🌲 A Nemophilist’s Booklist🌲

One quite understands Albert in his quest for quiet. The poor fellow leaves his noisy house, goes to the beach, but people follow him everywhere. He has pups to keep an eye on, friends who want him to help build a sandcastle, but all Albert wants to do that day is read quietly. Finally, he does get all his furry and non-furry friends to join him in his reading, and he gets his quiet read after all.

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The preceding week the son captured the feeling perfectly when he said, “Wow! It is only Tuesday! I thought it was Thursday.” 

As the week wore on, I thought wistfully of that half marathon run through the forest a couple of weeks ago. Was it only a few weeks ago? Why hadn’t I walked the whole way – enjoying the new shoots of ferns, the ring of trees, the fresh green leaves against the older darker leaves? Still,  it was easy to remember the forest, and immersion in a forest seemed like a wonderful option. I said as much to the son and he rolled his eyes, but agreed that it would be a wonderful idea. 

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So when the week-end finally rolled around: we did the next best thing: went to the library and picked up a few children’s books that could get us a peek into their leafy pages. 

There truly is nothing that can come close to actually being in the forest. 

Enjoying the breeze – that unique sense of air molecules that just passed the canopy above flutter past you

Admiring the community – that feeling the interconnectedness of the ecosystem that holds the forest together, the mycelia, fungi, birds, squirrels, insects

Being in the presence of creation – that feeling of awe that only the artistry of creation can bring

All of that is part of the old magic of the forests.

Some authors manage to capture a tiny part of these aspects through their illustrations, words, and phrases. 

  • A Whiff of Pine and a Hint of Skunk -by Deborah Ruddell, Illustrated by Joan Rankin
  • Redwoods – by Jason Chin
  • In the woods – by David Elliott ; illustrated by Rob Dunlavey 
  • The perfect tree – by Chloe Bonfield 

The last book, The Perfect Tree was really a perfect book if one wanted to lose oneself in beautiful thoughts of trees. How does one find a perfect tree? The woodpecker thinks the perfect tree is his own, while the squirrel finds his own tree filled with his secret stash of berries and nuts is the perfect one. A soft smile spread across my face as I flipped through the pages. 

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To spend time in a forest is to spend time with your soul. To see the blues, greens, yellows and browns merge together in that trick of light (Komerabi : the phenomenon of sunlight through filtering through the leaves above) is to experience luminescence.

木漏れ日: tree (木), shine through (漏れ), and sun (日): Komerabi

Time For a Spot of Time Travel?

It was time for a spot of time-travel. We just hadn’t realized it at the time, but what started as a movie took us into marshes of history, and from there on to speculative adventures, voyages into books and interesting chats on walks under the moonlight dancing through the clouds alongside the setting sun’d rays. If that doesn’t constitute ingredients for a magical time, I don’t know what does.

We had been out to watch Ponniyin Selvan – 2. Set in a time period in South India a whole millennia ago, the movie had already captured the imagination and attention of Tamil fans with its first installment. Political intrigue, love, betrayal, loss, treachery, assassinations, alongside the brilliant imagery of the sets, the costume design and so much more. I enjoyed the foray into 1000 A.D – I had not read the books that were equated to the (Harry Potter books in our generation) for (Tamil readers a generation ago), and the movie was still transformative in its set designs and plot. Within minutes, we forgot the popcorn and the theatre, and were instead watching mesmerized as the young princes and princess sorted through the messes their lives had become.

Days later, we were discussing all of this, when our discussions turned to the lack of historical writing and documentation in India through the ages. Egypt had the great Alexandria library, and though India was known for its universities and advances in many fields, historical documentation is scant. It is apparent to this day. As quickly as India has grown in the past few decades since Independence, and seeing that the constitution adopted many tenets of freedom, secularism and democracy, it still did not plan to make room for public libraries accessible to one and all. Most advanced nations have free public libraries. (Including the ones that out influenced the early days of India: United Kingdom & United States).

Education has always been hugely valued by the Indian subcontinent seeing that Saraswathi as a goddess of learning and Buddhism as a means to ‘know thyself’ as practically tenets of the culture. To date, there are bookstores and the publishing industry is a thriving one in India. So, the lack of libraries is truly baffling. 

