Journaling · Nature

When it snows outside

This pic was taken in White Mountains, New Hampshire

It’s the first snow of 2020 in Delaware. The curtains are parted and the blinds lifted, to give an uninterrupted view of the white flake gala. As if on cue, flurries land softly on thin grass blades; the air turns still in suspense, and the sky turns grey like freshly-laid cement.

It’s a drama that’s heart-wrenchingly beautiful, depressingly comical. A play of ironies, a dance of opposites.

The window bravely stands between the conditioned warmth inside, and the wild cold outside. While the branches languidly shake off the shimmering flakes, inside, a lavender-scented soy candle fights the gloom with its single wick. It throws light on everything at reach —the beige carpet, the grey paper cranes, and a dusty black heater that oscillates a continuous stream of hot dry air. 

As the wax melts, the snow thickens. From somewhere far, the sound of traffic comes in like a muffled storm.

The phone blinks, a reminder of unanswered texts, story deadlines, and blocked calls. On the table rest a pile of handwritten letters and Thank You cards, to-do lists and recipes noted down in a haste… each yearning for a glance, some attention. 

But all can wait. For, what’s on is a performance by the band of clouds. ‘Tis the premiere of snow in Delaware.  

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Peace Lily

On the week preceding our second year anniversary, we find ourselves at the garden center of Home Depot. From among a plethora of options including Boston Ferns, Burgundy rubber plants and Yucca canes, our eyes rest on a modest looking plant named Peace Lily. Its white shell-shaped flowers wrap around a baby corn-like spadix like a secret. We bring it home, and place it next to our bookshelf. Haruki Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink are its new friends. Every once in two days, we water it. Every friend that comes home drenches it further in compliments. 

Two weeks hence, we find a new baby leaf. Elated, we buy a new overarching acrylic shade floor lamp, just to shine on it. 

Everything is peaceful, until one morning we find a leaf turning yellow. It slowly wilts and falls. The yellow, like over-watered paint, spreads on other leaves, and then to the creamy white of the flower. Concerned, we move it closer to the window hoping the first rays of sunlight would heal it. We fill our living room with plant friends — Anthurium, Kalanchoe, and chocolate mint; we feed it sugar; and till the soil with surgical care. We also bring in the Masters. Vivaldi, Chopin and Beethoven. Every morning, at the strike of dawn, they fill the house with music. 

But Lily seems obstinate. She continues to shed some leaves, sprout some. She has grown taller ever since, but now and then, as if overcome by a sense of sadness, her leaves droop and turn color. She is not ideal, but she is resilient. Full of peace, hope and beauty. Just like love, just like a relationship.

Aren’t we glad that – on the week preceding our second year anniversary, we found ourselves at the garden center of Home Depot. 

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Of fallen fruit and old mansions

There was a nip in the air, giving away a subtle sign that Fall had begun. Brown dried leaves and yellow-green walnut fruit lay scattered on paved roads, along the trail that ran through Rockwood, Bringhurst Woods, and Bellevue Park. Occasionally, we hopscotched to avoid horse manure, and paused in front of William duPont’s elegant Bellevue Hall to click a picture or two. The five-mile walk, peppered with laughter and conversations, lasted for over two hours. 

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Monday mornings at the park

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Embracing Autumn

Kitchen counter is where the soft carpet ends. Beyond this point, the white tiles begin. Cooled by the low temperatures of the night, the floor feels like a block of ice in the mornings. The feet recoil, and toes curl. Just out of bed, the body yearns to go back. Hands clasped around piping hot coffee, feet tucked under layers of woolly throw, and a sweater to cover those goosebumps…mornings have to be broken into. With day-time temperatures slowly falling, it is time to embrace the morning frost, chilled air, and the general gloom. One way to cope is to get your feet inside super fuzzy slipper socks, and sit calmly with a cozy read in hand.

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Curry leaves

My first potluck. Awake with the sun, I put curry leaves and mustard in hot oil, and let it sputter. My contribution to the potluck lunch: chili paneer.

Seated around the dining table in a mansion in Greenville, Delaware, some of us sipped white wine, and some others orange juice. There were eight of us. Five women and three children. All united by one thing common: Indian roots.

Some where born in India. Some were born elsewhere but had grandparents, great grandparents who were Indians. We discussed Bollywood movies, spices, history, politics and food. “It’s funny, a sprig of curry leaves here costs $1. Back in India, they would give a bunch of it free with vegetables.”

The smell of chili paneer, chicken curry, and dal puri, filled the room. We ate, even as questions dribbled on the table: “Where was your great grandfather from? What were your Ancestry results? Oh did they loose everything after the India Pakistan partition?”

The children, most born in the United States, munched in silence.

The rest of us talked about Indian weddings, child rearing, the feeling of being away from home… We understood each other, just like we understood the spicy food on the table.

Time to leave. We stepped out, and the hostess let us pinch small sprigs of curry leaves from her plant, to take home. We each held the delicate stems with care. The uprooted plants will soon have another home. Just like each one of us.

