Life from different angles

Inhabit

Her quiet and lonely life  has lasted for almost a year. One foggy week goes by, then another. One silent evening is followed by another silent evening. One cloudy day, after visiting the last patient, Liz drives to a nearby town to meet her friend Mei, a writer. Mei opens the front door holding the I-pad in one hand. A warm smile flashes on her small round face.

” Liz! After a long time! It is so nice to see you. Come in.” She closes the door from behind  and Liz takes off her shoes before walking into the living room. On the rectangle coffee table there are magazines and books are in a big pile. A few candles on one small table in one corner of the room. As Liz sits on the beige couch, Mei glances at her face.

” How are you Liz? I tried to call you so many times and even e-mailed you but I never received any reply! You need to let it go and move on with life.” Mei touches her shoulders.

” It is not that easy, not at all. But I am keeping myself busy in the clinic.” Liz replies slightly touching her ring then she pauses. ” How is your Novel coming?”

Mei brings the i-pad  and opens the goggle drive. She lets her friend read the story while she walks into the kitchen to prepare some tea, something to calm her friend. It is a pretty long story. Mei is almost forty and has been working on the novel for the two years now. she is a great believer in revision and revises each section on the novel six or eight times before she goes to the next chapter. Each time Liz comes, she reads hundred pages more. In many respects it reminds her of Henry’s screenplays. In one sentence the story might leap thirty years ahead and then in the next leap sideways two thousand miles across. But she loves to read her friend’s novel. Mei comes back to the room holding a small tray with two beautiful floral tea cups.

“This will help you relax.” Liz lifts the cup. The aroma of the tea wraps her as she sips the tea. Mei takes the I-Pad and starts to read her own story for a minute or two. She turns her head towards Liz and starts to talk on editing her story.  She concentrates more on her writing. After an hour or two of flipping a few magazines and reading the new edited lines of Mei’s story,Liz decides to leave.

” It is not nine yet. Stay a little longer and I will be done soon. Afterwards we can talk and watch a movie together.”

” It is fine Mei. But I have to leave. Tomorrow I have two meetings between eight to ten in the morning. Good night!” they hug each other.

After one week,on a partly sunny day, just after the announcement of a upcoming hurricane, Liz flies to Chicago to meet her friend Adel, a wonderful artist and her college friend. It is late afternoon when Liz reaches in Adel’s house. They sit in his dining room and talk for a while touching different events of their lives. On the table lay one or two sketch pads, sketch pens and a few almost completed sketches on one side of the table.

“The light is fine today,” he says “It seems to melt a little around the point where the water met with sand. Not at all like yesterday.”

“It was too bright Yesterday?”

She grimaces. “Too flat?”

” How is your clinic and the new patient?” Adel asks.

” It is very busy in the clinic and the new patient is getting stronger. she is seventy five but the surgery went well.”

Liz appreciates him as a kind and thoughtful man but does not like him when he is totally engrossed in his art! Liz leans over from her chair and touches his arm, and he stops sketching the dog until she moves her hand away.

” I came to see you after a long time and instead of talking to me you are concentrating on your sketch.”

” Sorry!” he says lifting his eyes from the sketch, then he frowns on the dog. ” I haven’t figured out the light,” he says. ” If I can’t understand simple light, forget about the stone sculptures.”

“It is the same light wherever you are, only your angle changes.” She shifts her chair closer. One of the cook places two cups of coffee between them on the table.

” We are good friends,” she says.

“Indeed, you are welcome to stay here in my home until you decide something else to do.”

Thank You for the invitation but I am needed in the clinic. I can’t leave it in short notice.”

Adel gives a short laugh that sounds precisely like the first abrupt sounds of a boiling kettle. ” You need someone to be with you and about the clinic. you can open one here and start your practice.”

Liz is surprised. ” It is not that easy to close one and open another in a completely different city. ” She glances at his face. ” Also what is the point of moving here? I will be busy in the clinic and you will never have time to spend.”

Adel sketches an errant line in the  dog’s tail and rubs it with his thumb. Then he stops.

” We are friend Liz. I will stand by you and give you company whenever you need. You have to make a decision. You have to be brave like Jules Verne who went twenty thousand leagues in search of the vastness of the sea.” He tosses his head back. “It is impossible for you to understand.”

” Now a days I stand alone in the early morning hours, where there are no foot prints besides my own behind me and I can feel a stark of emptiness in my heart. I understand everything very well.” Liz reaches right over and takes a sip of the hot coffee. Adel shakes his head and looks at Liz. ” He is gone Liz. You need to get over it and start a new life. I am serious.”