I digress, but the point is that historical fiction was and continues to be an interesting genre for this ability to time-travel, to try and unravel the mysteries of a time gone by. We fell to talking about the city of Poompuhar in the Cauvery Delta close to where the Ponniyin Selvan movie takes place, and the husband told us about the fact the funds to find out what happened to the city that was submerged many centuries ago. The South Indian Archaeology department itself was only started in 2005. We do not know when the city was submerged.

Here lies the thrill of the discovery though. With modern techniques, notes from that age, relics and artifacts, so many things could be pieced together. 

The son and I read the book, Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science – Written by Susan Higher and Illustrated by Michael Wandelmaier together. 

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In mysteries spread across the world, the book tries to unearth (pun unintended) what happened. Take the case of the missing city of Ubar in the Arabian peninsula. Situated in the Rub’ al-Khali desert, it existed possibly 5000 years ago:  a supposedly thriving city on the trade route between Greece, Rome & China, it was last seen in 300 CE.

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The Mystery of Ubar was solved in a rather anticlimactic fashion though. It may have been that Ubar was an important port with a fort for protection that was destroyed by an earthquake and sank into the sands, but it may have grown into a city in legend, and retellings of a dramatic nature. However, as historians, archaeologists, documentary movie producers, and space cadets looked through the lenses of time to find out what happened, the journey towards discovery could have been a tale in itself.

How many mysteries like The Atlantis of the Sands are out there?

There will be a time in the future when stories of our time period will be fascinating and what they find about us will be intriguing, though we will never know. That is the thrill of it too. Will our granite slabs tell the story of our technical prowess as well as our internet revolutions?

⚡️💨⛈Where did the clouds go?⚡️💨⛈

Dawn’s early light was visible through the windows. Not usually an early riser, I stood at the window scouring the skies for a waning moon. But I could detect nothing. Not even the faint illumination behind the clouds. It was such thick cloud cover. It may have sprinkled a few droplets of rain over the course of the night, but there was nothing now. We were thoroughly engulfed by clouds. For a brief moment, my mind wanted to glimpse our little patch of Earth from up above: from the international space station or the moon maybe. 

What would we see?  

Not the stirring of millions of people and their emotions, their flurry consciousness gasping for clarity as thoughts scudded through the clouds of sleep.  Definitely not the demands of civilization for the human-beings, and the demands of life for the birds and animals we share the planet with. It was a nice thought – even if only for a few moments, that sense of perspective before the days’ events obscured it.

How many would wake up anxious: their worries and banes flooding in with their consciousness? How many would wonder and plan about the day ahead and make lists on what needs to be accomplished in the next 16-20 hours, how many were nervous or weary about facing another day? How many were happy to get started on the day’s adventures? 

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As we made our way to the son’s school, it was still cold and nippy. The weather forecast had said it was a hot day with an expected high in the mid-80s. I thought how marvelous it was that it was wrong and gave us the beauty of a ponderous cloudy day instead. 

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As I made my way through the day, however, I was left stretching yearningly for that dreamy cloudy day morning, the peaceful thoughts before the day began, and the lovely sweet thoughts of a blue and white planet floating peacefully around its star. By the time two meetings were done with, the clouds had all vanished without a trace. Which was astounding as there seemed to be no breeze in that time either. What had happened to the clouds? Had they simply evaporated? I found there was hardly time for musing thus, as another set of ti-ding ti-ding’s – messages scurrying for attention interrupted, and all thoughts of fates of clouds had to be shelved for a better time. There was business that needed looking into. 

Perhaps 16 hours later, after another couple of night-time meetings, I felt the need to step out. It was as I stepped out into the dark cool of the night after the days’s tasks were almost done with, that I could calm down enough for a thought other than what-needed-to-be-done could nudge its way in. It was the stars that enabled this – and I thought that it must be brilliant for a star to know how helpful they are. Foolish thoughts after a tiresome day, but the realization of their absurdity brought a smile to my face.

I sat down on the park bench, my face turned upwards. Looking up at the blinking fairy lights of the universe, reminding us of the magic of the heavens. I noticed a few clouds here and there, and suddenly it all seemed so long ago that I had looked up at a sky full of clouds:  all these stars were shining brightly behind them then too. 

