May 15, 2013

Brevity of seasons, of life


Whenever I step out for a walk, I am claimed by someone else. With each and every fresh walk that I take, this feeling only gets deeper. Like how last evening, I was possessed by the brevity of seasons. By the brevity of beauty in one form, but which nevertheless gets transformed in no time. Look at the trees outside. They are in an ambitious burst of green. They celebrate green like there are no tomorrows. The trees; at least the ones unaffected by strong winds and erosion make it a point to stand upright and salute the sun, everyday, irrespective of the measurable impact of sunshine, whether the rising sun tinges the sky crimson or not, or it leaves the crestfallen sky in bleeding hues as it bids farewell to the day. They don’t fret over the ever changing expressions of the sun or sky. Like, I wonder why yesterday the horizon looked very different from today, when the sun decided to come up the horizon. But, the trees don’t bother. Today, they are a jubilant lot as they know in no time; the sun will scorch them all with its radiance. So, until they can take it, they will, and they have.

Just a couple of weeks ago, stepping out felt like being in a floral paradise. This year, for some reason unknown to me, all the trees, bushes and wines decided to bloom like never before. Not just bloom, but explode into an extravagant celebrant status. All the trees in full bloom, flowers of all colors, shapes and sizes. For most of the flowers, their shape or pattern simply didn’t matter, as their sheer volume outshone their individuality. I couldn’t look at one single flower, but only get lost looking at the entire tree with its thickets drooping under the weight of the countless floral bunches. Walking under the trees was a surreal experience. Well, allergies are on the rise, with red-eyed children and adults complaining about the spring nuisance. Pollens, they say are the biggest ill of the season. A necessary evil, they mean. Is it because I felt one with their need to bloom that the flowers/ pollens left me scot-free, I wonder. Anyway, the flowers are no longer there. See, but I continue to go back to them, as if those days were never enough. But, the trees, after taking me to that far end of joy, left me there, and have moved on deftly, with their display of green. Brevity of blooms, I tell you.

Now the birds are out. Sparrows are everywhere. They are like the touch-me-nots back home. Very ubiquitous. Then, there are the Robins. The orange-breasted ones. Cardinals, the powerful, beautiful birds flaunting their capped heads visit once in a while, but like the most expensive brand ambassadors, they ensure they top the charts, by retaining their exclusivity. I know not whether or not its nature’s prank, or their actionable insight that has led to this phenomenon. But I haven’t seen a single Blue Jay this season. Nature playing mischief again, I suspect. Ground Hogs, for sure are still in their winter hide-out wondering why April and May are longer this year. But, a couple of them do come out once in a while. And, then, the goslings that I spotted last evening, sipping from the brook, the muddy one that follows its same old winding route, in spite of all the fallen trees and branches. To my eye, a lot of things are still intact this spring. I know a lot are not in line, but I am happy, at least, certain things are aligned with the ebb and flow of the season.

We are in the thick of spring, and, by the end of June, summer will start knocking at the door. Then, there will be several 100F and above days. We will start lamenting about the harsh sun, the ruthless sun, the burning heat, the scorching sun that leaves the earth thirsty and parched. The green grass starts to brown in just a couple of days, but put up an act of resilience by turning green in a fortnight. That’s when the rains come down. That’s yet another marvel beyond words. Then, with the sun and the rain alternating, and taking turns, sharing the earth, green and brown play hide and seek, one hiding while the other takes shape and form, basking in the glory of its short lived existence. Life around me rejoices, its elements up their ante, there is a sudden energy outburst from all quarters. Everyone seems to be moving then, walking here and there, taking long steps, short strolls, pushing prismatic perambulators with a lot of paraphernalia attached.

 For another couple of months the sun continues its angry young man image, and then, gets too tired of it. Like all things don’t last forever, he mellows down, and as if struck by a wisdom wand or so, it withdraws to its imaginary shell, for months altogether, trying to listen to his inner voice perhaps. For when one looks outside during fall, sun to me looks like an aging philosopher, going through a mid-life crisis, who probably goes through an extended enlightenment in his fall hideout. It refuses to come out in time, and when it comes out, it does so with increasing reluctance. In spite of the sun’s withdrawal from centre stage, trees and the leaves celebrate again. The leaves change their colors, borrowing flaming, fiery hues. Looking afar at the trees that lined the Poconos Mountains, across a river, for once I thought I was looking at several tongues of fire, trying to outsmart one another.

Even as I muse over the impatient transition from spring’s green wizardry to summer’s roguish russet and then to fall’s fiery shades, winter arrives with an October snow storm. For a few days, we fall in love with the likes of tall, white and handsome Mont Blanc, the white blankets warming our hearts. Our cameras capture them in earnest, as if we were all seeing snow the first time. Like eager children, we step out to make our snow men, some making men that look like dogs sans tails. And then, soon, we hear stories of hatred, how a particular person who once thought snow pellets paved their white brick road to heaven, was instead paving an icy, slithery, slippery, perilous road to hell. Leaves; how can we even look at them? For they are not on trees anymore, they had fallen for the earth, much in advance, to warm it and keep it alive from within. The ones that were allowed to stay with the earth gave themselves unconditionally to the earth, became one with it, very soon, becoming a part of its very fabric itself.

The seasons have come a full circle. Each one moving on with life, with change, with élan. Spring is here and now, I know I got to make the most of it, summer will soon be on my face and hands and feet, I got to take it in as my Vitamin D levels are abysmally low, and then even before I could complain a bit about the harsh summer, sun will retreat to its cloudy autumn out-house, and the green will make way to red, and crimson, tangerine and brown, yellow and sunshine, and as soon as I make a customary visit to one of the sought after fall locations, snow will begin to fall in a captivating cadence at first and then, in a melancholy trance.