Liz glances at him. He starts to fidget with the sketch book like a young boy in school. She wonders how long she would have to sit with him before she could reasonably escape. Liz thinks of all the people she has met. She wouldn’t miss any of them and none of them would spend even a moment wondering of they would miss her. Each of them would fade in the other’s mind like paper dolls in a sunny window.

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Over the Moon

Gate

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Thorofare Pass – Meadow Summit, Eielson Center- Denali National Park, Alaska

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful country in the world.”- John Muir

A simple postcard with the stunning picture of mountains from a National forest and under it a famous quote of John Muir,an early advocate for the preservation of wilderness  appeared in my mailbox from Arbor Day Foundation. I have kept it carefully on my desk. There is something splendid about those words.That gives me motivation to explore Alaska. In every year our family take vacation to different National parks to be in the nature, mostly to do hiking on the mountains; the fun and experience are priceless! We have been trying from last five years to visit Alaska because of its uniqueness; It is 663,268 square miles, ½ the size of the rest of the USA, it has the largest and magnificent mountains in North America, has more coastlines, stunning aurora borealis,volcanic valleys, jagged sea cliffs, have half of  the world’s glacier, tundra,3000 rivers and lakes, two largest coastal rain forests; Tongass in Southeast and Chugach in south central. It has Denali, once called Mount McKinley, is the tallest mountain in North America. Located in south-central Alaska, the mountain’s peak is 20,310 feet (6,190 meters) above sea level, also making it the third highest of the Seven Summit. Imagine the breathtaking beauty of their wilderness!

One evening in February. I was returning from a long walk in the trail when my daughter called. “ Hi Mom! How are you?”

“ I am fine. Just returning from my walk. Are you back from work?

“ I am early today. But guess what mom. Are you ready to hear? Stand still.”

“ Is everything okay?” I asked with concern standing in the middle of the trail.

“ We are going to Alaska in July.”  Her voice was full of excitement,enthusiasm.

“ What? I have not made the ticket or requested for vacation. Are you kidding?”  An eyebrow lifted. My lips gave a slight twitch.

“ Not to worry mom, I have taken care of everything, so on the first week of July we will be on our way to the dream vacation. Are you excited mom?Mom?”

There were no words for this unexpected news! Just nodding of head in disbelief. Tears choked voice of thrill and joy. A sudden flash of a  big delightful smile.

Day 1-

On the first week of July,on a mild sunny day, suitcases were packed with rain coats, winter jackets, hiking boots, hiking poles, backpacks with jingling bells to alert the bears, sun block, mosquito repellant ( Alaska has at least 27 species of mosquitoes) and all other necessary items. On a refreshingly bright Saturday morning, happiness and excitement gathered tightly in our hearts as we drove to the airport. The four hours, twenty eight minutes long flight landed at Seattle airport in late afternoon and in fifteen minutes we rushed to board the next flight Alaskan airline. Inside the flight, my husband leaned comfortably against the seat, the tips of his feet were crossed. He was reading the New York Times newspaper. My daughter took a long nap; a nice break from her intense work load and my son continued his work from his laptop. My eyes wandered outside through the small window, far to the beautiful snow-covered mountain range of Alaska,the way I have seen in the documentary.The book Second hand Time stayed close on my lap for a long time until  I heard the sweet voice of the nice, friendly air hostess.

“ What would you like to drink?”

“ Water without ice is fine. Thank You.”

I sipped the water from a small plastic cup and opened the first page of the book. I was almost in the middle of the book when the announcement in a shrill voice echoed “ Hello! We will be landing shortly.Please switch off all your electronic devices and buckle your seat belts.” After two and half hour our flight safely touched the heart of Alaska’s, “ Ted Stevens Anchorage International airport”, located 5 miles southwest of downtown. We picked up our luggage and the rental car. The rental car lines were very long. It took almost one hour to pick up the car.Outside the weather was sixty-seven degree, sky was running by plump, cushion clouds and the road sides were full of pretty lipstick red flowers, small yellow as marigold and blue clustered flowers. Just above the bowline of the horizon, faint as a watermark on pale blue paper if the wavering tracery of the mountains! The smile on my face was wide open, sunny without a doubt on the world that this week of adventure in Alaska will be wonderful.It took us only fifteen minutes to drive to the Home2 suites in downtown.