I sighed contentedly as I rose to go to bed, looking forward to a few more hours of magic: reading before drifting off to sleep. 

Maybe the next morning would be a blissfully cloudy morning too.

🪷Happy 18th Birthday 🍀

May is the beautiful month of beauty, warmth , work, and birthdays (including the blog’s birthday) 

The nourish-n-cherish saga is now officially an adult in the muggle world (18 years of age) 

Over 1080 posts in, the blog seems to have had its own growth.

In the beginning , it was a place for short anecdotes on family and children. 

Over time, as it neared school going age, I suppose the blog grew too

It started showing interests in varied subjects: gravitating towards science and nature based subjects for sure, but also retaining that shy curiosity about life and a sense of humor as we navigated the vicissitudes of life. 

It isn’t as personal as a diary, so I doubt it will serve as a pensieve, but it serves as a cup of joy from which to sip when in a reminiscing mood.

🧘🏼‍♀️There were times when I could philosophize, contemplate, marvel in safety.

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Whatever it’s purpose was while starting out, I think I can safely say that it has helped along several dimensions (like a snowflake) 

When first I started moving out of only personal anecdotes to writing a thing or two on a book I read etc, it seemed to have opened a door to innate curiosity. 

Suddenly, I was more interested in varied topics, trying to understand different perspectives, open my mind to areas that I otherwise might not have had the opportunity to, etc. Inevitably, with all this fodder came the benefits of cross pollination, the joys of thinking through things, or the rewards of quiet contemplation. 

In short, what started as a hobby soon became a source of such gratification, learning and joy that I could not help sharing with my friends (who, for their part have been nothing short of spectacular with reading, inspiring and encouraging me) 

There have been times I’ve wondered what it all amounts to.But then I realize that it already has amounted to magnitudes more than I thought possible (sometimes human imaginations are limited.) 

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⚡️Those moments when I am spinning ideas in my head, and have to stop mid-stride when a thought strikes.

⛈The magic of writing, re-writing and re-rewriting to get a piece right.

👻The frustration of unfinished pieces from a decade ago because of lack of time.

∫ The joy of tucking a good memory away so it can replenish us in written form later.

🪷The thrill of creativity as new ideas come in – the long list of children’s books ideas waiting to be written (also novellas & short stories) I have wisely given up on the idea of a novel given the constraints of time – but one never knows!

To all of you who have joined me on this journey, whether gamely taking it in your stride when featured, or given me things to think about as part of our stimulating conversations, or inspired me to try new things, or just being there in my life: Thank You! 

A Redwood Run

It has been a few years since we attempted a destination run. The type where we run for the scenery, the physical gravitas of one’s surroundings, and the joy of camaraderie among one’s fellow runners. As we ran through the redwood forests, I thought to myself how marvelous it was to run and run like a true child of the Earth without urban buildings, construction noise, and piles of concrete. Even the gray road through the forest felt poetic and somehow attuned to its surroundings. (Well, maybe the double yellow lines were a bit jarring, but the gray road didn’t feel quite so intrusive) 

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After a chaotic start to the half-marathon, it took some time for us to settle into the run. The traffic jams were horrendous – the husband’s implacable optimism about making it to the start line on time was a bit misplaced, especially when we could see other runners leap out of their cars and run to the start line (adding a good mile to their already long runs). Our group  of runners were split between two cars and by the time the bibs were collected and we started the race, it was a good 20 minutes past the race start. To make matters worse, the officials were adding to the confusion yelling to all in the vicinity that they would be removing the starter mats that record time. We were thoroughly frazzled as we ran across – not at all sure it had recorded our run, but we ran anyway. 

The son ran a 10K, while the husband and I ran the half-marathon. The son having age and weight on his side flew on, while we huffed and puffed behind him trying to keep up. This resulted in a shin injury for the husband (which, he told me later, almost had him wondering whether he should do a 10K instead. Coming from the sun-is-shining husband, this must’ve been a serious enough injury) However, some stretches and slow miles later, he seemed to be in a better shape. 

