Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An autumn melange

The last of the leaves flutter whimsically from their branches to kiss the cold, wet ground for yet another life of nothingness. When in mid air they break into a dreamy dance wearing the most seductive of expressions, breaking many a heart in the go. Some dangle, hopeful and holding on to whatever minuscule remains of their life. The treetops have begun showing signs of baldness and bereavement. Naked and stripped of all joy, the colourless boughs will soon be left alone to battle yet another harsh winter.
Soon this mosaic canvas will give way to a desolate landscape of monotony and monochrome. Soon the familiar powdery white will embrace one and all in its cold, death-like grip. And soon the time for the big sleep will arrive, before longing and life sprout up their baby heads once again. To a new world, to a new beginning.

With my beloved season almost gone, in a fevered nostalgia of losing all the grandeur once again I tried stitching a mental patchwork of all the beautiful autumns we have lived here. How different and diverse the frames feel despite the similarity of the mood and the colours of autumn. Every picture has a little story to tell, of its place and the chunk of our life spent there. I must preserve it all, leaf by leaf. And so I have tried to recreate it here, as far and wide my kaleidoscopic memory could take me.

Our very first autumn. Maple leaves, fiery and feisty, framed right outside our bedroom window in Seattle. Blueberry picking in a nearby farm. The ripe vineyards of Napa Valley, wearing a golden glitter in the late afternoon sun. Amid fat, fleshy pumpkins in San Antonio, Texas. Perhaps the only patch of colour there in October. A twilight walk in the densely wooded metro-park in Cleveland, Ohio. Trees captured in their tallest possible glory, my most preferred angle of photographing them. A fascinated moment with the wee bit o' castle inside the park. Reaching out to the autumnberries before the birds take them all. A couple of idlers in the idyllic Vermont countryside, the dream destination for leaf-peepers. A carpet of maple leaves of every possible earthy hue. A day under the golden aspens and a clear blue sky in Colorado. Back to the ruts again after three long years of wandering, a foggy autumn morning in Seattle. Two happy feet set out on a drizzling autumn walk again. The completion of an autumn circle, and many more.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

We've got everything...

... because we have each other."

So says the card. And our four years of togetherness.
Of sharing, carefree laughs, days bad and good
Weaving lost, cherished days of childhood.
For we go back a long way
And how, this little story will say...

From morning assemblies and sleepy Math lessons
To strange Latin names and ugly potions

They fought, they argued
Yet as the best of friends they stood

They signed vows to stick through thick and thin
Just as their teenage, highschool days had seen
He, to his engineering skills rushed
She got her Shakespeare and Byron rehearsed

And so friends they remained 
Till one fine day destiny intervened
Could there be more than just friendship
He mulled over it, thoughtful and neck-deep
Flabbergasted, she thought it was weird
The minds raced and hearts feared
But it was meant to be
That, they too, could well see
And so it has been ever since
A world painted with rosy and golden tints.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Swirls and more

A lazy, overcast day. Rain falls now and then, stubborn and whimsical. A few more deadlines make a beeline into my ever piling 'to do' list. Of course the procrastinator in me idles. A Thanksgiving dinner menu does its usual rounds inside my head. Scouring the internet for something new, unusual. Distraction knocks. This time it is a lone lavender sprouting up from the pot, framed against a backdrop of resplendent orangish leaves. Despite the frost it still flowers in tiny, fragile bits. And it is almost December doing its annual dance upon our heads. 

Pleased and brightened, I think about something warm and quick for tea. That would keep me glued to John McGahern's Amongst Women. The life of a domineering, embittered Irish Civil War veteran amid his ever fretting daughters and wife. Absent sons, scarred relationships, confused priorities. Absolutely engrossing and dramatic. Suddenly my mind rings like the oven timer - puff pastry! Impatiently thawed, smeared with ground cinnamon and sugar. Rolled and cut up into cutesy swirls. Fifteen minutes in the oven and out they come all cinnamon-y and crunchy. 

