The Sappy Pine

I sat outside idly watching the world as it continued on its day. These rare moments of solitude and stillness are more refreshing than any energy pills being advertised on television or in between YouTube videos. The wind stirred at the pace it was going to: Today , incidentally, was idle breeze day. The clouds in the distance were parting to reveal a blue sky. The birds made their brave show chirping, catering to their little ones in their nest, or flitting about joyously it seemed. 

Sitting outside like this, without any fast forward buttons reminds us of the nature of time. How come we manage to fill all our moments with alarms, and meetings, placing firm demands on the hours available to us, while other living beings around us manage to live in harmony with the seasons? The rose buds bloom, the fresh leaves sprout after winter, the nest eggs hatch, and life seems to go on: on a schedule of its own, quite distinct from what we have.

I watched mesmerized as the breeze rippled through the luscious pine tree nearby generating green soothing waves, and thought of the magic of life around us. Every tree, every plant was a marvel, and a couple of sparrows playing high near the top of the tree were a joy to watch. Nature’s forms are truly amazing. 

The car was parked under the beautiful tree, and enjoying its hospitable shade. I nodded approvingly as the Californian summers have started beating down after cloudy starts to the day. It is like the curtains part around mid morning, and then the sun seems to take upon itself to show us its dazzling abilities.  

Musing on how we must spend some time sleeping under the stars, watching the moonlight piercing through the sharp pine needles etc, I headed inside.

Komorebi (木漏れ日): is a beautiful word meaning the sunlight or moonlight filtering through the trees.

I managed to convey a rather jumbled version of this evocative feeling of nature to the children and husband, and they looked at me with something approaching pity. Was I alright? Did I need my head examined? They certainly weren’t having this business of sleeping under pine trees whatever else I said.

“What if a pine cone falls on your head huh?” said one, and I had no answer.

“Well….they aren’t very big pinecones.”

A large guffaw greeted this rather clever observation. I drew myself up haughtily and said, “You know how you are worried about something? Well, if you sit down outside, and watch the wind rustle the pine leaves, you aren’t. “ I said. I must admit, it sounded weak even to me, as I said it. So, I finished up strongly: “I mean nature always delivers!”

I peeked at the car standing in the shade, and shrugged happily at it. At least the car was having a good time of it. 

Maybe I should’ve waited before pandering on about the pine tree, for a few days later, the car was distinctly sticky. A large dose of pine sap had dripped on the car. 

“Eww! That is disgusting and it refuses to come off when you wipe it!” I wailed. 

The nourishncherish household exchanged amused looks and did not say, “Nature always delivers!” To that, I am grateful.

Annus Confusionis

His voice  quivered with excitement as he read the page out to us. 

Never mind that it was early in the morning, and he did not yet know that the  morning tea was working its way slowly through the cells waking them up. The cells were hitting snooze like the body they reside in usually does with the alarm clock. Yes, things  were getting off to a slow start in the old body. The son, in sharp contradistinction, woke up like a light bulb switched on to full power with the opening of the eyelids. He shone brightly, and his vocal chords took on the  timbre of the morning bugle as he trumpeted the queer finding on Time. 

“Can you imagine a year with 445 days?”

“uhhhhnnnhhhuuujn” 

To this legible response, he prattled on reading aloud to us from his Encyclopedia of Queer Facts.

“Yeah! It was in the year 46 B C, King  Julius Ceaser corrected the lunar  calendar.  This year became known as the annus confusionis or the year of confusion, since the year  had 445 days! Imagine how our  school must have felt!” he said looking up from the thrilling page. 

Time has always excited him – what  it is, how do we measure it, why does it always flow forward and never backwards? 

Time

I poked my cells up into waking up – it seemed the decent things to do in the presence of such excitement.  

“Exciting huh?! Would they have increased the number of school holidays  (a 5 month summer vacation) or the number of school days?”

It must have been enthralling.  Only, school as we know it today was not in session then – schooling as we know it today only came into existence about   200 years ago to equip people with the ability to sit in one place and learn to get used to it.