As we ran on and on, deeper into the forest, there was tranquillity there. A meditative pulse to running through trees that started life when humanity was still contemplating  the merits of civilized living. Physical gravitas takes on a new meaning in the redwood forests. Young shoots and ferns, the young greens against the textured markers hues of the older trees, the sunlight poring through the branches high above. I thought of the books on redwood trees – Richard Power’s Overstory – the best one I could think off: powerful in its imagery and cathartic to think about just then.

“This is not our world with trees in it. It’s a world of trees, where humans have just arrived.” 

– Richard Powers, The Overstory

Between the 7th and 8th mile, I thought I’d missed the mile marker somehow. It seemed interminably long. My leg seemed to have just given up, and I found myself looking up into the tall redwoods begging for strength. To drink from the infinity that seemed to stretch among those majestic trunks. It helped. The depths of the forest tends to speak to the depths of the soul, and I prodded on, careful not to tell the husband about the injury like saying it out loud would somehow make the injury worse. I stretched, grimaced, and plodded on. Each mile excruciatingly long. 

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I thought of the gray road cutting the mycelium web underground that sustained these trees for millennia and felt a strange stab of remorse : would the web have found a way to continue underneath the gravel to sustain the trees on either side? I’d have to check. 

Cosmos episode for: The Search for Intelligent Life on Earth : narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, written by Ann Druyan & Carl Sagan

But yet again, the forest helped. 

Whenever the body felt drained and the pain in the right leg flared up, it felt grounding to remind myself that running this course was one of the best things to happen. For the redwoods were calm, the mists rolling in mystical, and the pattering of fellow runner’s feet grounding. There was a strange other worldliness to running through the redwood forests. Pain (possibly ITB) the only reminder that this was not a dream.

I cannot tell you how marvelous it felt to run the last mile and arrive at the finish line – famished yes, but we had managed to finish! Between our injuries, and a clatter of a start, a horse-wallop of a run, we had finally finished. The son was there cheering us on and all was well.

Having a wonderful set of friends on the journey is always helpful, and though we were scattered throughout the race, and didn’t see much of each other – the glimpses and cheers we did get was hugely inspiring.

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⚡️💨⛈ Oh! To be a cloud! ⚡️💨⛈

Time spent in a beautiful meditation of clouds, is time well invested in one’s soul. I am convinced of it. 

The past week had me sighing and exclaiming at nature’s shows. The multi-layered clouds rolled in, and treated the populace to extraordinary shows of the skies. 

At times, it would be the shades of gray against the white fluffy clouds as a backdrop. 

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At others, it would be the inevitable beauty of the setting sun’s rays as it used the clouds as a canvass for their light based shows.

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Sometimes, I would find myself after a late night meeting simply looking at the moon flit in and out of the marvelous multi-layered curtains in the sky, to the orchestra of the winds through the trees outside. 

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One such time, I found myself picking up two beautiful children’s books and flipping through them with contented sighs. If only one could bottle up these little moments, there wouldn’t be angst or turmoil in the world.

Owl Moon : By Jane Yolen

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The Boy and the Blue Moon: By Sara O’Leary, Illustrated by Ashley Crowley

Both books managed to capture the beauty of the moon’s rays so perfectly. 

I wonder whether the animals we share the planet with enjoy the cloudy days. They seem to be. One morning on a beautiful morning when thoughts of gratitude flitted in and out, much as light seem to be flitting through the scudding clouds overhead, I stopped in awe at the birds. This season, I noticed many more birds – maybe a bounteous winter made for a marvelous nesting season for the birds as well, who knows?

But the blackbirds, geese, herons, storks, pelicans, wood-ducks, grebes, hawks, turkey vultures, bald eagles, harriers, thrush, sparrows, robins, woodpeckers, avocets, yellowlegs, hummingbirds, and so many species that I can’t identify, have been flitting and filling the air with beautiful characteristic sounds.

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Life seems busy as the conscientious parents take care of their newly hatched young. 

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As I write this, a mild rain is falling outside – so gentle there is no discernible sound of the rain. The only sounds  are those of chirping birds like a soothing backdrop to the drama in the skies: The grays against the greens and the multicolored flowers a unique kind of meditation. 

#Nephophilia : a lover of clouds

“How sweet to be a cloud. Floating in the blue!”    

