable. All the senior adults agreed: Baths were elementary stuff.

The squeals from the garden indicated an energetic game of hide-n-seek in progress. I glanced to see a squealing army run towards the washing machine – apparently somebody saw one of them go there to hide, and everybody was running to investigate.

By now, more folks had joined in the conv. Herbal teas were discussed next as aides to that Elusive Soother of Souls, Sleep. Chamomiles, lavenders and orange blossoms wafted their scents in.  In time, the topic had slid down the tea slopes and gone on to meditation as a technique.

“I find I worry if I have nothing to worry about”, said an aunt, and smiled wanly. “One day, I saw 2 o’clock and was so disgusted”, said she.

“But it cannot be as bad as mine. The other day, I saw 3 o’clock on the clock. 3 o’clock can you believe it?.”

My father in law said he saw 3:10, while another uncle said 3:30.

They all looked at me to declare the winner. Braver generals could have taken on the task, maybe, but I confess I shrank from the task. These individuals who would happily set themselves to lose in a game against their grandchildren were now competing for The Most Ardent Sufferer Award, and I wasn’t going to be the one to decide. Nu-Uh.

I quietly slipped into the garden, to see the children were all running strictly following the principles of Brownian motion. They ran onto the lawn and tumbled over, and ran again. The setting sun washed them all aglow. The grass on their beautiful clothes, the dirt on their cheeks, the sweat pouring down their faces, and their squeals of laughter made a marvelous sight.

The evening slowly wound down, and we gathered all the folks up and started back on the ride home. The children were giggling still, while the senior citizens in the car were discussing the food in detail.

The Payasam was very good. 

The bondas could have been hotter

The rice was good, and the curd-vadaSome of them were soaked nicely, others needed some more time to soak.

One thing, everybody seems to not be able to sleep, they said with satisfaction.

I glanced at the children. One had already fallen asleep, and the other was nodding off.

Wynken Blynken & Nod one night

Sailed off in a wooden shoe

Sailed in river of crystal light

Into a sea of dew…..

“Did you make sure the children ate well?”, their solicitous grandmother asked me.

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