So they probably continued with their statue making and war-ring even though the seasons were completely out of whack with what was happening around them. What did they name the months? It must  have been an exciting time to be on the committee determining such things! I wish I could go back in time and be a fly on the  wall for those meetings, instead of the ones I  usually go to. 

“Isn’t it amazing the  kinds of things human beings  have figured out?” I said, “And, then we used this knowledge to build on it, and build some more. I suppose it will only truly get boring when we  have nothing to keep us curious. Thinker & Tinkers!”

This was probably the conversation that inspired me to read about Nicholas Copernicus.

I have often marveled at how Thinking Mankind figured out our place in the Cosmos, the fact that Earth  is round, rotates on its axis, and so much more. After all, there were no spacecraft beaming pictures back to us then. The irony was not lost on me, that had we not figured out these things, the spacecraft could not have been built at  all. How  would we  know escape velocities and  thermodynamic thrusts and gravitational pulls in the first place?

This year is a leap year, and a reminder that we can figure out when we need years  of confusion, and when we need to just  look upon  the years of confusion benignly  to  stir ourselves towards better things. Like Jane Goodall said:

“Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our true potential.”  – Jane Goodall

Posts referenced in this post:

Books:

What We Do

I bobbed among the sea of fresh laundry. The children were helping with the folding and sorting, while I cackled and rattled around like a mother hen. Mother hens don’t fold clothes, I know, but it is a metaphor, or a simile or an odious comparison when viewed from the angle of a hen. Anyway, the conversation was quicker than the folding and after some time, I patted them on a job well done, and sent them over for a spot of week-end television. They tumbled off clucking happily. A prized activity they seem to think it is, though they seem to watch the same programs over and over again. 

After some more cleaning, I took stock. True, there was loads of cleaning left to do, but that was always the case. For now, the boats of laundry were taken care of, the family fed, the kitchen scrubbed, the shoes, jackets and all the paraphernalia that is plopped all over the place were back where they belonged. The children were happily watching their week-end television, and the husband was pretending to do some work on the computer. All was well.

I gingerly stepped out for a breath of fresh air even though it was cold. As soon as I opened the door, the wind gently lifted my hair welcoming my foray into the quiet pleasures of a Winter day. I surveyed my flower pots weathering the wind, rain and still cheerfully raising their heads welcoming the end of Winter. If that isn’t an invitation for a stroll, I don’t know what is, I told myself and set off, an umbrella swinging on my arm, and my spirits slowly rising to meet the clouded skies above.

img_1995.jpg

I stopped to gaze up at the trees sprouting the early Cherry Blossoms every now and then. One particular tree looked marvelous: There seemed to be a luminous glow on the cherry blossoms, with the dew drops glistening on them, and I could not help standing there, and catching a respite from the never ending activity that swirled around me. Our tasks and accomplishments seem to be so loud and cantankerous compared to this marvelous phenomenon of early Spring don’t they? 

The blossoming of a flower. 

I stood there wondering how lovely it would be to see the flower blossom, to actually see it expand into a flower from a bud. I suppose you could show me hundreds of time-lapse videos, but I still wanted to see the real thing. In front of my eyes. 

That is the sort of thing that will try the Dalai Lama’s patience, and I am happy that the thought to at least try it crossed my mind, since I knew my limits when it came to stilling the mind. A monkey mind if ever there was one. 

Watching a flower bloom is a thought that has occurred to many before me, and will occur to many after me. All we need to do is stop and admire a flower. In the River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks, he says that as a boy, he used time lapse photography using multiple photographs and frames to develop the blossoming of a flower. To play with time in a sense.

“I experimented with photographing plants. Ferns, in particular, had many attractions for me, not least in their tightly wound crosiers or fiddleheads, tense with contained time, like watch springs, with the future all rolled up in them. So I would take set my camera on tripod and take hourly photographs…and make a little flick book. And then, as if by magic, I could see the fiddleheads unfurl, taking a second or two, for what in real time took a couple of days.”

river_sacks

When seen this way, we are all time machines, slowly growing and morphing all the time, are we not? Unfurling with furious energy that detracts at times, but all of us unfurling all the time, hopefully evolving into what we shall and can be.