When I look at my children, I see in their sudden spurts of growth, in their unexpected display of maturity, the transition from one stage to another. I only wish to live in the moment, to take in all I can, for my tomorrow won't be my today.

May 13, 2013

The morning after, my latest post at Whims and Fancies

The morning after

The whole of yesterday, it poured. Little drops of rain kept trickling down the roof tops and the barks of trees. I woke up this morning to find the rain continuing to come down, in a contented, spirited fashion; inviting me to be a part of it.
After the rain subsided, I took a quick walk to the park where my daughter plays often. She couldn’t step in as the entire park was one big ‘muddy puddle’ according to her. And she added, ‘ if you want to step in the muddy puddles, you need to wear boots.’ Rain had deterred other fellow apartment folks from stepping out, and we had the entire stretch of green for ourselves. The beauty of these lonely moments is the time and space it gives me, for listening to the inner voice, for the easy calm that prevails even when the birds chatter and twitter their way to glory. My daughter embraced silence after expressing her fine sentiments about the park and the puddles, and decided to sharpen her ears to capture all the bird sounds coming from the thick thickets in the adjoining wild land.
Imagine, just the two of us, juxtaposed against the untended green. We walked up to the fence that separates our vast meadow, as green as ever, from the greener terrain beyond; trees of all sizes, bushes of all shapes, tufts of grass heads, small and tall, host to a great many birds. The birds, happy after the showers, were singing about the resplendent beauty around, about the oodles of positive energy that pervaded the atmosphere. Their songs oozed so much happiness and cheerfulness, that it made me smile. When a bird called from what seemed like the left, in tandem, we looked to the left and repeated this to songs from the right. It was a moment of bliss in all its truthfulness.
We walked up to the brook that flows in through the condo complex. From a distance we heard, it rumble, mumble. Just a few days ago, when I had walked by this brook, the trees were still largely barren, their leaves only beginning to make their presence felt. But today, the trees looked mighty and powerful, spreading their ornate branches far and wide, giving us a great sense of security. Their leaves, a display of green, in its most luxuriant hues. The brook flowed by without expecting many compliments as it was one big ‘muddy river’. But, its energies were passed on to me dutifully. I can’t put my finger on that feeling that ensconces me during such moments. I am definitely happier than my usual self, I feel blissful, but it’s something beyond all that. I wish I could stay there forever, listening to the brook murmur, the woods hum, the birds sing, without expecting anything in return. They, I know for sure acknowledge my presence, for, they come up to my heart, and touch it in more ways than one, in such depths that I cannot fathom my own contentedness.
I am a daughter of the wild, and I will continue to be one.

May 1, 2013

Where are the butterflies?

No, its not just the sound that disturbs me, rather, the reasons for the sound that disturb me perpetually. Its like a stain that simply won't fade into oblivion. It has been going on for days together now, and once it starts mid-day, it lingers well after the sun fades away. That is what Spring has brought forth in tandem with the sporadic spills; there is much life and energy in the air, and in the moist earth; much more than what we can take. Is that why we try to thwart their energies, and nip those buds right when they lift their heads up?

Weeds, grass heads that refuse to stay put. Well, why should they? They were created with a purpose, and grow they must. But how could they when toxic weed killers are sprinkled on them with robotic accuracy and when the gas guzzling lawn mowers ply on them, day after day? I love to look at well mowed lawns, those sprawling green acres that soothe the eye, but on weighing the opportunity costs for a sickened planet, and on comprehending the ill- effects of such superficial degrees of sophistication, of being carried away by what is seen on the outside, at times, they become sore spots. For the eyes that take me beyond sights and sounds.

Lawn mowers, weed whackers, leaf blowers, and edgers are mostly two stroke engines, notorious for their energy expenditure. Every other day, during the most beautiful Spring and Summer, I see one of these put to use right in front of my eyes. That sound stays on, making itself heard above all domestic din, reminding me of the peril which is just around the corner.

The turf grass has shallow roots, which forms a cluster at the very topsoil, preventing rain water from seeping to the underground, rather, they are redirected artificially. On the other hand, many native varieties of prairie grasses have deep roots that run very deep, they work hand in hand with the rains; helping her carry those innumerable water channels back to the depths of a thirsty Earth.

American culture is obsessed with lawns, to say the least. This lawn culture is meaningless, except that it looks neat, and orderly, but if you look closer, you can see the cacophony of a faulty system. Lawns are rightly called biological deserts, they are naive as ecosystems, sustaining little life along. Look at the folly of the system! The grass is mowed, all the clippings are removed, and then, to retain the fertility of the soil, for the grass to stay green and healthy, tons of chemicals are added to it, in stringently adhered to periodicity.  And then, not a single weed head should sprout; so spray the weed killers, the most infamous being Monsanto's Roundup, which is now suspected to lead to increased occurrence of cancers and diseases like Parkinson's. Huffinton Post recently carried a story about it. Read it here. Alarming indeed. Won't the weed killers affect the good crop, then? That has been given much thought; that's how the genetically modified crops come to the picture; they are made to resist the chemicals sprayed on them. How thoughtful!

Lawns in America put together is three times the size of the garden state of New Jersey. Imagine the amount of water needed to irrigate this vast stretch of land! As such, we are dependent on our depleting resources for sustenance, but how can we continue to be myopic about these bad practices?

My mom arrived from India couple of weeks ago, and she was perplexed to observe the sheer paucity of butterflies and bees in our backyard, even when there was green as far as the eye could see!