– A. A. Milne

Write an ode to my wife, my life

“So, will I be getting my romantic poem then?!” I teased the husband who was looking sheepish. I giggled at his obvious discomfort. He is the sort of fellow who relishes the sentiment behind  P G Wodehouse’s statement:

I once stayed at the residence of a newly-married pal of mine, and his bride had had carved in large letters over the fireplace in the drawing-room the legend: ‘Two Lovers Built This Nest’, and I can still recall the look of dumb anguish in the other half of the sketch’s eyes, every time he came in and saw it.

  • P G Wodehouse

We had been gurgling on about some rom-com movie, a rather touching spot of sentimentality that clinched the deal between the love-birds and all the rest of it. Which led to me to ask for my romantic poem. It is an old joke between us: we both know he is no poet, I am no queen, and so it goes. 

I needn’t have worried though. If ever the man is discomfited, it is but a fleeting sensation. For he leaps into problem solving mode almost instantly. A few minutes later, the cocky fellow strode into the room looking pleased with himself. 

“Check your WhatsApp messages!”, he said. 

I did, and burst out laughing. He had done it. He had sent me a horrendous poem full of lines from 1980’s Hallmark cards, all culled together.

“Oh my goodness! Did you search up the first “romantic poem for my wife” and send it? I asked. I was laughing now, and he disappeared again looking even more pleased, and a sentence thrown to the winds, “The poem doesn’t speak of your particular gifts you are right. One minute.”

Then. A few minutes of deep thinking could be heard – the brain whirring probably and he said: “Check now!” 

I must say it was much more than I expected. After seeing the previous attempt, I braced for a cheesy omelet. 

My love, my life, my wife,

You are a woman of many talents

You are funny and witty.

And your writing is wonderful

The “poem “ went on in this vein for 3 more paragraphs.“Really?! You wrote this? I didn’t quite slot you as a loquacious poet, but good job! “ I said. The husband puffed out his chest and looked proud of himself. Too proud in fact, and that gave me pause. I narrowed my eyes x-raying the man’s soul and saw all. The twitching of the smile that gave it away, the hearty thanks, and I said incredulous, “Oh my goodness! Did you use ChatGPT for these?”

He nodded looking so proud of himself that I clutched my sides laughing barely able to breathe.

“Pretty good right? I asked it to write a poem for a loving wife who is also a funny writer.”, he said.

I beamed at the problem solver. I suppose all poetically challenged lovers can now relax. They can get help. 

We had been talking about the ways in which this new technology can change things for us. Just as with every new piece of technology, there are pros and cons. I had been reading two books simultaneously :

  1. The Age of AI and Our Human Future: By Eric Schmidt, Henry Kissinger and Daniel Huttenlocher 
  2. Impromptu: Amplifying Our Humanity Through AI : By Reid Hoffman

Excerpt from Impromptu:

“Mintz immediately integrated the new tool into his decades-old teaching methods. Within months of ChatGPT becoming public, Mintz started requiring his seminar students to write their essays collaboratively with the new tool. As homework, they bring the ChatGPT prompts they tried and the responses they received for class discussion. They must turn in their final papers with a log of changes to the machine’s output.

As a great teacher, Mintz chose to use ChatGPT not as a source of answers and authority, nor as a replacement of his or his students’ work, but as a tool to help his students learn individually and together.”

ChatGPT: Threat or Menace?: By Prof Steven Mintz

Steven Mintz is professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.

The book goes on to compare the use of calculators in Mathematics teaching a few decades ago:

“In 1970, the typical calculator was too pricey for wide- spread use in schools, but they hit a tipping point in the mid- 1970s. Many parents and teachers were alarmed at the influx of new tools; they worried that math skills would atrophy and students would simply cheat. 

By 1980, however, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommended that “mathematics programs [should] take full advantage of calculators . . . at all grade levels.” Today, most math instructors consider calculators to be a critical part of math instruction, and many states mandate calculator use with certain tests. “

It is curious to see how human intellect is ever ready to thrive and adapt and hopefully stay abreast of these. There are now jobs being created for Prompters for those who can get the ChatGPT/ OpenAI platforms to coax the AI platform into  answering particular queries.