I gazed up at the flowers again and wondered whether self reproach, achievement, contentment, ambition, or any of the things that seem to matter so much to human beings meant anything in the grand scheme of things. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Ursula Le Guin.

“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.”

The rain picked up, and I opened up my umbrella. I had stood there a long time, and my feet and hands were numb. I went in to the home, and put my wet, cold hands against the warm cheeks of the children watching TV, and they squealed half in exasperation and half in fun as the rain drops trickled down their cheeks. They chided me, united in their purpose: “Walking in the rain – being nuts! again? You will catch a cold. Go and get warm. Now!”

It was lovely to see the chicks take charge, and get a glimpse of the unfurling.

To Infinity & Beyond!

Remember the sermon about Serendipity? Don’t go by it. Take it and toss it to Tinker Bell, the fairy, when she flies over you. Because none of that works at Disneyland. Strategy, planning, timing and speed are the keys to a successful visit.

On regular days, you may not see the husband and I dancing a jig together in the middle of the road to catchy music, but in Disneyland, we do. I buy the hot cocoa for the kids, while he dashes to Adventure Land for that Fast Pass. He gets in line for the food, and I tackle the task of getting us seats to eat in. One gets the space to watch the Parade or the fireworks, the other takes the children to the restroom. Hectic? Maybe. Pleasurable? Mostly. Tiring?  A little. Together? Not always. Magical? Of course!

You know how they tell you no two children are the same? Well we always knew the son and daughter have quite the dissimilarities. But never was it more apparent than at Disneyland. This is the first real visit to Dis . for the son where he did not blindly follow everything his sister does. Previously, each time, when we meandered into Tomorrow Land, we found ourselves washed out again towards Fantasy Land or Adventure Land within minutes.

This time, however, we spent more time in TomorrowLand than in any other land. Given the recent Star Wars movie release, the whole place was Star Wars themed. There were rides and museums catered to Star Wars fans. Jedi warriors marched up and down holding their parents hands on one hand and a light saber on the other. We found ourselves posing with Storm Trooper and Fire Trooper and Yet-Another-Helmet-Wearer. (They all looked the same to me and wore helmets. ) When I mentioned this aloud to the husband, he shushed me swiftly and hissed, “You are in Star War Geek territory. I mean, that could start off a serious fracas.” he said half-amused.

Boys! I tell you. The son has not even seen Star Wars, yet Tomorrow Land fascinated him enormously.

Which brings me to the question of why we are as a species so intent on knowing what the future holds for us. It is because the past is immutable and what we know doesn’t really interest us anymore?

I recently read a beautiful book, An Acceptable Time, by Madeline L’Engle in which a time portal opens up and the protagonist is able to step back in time by almost 3000 years. It was a fascinating read with time tesseracts and inter lapping time circles.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 10.55.56 AM

It got me thinking that if we are here now from the future, what would we change? Global Warming, industrialization, population control, disease control or some other thing that is trivial enough now, but avalanches into something bigger?

Butterfly or Humming bird effect. (https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/10/20/how-we-got-to-know-steven-johnson-hummingbird-effect-time/)

In the meanwhile, we have no idea what the future holds and whether we are making the right choices. Time alone will tell. To Infinity & Beyond – let’s find out.

infinity

What is Time?

The toddler son has always been a little preoccupied with Time. He buzzes around asking me the time every so often. Initially, of course, I did the square thing and checked the watch and told him. Soon, I realized that I could check the refrigerator, count my tomatoes, and just blurt out an approximate time. Then, I realized that he did not need the approximate time either – he just needed a number. (I tried time-to-sleep, and time-to-eat, but he did not accept that answer. He did, however, accept 14 o’clock, 14:52 – but not 14.)

The little fellow, like most children, is a question-machine. He asks why there is no half sun, why the dinosaurs died, how he came back to life to spend the day with Danny, why the flowers dried, why his sister came to the World earlier than him. What is dish – (You can eat a dish and put mammum (food) in a dish?), how to see if water reached a particular spot in the water-hose, what is before zero, how do tree roots drink water (Thank goodness, my biology teacher was not there to hear my answer.)

