Today is Nowruz, Iranian New year.
For hundreds of years it has been celebrated on the Spring equinox to signify new beginnings, seeds and paths.
The earth tips over to allow illumination of the northern hemisphere, a sublime reminder that light always returns. This time when day and night are equal represents our need for balance between male and female energies, between yin and yang.
A time for renewal, growth and glorious blooming of the spirit.
An upward movement of energy, helping us look into the future with hope and positivity.
Meditation on the Equinox
Over our heads, the great wheel of stars shifts,
the autumnal (or spring) equinox manifests itself,
and for one precious instant darkness and light
exist in balanced proportion to one another.
Within our minds the great web of neurons shifts,
new consciousness arises,
and for one precious instant experience and meaning
exist together as revelation and epiphany.
Within our hearts the great rhythm of our lives shifts
a new way of being reveals itself,
and for one precious instant
the nexus of the body and the seat of the soul
truly exist as one.
Let us give thanks for those times in our lives
when all seems in balance.
For those times are rare and precious.
The equinox shall pass, the revelation may be forgotten,
and our actions will not always reflect our true selves.
But through our gratitude
we may remember who we are,
reflect on who we may become,
and restore the balance which brings equanimity to our lives.
Let us be quiet for a moment, together.
By Thomas Rhodes
Left the massive, fire-walled monster of a building, feeling as tired as a rag. Stood on the covered walkway looking at vertical lines of water heavily following gravity, falling like a velvet curtain, making the darkness darker. Couldn’t gather enough courage to step into it. No rush. No one waiting at home. Cold hands in pockets, frozen tips of noses and ear-lobes. Cool, moisture-laden air flooding the balloon-bags in the chest and leaving with a tiny bit of fatigue. Even though the jungle is concrete, it offers some respite.
While I stand at the edge of this temperate downpour, tiny deflected reflected droplets find my face and keep me awake. The noisy business of clanking rain adds to the drama.
Over the next few minutes the drops become grainy. Splat! They shatter on flat surfaces of windscreens and pavements, leaving a little residue, a trace of things to come.
The noise suddenly vanishes, as if the conductor of an orchestra has indicated a pause. The air changes form. Little white flakes completely defy gravity and dance gracefully in all directions, seemingly weightless. The darkness lifts into soundless brilliance. Streetlights exaggerate these elegant movements. I bounce onto the road and walk under this light white flurry. My feet land on softness. The whiteness starts to make little homes on hedges, fences and chimneys. I am transported into a world of lightness and joy.
For a few moments, all is right with the world.
Only when all the leaves are gone
And it’s stripped to its bare bone,
Does the tree come into its own,
Stark, basic, simple, plain, alone.
On show, each and every flaw,
Defoliated, unclad, in the raw,
Broken, knotted, gnarled they saw,
Yet the Elements, they gnaw and gnaw.
The years, they take their toll,
The bark hides rings of stories untold,
The earth, the roots, the light, they hold
The planet, in a loving fold.
Only when all the leaves were gone,
And it stood with nothing on,
Did the scars like sunbeams shone,
And twists, crags and bristles adorned
The silhouette of the proud Anon.
Only when all the leaves were gone.
All the light we cannot see,
All the might we cannot be.
All the grace that comes to flow,
All the time we cannot hold.
All the gifts that bless our souls,
All the stories left untold.
All heavenly spirits divine,
All that ether yours and mine.
All the love that holds the world,
All those rose petals unfurled.
All the things that make us smile,
All the purple lilies of the Nile.
All that glitters and is gold,
All the new that doesn’t get old.
All the lovely birds and beasts ,
All the feathers, tails and teeth,
All the mornings, noons and nights,
All the roaring soaring heights,
All the springs and valleys green,
All the perfection of the scene.
All the light we cannot see,
All the light we cannot be.
Back in Delhi for a few days. Any excuse.
The warmth in the air is welcoming but wrong for this time of year. I remember the city being submerged in a cold mist in early December, famously disrupting flights and traffic. In the absence of central heating, the houses used to feel the same as being out in the freezing open. Getting into bed was like plunging into icy waters. Getting out was the same. Electric room heaters had most of the family huddled around it in the evenings. Afternoons were spent on the terrace extracting some warmth out of a feeble sun, sitting around a news-paper, eating roasted peanuts and sweets made from sesame seeds and jaggery. Sweet masala tea was an essential part of every other hour and caloric intake, never a consideration. The multiple layers of clothing worn round the clock made everyone look uniformly shapeless.
Today most people are in jeans and t-shirts. Even a jumper is too much. The sun shines brightly and a blanket of smog smothers the city. The ‘normal’ Air Quality Index lies in the ‘hazardous’ range and yet life goes on as ‘normal’.
A lovely young lady meets me on the staircase and she is one of Saagar’s closest childhood friends. She has finished her graduation and has been in a job she loves for the last 6 months. We give each other a big hug. I silently give her my blessings even though my heart disintegrates yet again.
The semi-circular Green was covered with autumn leaves. The skeletons of trees stood semi-nude, exposed yet statuesque. Andy, who normally clears up the leaves is away on a long holiday. The others in the neighbourhood took it upon themselves to fill in for him. One woman with a new hip came on to the Green with her ‘Bulldog’ rake and leaf-collector called ‘Anita’. The gadget was a Christmas gift from a few years ago. She thought it was rather quaint at the time but it had proved to be cleverly designed and very useful. Next came her friend who is 79. She brought her ultra-light yellow rake and a couple of light wooden boards that served as efficient leaf collectors. Along came a couple in their 60s with a wheel-barrow, another metal rake and huge bags to carry the leaves in.