There are cautionary stances to be taken and our laws may not always evolve fast enough to keep abreast of technology. The buzz of AI is the most fascinating challenge thus far, and I am rooting for our species to master its use as humanely as is possible. Use it for the good of the world – climate, healthcare  (physical and mental), food production, education and so much more.

But now, I am going to savor the husband’s poem. After all, it did say:

Thank you for being you.
You make the world a better place.

Professor Mintz would’ve been proud of the poem 🙄

🪷An Anthophile’s Angst🪷

The Earth in spring is filled with ephemeral beauty. If only there was a way for us to shore up these stores of promise and beauty to dip into on long, drab days when hope isn’t shining out of every pore, life would be set. 

Last week-end, one of my best friends whisked us from our homes to a place where Earth, as Ralph Emerson Waldo, so clairvoyantly says, laughs in flowers. I had seen pictures of tulips from Netherlands, and from Oregon and Washington states as well. It is hard to miss these photographs on social media. But it has helped build the yearning to visit these flower fields in the peak of spring. Who says dreams do not come true? They do, and often, in ways you do not expect, adding a delicious twist of serendipity to the experience. For this time, it came in the form of a girls’ trip to one of my best friends’ home. The exemplary hostess that she is, we came back feeling like queens, glowing in the warmth of laughter and love she enveloped us in, and smiling secret smiles filled with tulips, daffodils, fields, lakes, clouds and the sound of the twinkling camaraderie between friends.

Walking in and out of these flower fields, I stopped to see the different ways in which we sought to preserve these memories for ourselves. The photographs were fast and furious. Some folks, like ourselves, tried silly photographs, and some others were trying their best to obscure the pictures and their angles so as remove the other people around them. I quite understood the yearning, but also felt a bit cheated (though I was guilty of the same thing). You see? I had expected to see endless fields of tulips stretching far into the horizon as far as the eye could see. What I saw instead was a finite field of flowers. They were brilliant, but not endless. The angle of photography can be misleading indeed.

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The ones most appreciative among us were a couple of dogs that stopped to sniff the blossoms reminding me of the dog in Mary Oliver’s poem that loved to sniff flowers.

“I had a dog
who loved flowers.…

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.”

Mary Oliver

Maybe the dog caught a whiff for their sense of smell is far sharper than ours, but we shall never know what the dog smelled. I shall however remember the satisfied contented look in its eyes. There was another child who sniffed at the tulips and looked up questioningly. I understood the confusion in the child’s face for it mirrored mine from a few moments ago: the tulips weren’t fragrant exactly  – they simply had no smell. 

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As I stood there surrounded by tulips first and then daffodils in another farm, I thought longingly of the patch in my front garden. For two years now, I have been trying to get it to bloom. But like a trichologist (Trichology is the scientific study of hair) battling a particularly persistent bald man’s patch, it has so far resisted. A shining bald patch in the middle of the yard, simply refusing to burst forth and shine in the spring time. How these horticulturists managed to get this many plants to bloom altogether, and not one of them a dud, is beyond me. #EarthMagicians.

In any case, I thought to myself as I sniffed a flower, I take inspiration from the dogs in spring time bounding about with energy and a bubbling happiness trying to capture infinity in flowers. An anthophile’s (lover of flowers) angst is easily remedied in the ephemeral beauty of every blossom. No rose stops to think of its purpose in life does it?

“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.
“Do you have the answers? And if you do,
would you tell me?”
The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,”
they said. “But as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses.”
– Mary Oliver , Roses

🪷🍁🍀🍇🌴The Power of Plants🪷🍁🍀🍇🌴

Around the World in 80 Plants – Jonathan Drori Illustrated by Lucille Clere

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Reading about plants and how they shaped our lives is a fascinating endeavor. How little we stop to think when we sprinkle turmeric, or asafoetida in our foods? Turmeric and Asafoetida by themselves are used so ubiquitously in Indian cooking that we quite forget the journeys from farm to consumption.

Starting off with plants that I have heard of in the magical context such as Myrtle, Wormwood, Clovers, Mandrakes, the book makes its way through plants that influenced our  civilizations in different parts of the world. 

The amount of information packed into a 200-page book is amazing and warrants a place in the reference section. 