Dinosaurs can come back?
Dinosaurs can come back?

Sometimes, I give him an answer that is in essence correct, but otherwise useless. Like the time he asked me how to make water. (You take two hydrogen atoms, combine it with an oxygen atom and you will get water.) He looked at me puzzled and drank his water. So, I am drinking three water, but there is only one water? I never learn I tell you. After that rash answer, I spent a few trying minutes laying bare my ignorance in Chemistry for all to see.

One time, at the end of a 16-hour long day, we lay there savoring a children’s book together. I told him that it was his sister’s favorite book when she was a baby and he lapped it up. At the end of it, we both sighed contentedly and I told him it was time to sleep. That was when he crinkled his brow, and asked me what is Time. I must have looked perplexed for he went on: “You rember when I was eating applejacks cereal in the morning, you said Time is going? I want to go yesterday.”

If I wasn’t lying down, I would have gone. I am guilty of hustling the fellow when he is relishing his ‘applejacks cereals’ over breakfast, but mornings are a bit rushed in the household and my train won’t wait.

He looked serious and a bit frustrated to see that I had not grasped his simple question. “I want to go yesterday!” he repeated slowly and a bit louder than before. I know that on his timeline things that happened a decade ago qualify as yesterday, so I asked him why he wanted to go to Yesterday.

His answer to that was simple enough. He wanted to see his sister as a baby. I had to dash the fellow’s hopes. There were photographs I could show him, stories I could tell him of her babyhood, but no, he could not go back in time.

Then, he asked me why time only goes forwards and not backwards.

This is when you see me mop my brow. I tell you, I am no physicist. His questions are steadily chipping at whatever Science I have managed to grasp over the years, despite my teachers’ best intentions.

What? How? Why?
What? How? Why?

I barely understand time now. It is ethereal, and deceptive. I feel like I am spending enough time during the day enjoying the present, yet, here we are already confusing the Fall season with the sunshine that is Summer’s trademark. I seem to remember helping the fellow take his first steps and now here he is asking me for explanations that are dubious at best. If every day does not seem to fleet past, why do the years flit by?

How come I forget the name of the person I met yesterday, but remember the names of my friends from when I was 5 years old?

It is all most intriguing I tell you.
https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/09/22/the-quantum-and-the-lotus-riccard-david-bohm-reality/

Let Children Play Outside

Please indulge me once more as I meander down the memory lane. After all, The business of life is the acquisition of memories.

The business of life is the acquisition of memories
The business of life is the acquisition of memories

Regular readers of my blog know that I grew up in a beautiful hill station surrounded by hills, forests, springs and tea estates. Obviously, I spent a good part of this time enjoying my life. I’ve tasted berries whose name I know not, played in the rain, walked through the fog not knowing whether I am heading for a cliff, I have walked and run so far away from home, but nature always guided me back to my home (well, mostly, folks who worked in my parents’ school and realized I was lost), drank water from fresh water springs, cycled on ‘bridges’ made of slender logs,  ran helter-skelter after spotting wild boars hiding in bushes.

Lovely Nature
Lovely Nature, Sweet Nature

Maybe, I could have died in a hundred different ways, but I also lived in a thousand beautifully different ways.

Which is why modern parenting makes me stop and think.  Do we structure our childrens’ time too much too soon to remove the true benefits of unstructured time? Are we over-protective? So many of the things this article spoke about resonated with me.

http://time.com/3005611/helicopter-parenting-chilhood-obesity/

I quote from the article:

But today, to keep our kids “safe,” we drive them back and forth to school. “Arrival” and “dismissal” have morphed into “drop-off” and “pick-up.” Kids are delivered like FedEx packages. About 1 in 10 use their legs to get to school.

Do we really need 599 cars dropping off 599 children in a school less than 5 miles from home every morning? What happened to biking, walking or taking a school bus to school? It is no wonder that obesity rates are spiking.

The fact that I don’t see residential neighborhoods filled with children playing on the street saddens me. The only way to change that is to open those doors and step outside. Let children play.