As I hunch back to my sluggish self with the book and a hot cuppa, I see the rain climb down the window panes. I know it will be back. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Of birds and berries

As I try to compose a post, something lighthearted and weekend-y, it snows in little white drops. Like a bunch of mint candies hurled from a confused, careworn sky. Out of habit I gaze dreamily outside my favourite space - a glowing canvas of tall evergreens, ruddy autumnberries and golden big leaf maples framed by the window. I wonder how empty and forlorn a look the place has suddenly worn. One that was bursting with the cackle of thrilled, berry-struck robins just an hour ago. How madly elated they looked, equally rampant and restless in their perch and take off as well. Sitting, picking, nibbling, fluttering, all at the same time. 
I could not understand what was their hurry though. For, if I were one of the fortunate them with a pair of wings and a whole tree laden with the juiciest of treasures, I would have lazed there for days. Drawing manna sip by sip from the plump berries, dancing in between shades of the leaves and boughs, what a life it would be. 

But the mere mortal that I am, I had to resolve to the next and the only best thing - run for the camera. I could only catch hold of these two saintly souls, one contemplating and the other with a clear look of disapproval of the peeking patio-paparazzi. 

Happy weekend, y'all! 

"What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare."

~ William Henry Davies, Leisure

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fog again

"Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn..."

~ T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

Strange are the ways of life. With the rain and the unusually winter-like chill, yesterday brought two news. As different as black and white, as contradictory as love and hate. While one friend is all thrilled to fly home for a brother's wedding, another must make the same journey but with a shattered heart from a brother's loss.

There are times when I feel a blank, a strange hollow. And this is one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rumi and the rock star

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing, there is a field.
I will meet you there."

~ Rumi

Last night a bunch of us friends had been to watch the just released Hindi musical drama RockstarI had been looking forward to this since months because of the soul-stirring music of the legendary A.R. Rahman which is accompanied by the sonorous vocals by Mohit Chauhan and the poignant poetry of Irshad Kamil. One absolutely intoxicating trio that is! Now with all the Academy adulation and international accolades post Slumdog Millionaire, the home country had been missing the quintessential Rahman for some time (strange, that I should be talking from that perspective sitting here). His sheer brilliance lies in creating tunes where rhythm after rhythm the music just grows on you and crawls into your soul till you are left with nothing but raw, scathing emotions.

That said, I'm currently mulling over something rather perplexing. The Sufi ideology that pain and heartbreak are the utmost important ingredients for creativity is where the major plot of the movie whirls around. An artist, of whatever form his/her art is, must undergo a powerful emotional catastrophe in order to get truly inspired. That is where I got stuck, and still am. What if there is no internal conflict? How much pain is enough pain? Till what extent does one push oneself and the boundaries? Or should one just wait for the elusive muse of creativity?
In the movie, as an aspiring rock star, Jordan must let his heart ravaged and torn by the ruthless claws of love and rebellion. An Indian, albeit a bit patchy take on Jim Morrison, Rockstar portrays Jordan's tumultuous journey as he lives through it all - love and loss, fame and fortune, destruction and disillusionment. By the end of the movie, when the closing credits were rolling and Jordan was reciting  the above quoted Rumi lines with a gnawing intensity, I could no more feel the world around me. Nor could I see it well with a pair of blurry eyes and a tight face. Yes, I do cry at movies but this one just went a tad further and woke up a sea of dormant emotions in me. Some other day I'll sing their moods here, but not now.

Here is one of the jewels from Rahman's eternal collection. Jordan, with his newfound success and staggering popularity, is unable to understand the ways of the world. He laments his inability to articulate the beauty of emotions surrounding him - "Jo bhi main kehna chahoon, barbaad kare alfaaz mere..." (Even though I try to say something beautiful, my words make it mundane and trivial...)

And yes, from now on I am a Ranbir Kapoor fan, stamped and certified. The boy sure has blossomed and how. He has so eloquently eternalised Jordan that it is difficult to get the character out of my head. He just sits there in his military jacket and Afghan pants airing his angst while I croon the songs again and again. And again.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A French affair

It has been somewhat unruly since my last post - a writing assignment, the transition from a prophetic Yeats to an enigmatic Joyce in class, the depressingly gloomy Seattle weather and the usually moody me. It was also migraine fest since the past couple of days, adding to all the above mentioned drama. So out of impulse and habit, I inched towards what I do best in such confusing times. Baking.