They caught up on the gossip, exchanged remedies for wasp stings, made jokes, talked about their respective pets and took pictures of each other. Together they piled the leaves up in little hillocks dotted randomly across the Green, deposited them in a big bag, mounted it on to the wheel-barrow, took it away to a designated spot, emptied it out and brought it back for more. That cycle repeated itself a few times with team members assuming different roles at different times. More people joined in and left at various points over the course of the activity. The Green was green again.
We gathered in our house for a cup of tea. A country morning well spent.
The Giant’s Causeway is said to have formed 60 million years ago as a result of a unique way in which lava cooled down. It formed forty thousand basalt columns each one with 5 to 7 sides, fitting perfectly into each other. The name comes from a local legend. Finn McCool was a giant who wanted to walk across from Ireland to Scotland through the sea without getting his feet wet. So, he built the causeway. Some geological features at the location are given names like ‘giant’s camel’ and ‘giant’s boot’ to add to the story.
It is one of the most magnificent sites at the edge of the North Atlantic Sea. 3 sets of columns – little, medium and tall are very obviously located and many more lie buried in the sea. The natural geometry is cleverly engineered. Away from the sea behind the ‘giant’s gate’ is a black and red gigantic rock. It is a hidden beauty. I have visited this place a few times before but today was the first time I fully appreciated this picturesque structure. The weather was cold but the light was perfect. Thankfully, there was no rain or fog or crazy wind. Si and I walked up a steep narrow path up to a high point facing the sea and had our ‘Titanic” moment!
Whenever we had visitors from abroad when we stayed in Belfast, a trip to the Giant’s Causeway was an essential part of their Norn-Irish experience along with a seafood lunch at Port Rush and a trip to Bushmills.
10 years ago I was here with Saagar. Today Si was with me.
“You let time pass – that’s the cure. Change can be difficult to accept. You survive the days. You put one foot in front of the other and get on with it. You float through the weeks and months wondering if your life will ever go back to what it used to be.
And then, one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean back and you realise that you’re okay. You realise how far you have come. You realise you’ve just fallen onto a different path leading you to your true destination. You realise, ‘I can do this’. Behind every smile there is an untold story. Sometimes it’s a mask to hide pain and suffering. Sometimes it’s a true reflection of happiness.”- LL.
The heavens have opened with all their might and a heavy tropical downpour has drenched Stone Town to the bone. I stand in the balcony looking at streams of water running down corrugated roofs in parallel right into the street. Down below I watch a father and son holding Superman and Spiderman umbrellas, both completely soaked. Checkered and plain, bright and black circles are floating in the street, not doing much.
There is a real chance that our flight from Zanzibar to Dar-Es-Salaam will be cancelled and hence we might miss the connection to London but well, may be another day in paradise is meant to be. Who knows? Hakuna Matata.
That he was born to me
That he was mine to hold and love,
That he was all cuddles and smiles,
That he was sweeter than sweet, kinder than kind,
That he was the brightest spark in the dark,
That he made me cry and made me laugh,
That he came unto life through my being
That he brought joy to me and so many,
That he far exceeded all expectations,
That he helped many get over their inhibitions,
That he was funny and had time for all,
That he was sensitive beyond call,
That he came through deep pain with dignity,
That he didn’t want to be any trouble to anybody,
That his laughter was infectious,
That his advice was often beyond his years,
That he lived his 20 years to the full,
Even though life was sometimes cruel,
“Hi! How was your holiday?”
“Don’t know yet. Haven’t looked at the pictures.”
It’s great to have the ability to take photographs with phones, tablets and cameras but do they enhance an experience or take away from it? Beyond a point, are they a distraction? Do they really capture in its entirety, the moment, the feeling, the memory?
On the boat ride yesterday, we didn’t have a camera. Yay! The experience of the calm undulating waves, the moisture-laden soothing breeze on the skin, the passing fishy odours, the thin film of brown wood-dust in short stretches, the tapering frothy bluish-white tail of the motor, the pencil thin, perfectly horizontal line demarcating the dark blue of the Indian ocean from the light blue of the African sky, the squelch at the bottom of the boat, the massive phoenix shaped cloud, the mixed sounds of the engine, the turbulence and conversations in Swahili would have been too much for any camera. The only way to carry it home was to close my eyes and soak it all in.
When I feel the squelching of my shoes in the freezing, wet English November, I shall have to stop for a moment and close my eyes.
Walking along the beach this evening, it was fascinating to see the mangrove, the shells and the abundance of life all around. I was tempted to pick a few shells as souvenirs but then I remembered the conversation we had with the lady who runs the lodge where we are staying. She is very well versed with the local plant and animal life and all matters to do with conservation.
I learnt from her that removal of shells from beaches could damage ecosystems and endanger organisms that rely on shells for their survival. This has been supported by scientific research. It is not just humans picking shells but grooming of sand with heavy machinery for tourism and use of recreational vehicles on the beach that cause a lot of damage to delicate ecosystems.
Seashells are an important part of coastal ecosystems: they provide materials for birds’ nests, a home or attachment surface for algae, sea grass, sponges and a host of other microorganisms. Fish use them to hide from predators, and hermit crabs use them as temporary shelters. The removal of large shells and shell fragments also has the potential to alter the rate of shoreline erosion.
So, instead of pocketing the pretty shells we just took a picture of them and left them on the beach where they belong.