We are mostly aware of the fact that we have not even scratched the surface when it comes to the potential of plants and their medicinal uses. There are around 380,000 plant species in the world, and we do not know how many are not catalogued yet. Even the ones in popular use, we do not yet know their potential. Take the Mexican Yam for the instance. It grows like a vine and produces its tubers.  

Yet, when I read about the Mexican Yams (Dioscorea Mexicana), I was blown away. The humble vegetable has a substance called diosgenin. Diosgenin, it turns out, is a vital starting ingredient for the manufacturing of steroids. Steroids are used to treat asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases. 

“The use of steroids expanded in the 1940s, but the drugs, derived from animals and even humans, were hideously expensive. At one time, it took forty oxen to provide the cortisone to treat one arthritic patient for a day. “

– Around the World in 80 Plants – Jonathan Drori

How many times have I applied the cortisone ointments to relieve eczema for the children, without considering how we came by it?

As if this weren’t enough, they are also used in the production of sex hormones progesterone and testosterone. 

“The biggest boom of all came from the use of yam-derived progesterone and other hormones to trick a woman’s body into acting as if it was pregnant thereby inhibiting ovulation. The contraceptive pill was born.”

– Around the World in 80 Plants – Jonathan Drori

Our lives as we know it today, have been forever changed thanks to this humble vegetable. 

“It is fitting that a plant with splendidly heart-shaped leaves should have had such a profound effect on the well-being and love lives of millions of people.”

– Around the World in 80 Plants – Jonathan Drori

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Spring in the Sierra Nevada

The yearning for adventure was astir. Yodeling by the river was not enough, huffing and puffing like penguins in the Atlantis marathon was not enough. Luckily, spring time in California never disappoints the strider in the hills. So, off we went traveling to the Sierra Nevada mountains. 

Driving up to the mountains, we passed by the green hills, greener pastures, and entire meadows, and hillsides covered in lupines, daisies, poppies, milkweed, and little yellow flowers (So many varieties!). If ever any one needs their worries and woes to flee, a drive like this is all it would take.

“In every wood, in every spring, there is a different green.” – J R R Tolkien

 Yosemite National Park is probably one of the most explored parks in the world. 

🪨Every major boulder is given an impressive (sometimes humorous) name: El Capitan, Half Dome, Cathedral Rocks. 

💦Every major perennial waterfall carefully charted – yet every year in spring with the snow melt, the number of little creeks and waterfalls that arrive and vanish before the summer’s heat is like trying to estimate how many chips a kid would eat out of a fresh packet. 

🏞 Every picturesque spot named – there is even a week dedicated to photographing a waterfall – that week the rays of the sun at sunset make the waterfall look like a volcanic lava flow. Photographers spend hours waiting for that wondrous shot.

Of course in spite of everything been catalogued and charted, nature finds a way to impress and astonish. High up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, we expected to be cold.

But, Spring in the Sierra Nevadas felt like winter left in a huff one evening. No lingering farewells, no tears, no gloom, no fussing. Just packed its bags and left.

Spring pranced in, as though waiting back-stage secretly shooing winter off for a bit of shine in the spotlight,  and all the world suddenly brightened and lit up in the sunshine. We were so shocked to have two days without needing thermals, or jackets and just listening to the snow melt from the peaks whooshing down the rivers.

As we walked through the forests of Yosemite, poetic phrases bubbled up. Why oh why does this happen, and how oh how does the world know April is Poetry Month?

So we bubbled along, squirting out our little phrases. The ones that came and the ones we contrived to fit the ones that came.

  • Earth, River, Forest, Light
  • Green, Blue, Brown, Yellow
  • Pristine ponds reflecting these sights.
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  • River rapids, 
  • Birds chitter, 
  • Breeze mellow.
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  • Pine wood, 
  • Gnarled roots, 
  • Bulky boulders.
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  • Puddles in the middle
  • Rugged rocky cliff faces
  • Moss clinging to these spaces.
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This has probably been the most generous winter I have witnessed in the past two decades in California. I felt bad for the number of trees that were felled due to the extraordinary winds and rains coming after years of near-drought, but overall, I was grateful. 

Wherever we turned in the massive valley – rivers and waterfalls surrounded us. It is truly a beautiful time. When the power of Earth makes you feel humbled, grateful, and joyous, is there a better retreat? 

yosemite

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