Thus began my pondering in and out of the kitchen, trotting in and out of food websites. Remember my time and again allusions to France and my obsessive love for anything remotely French? Well, today I thought I should celebrate that and hence settled with the classic French dessert, clafoutis. Luckily, there were some handful of cherries lying abandoned in a corner of the freezer. And with their season gone, I did not have the heart to throw the pretty little things away.
So there I was, the temperamental baker, amid my favourite things - eggs and flour. And when it is French food, I better not look any farther than Julia Child. Having baked it once before, I find her cherry clafoutis to be non-fussy and quite honest as well. Just what I needed today. Other than its comforting warmth, my most favourite part is to watch all that beautiful puffing and preening magic that goes on inside the oven. There, I already was half-purged!
But before digging your spoon into this half-cake, half-custard awesomeness, one must dish out a perfect, cackly 'Bon Appétit' like Madame Child.

After being transported to the beautiful French countryside with my soul's fill of clafoutis, I wondered what else could be done to give this French love affair a classic end. It didn't take me long to figure it out - Amélie! I have lost count of how many times I have watched this endearing movie, yet every time it ends I know I'll come back to it again. I'm hooked, head over heels, to its quirky and quotidian soul, to its charming, vintage pockets of Montmartre and most of all to its dewy-eyed, wonderfully weird heroine.

And just like Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, mine too perked up! It had to, with this clafoutis-like heart-melting smile.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I heart carnations

Dainty whorls of lace
Charm borrowed from a fairy face
Petals of pearly delight
A poet's giddy flight
A lover's teasing weapon
An unfurling of wild imagination
A close-knit ethereal dream
Colours trailing from a prismatic stream

All these and much more...
But not 'paper flowers' as some like to call it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Colorado Gold II

"...where the sky is the size of forever and the flowers the size of a millisecond."
~ Ann H. Zwinger & Beatrice E. Willard on alpine tundra, Land Above the Trees

With the above line from the park brochure buzzing in my head, our day starts in the Rocky Mountain National Park... friendly aspens greet us one more time... the left out conifers with forlorn faces... nature's melange of gold and green... a lonely elk wanders in search of a mate... the tourists gather over its delightful bugling... the climb up begins... we leave the lush autumn foliage behind... suddenly trees are no more a part of our world... a reddish baldness paves the snaking roads... and once again the tundra appears... strange, how rugged barrenness can blow away your senses too... a chipmunk enjoys its solitary lunch... on the most scenic and popular byway of the park, the Trail Ridge Road... a drive into the arches and domes of the gigantic clouds... the world below us fades into a crisscross of trees and trails... it feels a lot smaller, at times a little futile too... patches of old snow cling on to the desolate mountains... at last the towering Rockies emerge... more than 12,000 feet above the world, an unusual calm settles on me... I feel free, free as a bird... the roaring silence, the maddening solitude, the overwhelming wilderness... I bring them back all, in pieces and bits... and some physical tokens too, like this Navajo made sand painting and pair of earrings... 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Colorado Gold I

Because I frequently rant (and how unceremoniously!) about change and our continuous nomadic life, this wonderful opportunity fell on my lap. A sign perhaps? That every cloud has a silver lining. That being a trailing spouse has its own perks and it ain't that bad after all. Especially when you are an avid mountain worshiper. Especially when it's the Colorado Rockies. And especially when it's autumn. It doesn't get better than that, does it now?

The picturesque drive on our way to Aspen... the hovering presence of the Rocky mountains throughout... the surreal spread of the golden aspen foliage on the foothills... painted hills, they sure were... the mountains again, proud and resplendent in their reflection on the gorgeous Twin Lakes... the autumn foliage gets denser and grander as we gain altitude... the blazing aspen trees framed against a calm blue sky... the famous 'quaking' aspen leaves... a tiny breather at the breathtaking Independence Pass... the vast stretch of treeless tundra... unusually striking and dramatic... the legendary Maroon Bells at Aspen... the snow-streaked mountains swing on the lap of the golden aspens... one look back and a clump of actually maroon mountains... a patch of mellow sun dancing on them... an unforgettable moment, a joyful giddiness... aspen groves, young and old... the soothing white of their feeble trunks... graffiti carved on one... all loveliness!

There's more to this dream-scape, coming up...

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