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Hiking in the woods

The Brandywine creek lay still, tired after bearing the brunt of previous night’s downpour. The rain had turned the mud soft, on which our walking sticks sank, like candles on a cake. Every time we pushed a shrub out of the way, it sprayed drops of cool water on us. We didn’t mind; we continued walking on the steep slopes of the Rocky Run Trail in Brandywine Creek State Park, with no end in sight. Rows and rows of tall trees held hands to form a sort of tunnel, through which only slivers of sunlight managed to reach the ground. Loose rocks and coiled roots lay everywhere, and from between them emerged excited toads and calm centipedes. Small flying bugs hovered around our faces, fighting for our attention, even as we tried to balance ourselves on shapeless stones, to cross to the other side of a flowing stream. Three miles and two hours later, we walked out of the woods, on to the neat paved roads. It was easier to walk now… but we missed our little toads and centipedes already.

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Butterfly spotting

At White Clay Creek State Park, we walked in a single file for five miles. Shrubs rose on either side of the slim trail, some reaching our height, some towering over us. Daisies, shamrocks, and anonymous wildflowers popped their heads out from between the curtain of greenery. We slowed down, paused to see butterflies land softly on the petals. When they took flight, we fastened our steps. Our muddy trail was punctuated with puddles of water and fallen logs. We walked over small bridges, with thin creeks running jauntily below them; stopped to pick up a hawk’s lone feather from the ground; and sat on giant trunks to sip water. Around us the air smelled of wet soil, and somewhere far, the sound of stream synced with the call of birds.


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Mourning dove

Watercolor painting of a mourning dove by yours truly.
Inspired from a watercolor print by Dean Crouser.

We had had the company of a family of ‘mourning’ doves (they are called so because of their call that sounds like a lament) for a few weeks. Until we didn’t.

Not sure when they decided to vacate. Maybe they heard us complain about how nasty they had made our patio, even as they sat solemnly on soft cushioned chairs. Or maybe they didn’t like being stared at, photographed. Once or twice, we expressed our annoyance at seeing three birds perched on ledges, railings, chairs and the center table. We tried to shoo them away, gently. But they played dead. Since we didn’t have a place to sit, with creases of irritation on our faces, we went downstairs to the parking lot to get some fresh air. Maybe they saw that. Not sure when they decided to vacate. But our ‘mourning doves’ have flown away. What remains is an empty nest, and some stray straws on the floor. While we can still hear their faint calls from far away, can they see us mourn?

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Our flying friend

A mourning dove. Her presence is now a habit. We would open our patio door, to soak in some sun, and sip some coffee, and there she would be, as still as a wax model. We saw her first, when she perched on the railing holding a thin twig in her mouth. Soon, the diligent one built a soft brown nest for herself on the ledge. Whenever we wanted fresh air, we turned the door handle slowly, cautiously, without the slightest squeak, like robbers. Once outside, we whispered, about her, about other things. She eavesdropped openly. It took us  a while to realize she had laid eggs, and was now incubating them. One night, it rained non-stop. Thunderstorms. Heavy wind. Would she be alright? We wondered, plastering our faces on to the bedroom window which faced the patio, and her nest. Next morning, we stepped out, on the wet wooden floor, to see a litter of egg shells. Oh the horror. We imagined the worst. But it was the opposite. The family had grown. There was more than one bobbing head. Our little dove was now a mother, feeding her two chicks. It’s been close to a month, and now, walking around dried drops of bird shit in the morning, is the new normal. We don’t whisper, we don’t sneak out. With hot mugs of coffee in hand, we rock in our patio chairs, talking, laughing, while she and her mate sunbathe sitting on the center table. Fearless, secure and in harmony.

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Walking with the geese

A flock of chocolate brown geese trundle along the rolling hills of Carousel Park. A row of goslings follow the adults in obeisance. The sun shimmers on their fur, giving them a golden glow. Tempted, we go closer, but are chased away by the strong, vigilant adult geese. We let them be, and instead, immerse ourselves in the beauty of the steel blue lake, luscious green trees, and clear skies. The trail is a soft carpet of fresh grass, peppered with yellow buttercups. Above us, trees merge their heads forming a thick canopy. We stop to notice the names of trails (Robinhood, Lady Marian), listen to the neighing of horses, and observe the wide green leaves of a certain plant that, we are warned, stinks! Just when we are about to end our hike, we make a plan for another — New Castle County Police Mounted Patrol is organizing a 5K run to raise funds to support the active duty and retired horses, on May 19, 2019. For details, log on to ClydesdaleCops.org.

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Where the creek flows

The bluish green Brandywine creek followed us for a while, before hiding behind a cluster of brown branches and trunks. Then there was just us, the hard paved road, and the quiet of the woods. In that almost meditative silence, we heard the wind howl, and birds sing. As if lured by these sounds, we walked towards them, not minding the steep slope, the wet ground, or the slim paths that grew slimmer. The woods now seemed thicker and chaotic, like a brown crayon scribbling by a child. Our shoes brushed fresh yellow buttercups, while our eyes grazed the flawless blue sky. When we returned after an hour-and-a-half walk, the bluish green creek still stood calmly waiting for us.