Day 2-         Around eleven in the night the lights of our room were switched off. But it was difficult to sleep when the heart is swelled with excitement! “Excitement is a crossroad which runs in all directions.Criss Jam

It was almost two o’clock in the night, when I woke up to drink water from the water bottle that was on the small table close to the big window facing the parking lot. I took a few gulps of water and glanced outside, gently moving the heavy curtain from the window. “What?” outside there was light in the sky! It was not that bright but like the soft late afternoon sky. “No way!Out of curiosity, immediately I turned sharply from the window and looked at the small table clock which clearly showed the time 2:15 PM. I slowly pulled the curtain across the window. “ It is so cool! No sunset!” I laughed on a high prolonged note and then my lips closed slowly not to disturb others. But it was too late.

“ Mom,go back to bed. We have to wake up early.”

“ Sorry. Good night!’’ I went back to the bed and tried to sleep.This time I had to meditate to fall  asleep.

A bright and lemony morning fell across the rectangle wooden table, touching a brass vase of plastic flowers and scattered on our opened luggages.It was almost 9 am. After breakfast, we arranged ourselves in the car and drove on Seward Highway south for about 47 miles past Girdwood  to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation center, on the right side at Mile 79. The view is spectacular on both sides of the road; the shorelines of Turnagain Arm,the magnificent view of Cook Inlet and  jutting peaks of gorgeous Chugach mountain.You can pull over along the side of the road to snap a few pictures.Each turn on the road reveals another scenic wonder. There is freshwater marsh, nestled between the foot of the mountains and Turnagain Arm where the Seward Highway leaves urban Anchorage behind, offers intimate views of migrating and nesting birds, spawning salmon and browsing moose. On the sides of the road there are lots of sky blue color,flowers with five connected salverform petals,that are a quarter to a third of an inch wide, have a white inner ring and a yellow center. We checked all the flowers of Alaska in a magazine that my daughter picked from the hotel and it is the“Forget-me-not”, Alaska’s state flower.

There is a beautiful poem by Esther Darling on this flower. One stanza is

“ In the land that God forgot,

We’ll recall Alaska to them

With our blue Forget me not.”

We reached our destination around 10 am. It is a slightly cold morning the sun looks like a little white button stitched tight to the sky. My son  stopped and read loudly the mission of the Wildlife Center which was posted on a  board at the entrance; The mission of the Wildlife Conservation Center is to provide  extreme care for sick,wounded and orphaned animals year-round. Most of the animals they rescue become permanent residents. The Center maintains over 200 acres of large spacious habitats for animals to feel at home and display their natural “wild” behavior. After we purchased the entrance ticket which was $ 12 for adults and free for the children. We walked around on a wide gravel glittered road, the 1.5 miles of enclosed area. There were four brown bears, one red fox, white mountain goats, lots of moose, musk ox, bisons, porcupine and elks.Visitors may see brown bears cooling off in the water, a bull moose strutting, wood bison roaming on pastures and more.Most striking, though, were the brown bears, lumbering and quite intimidating from an open, winding boardwalk above the bears’ habitat. It’s safe — the bears can’t get you — but thrilling, too since there’s very little barrier separating you from the animals. I managed to snap a pretty decent photo of one of them, but it didn’t do justice to the excitement of seeing these huge animals up close.There was one red fox, white mountain goats, lots of moose, musk ox, bisons, porcupine and elks. They have a beautiful gift shop as neat as a pin.The contribution by the visitors in the form of admission fee, donation, gift shop purchase are a big help for the center. I noticed a fat black bird in wedge-shaped tail, heavy bill, on top of a small bush and it was overly articulated. I asked one of the forest ranger. “ Hi! Is this a crow?”

She laughed. “ It is a raven, a very smart bird! They are capable to make 50 calls of their own and mimic almost any sound they hear.”

“ Really! Unbelievable!” My eyes turned to the talented raven.

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Anchorage, Alaska- Wildlife Conservation Center

The mountains are calling and I must Go.” John Muir

The sun was close to the edge of the clouds and one half of the sky was bright blue.From there we drove 15 miles in Chugach state park to the famous Flat top mountain. Flattop Mountain is located on the southeast side of Anchorage, just slightly above a residential neighborhood with some of the city’s best views. From Highway 1 on the south side of town, take the Rabbit Creek Road exit and head east.  Rabbit Creek Road turns into Hillside Drive, then turn on Upper Huffman Drive, then Toilsome Hill Drive, which will then turn into Glen Alps Road.  At the end, you’ll arrive at a large, and likely very crowded, parking area. There is a parking fee of five dollar.The mountain is total of 1,260 feet from the parking lot trail head.  The high point of the mountain – 3,510 feet  Ascend the 1.5 – mile, 1,350 vertical foot trail to the rocky, football field-sized summit in about an hour.The trail starts from a wooden stairway in the parking area and the path makes its way through the scattered trees, heads up hill over several switch backs and moderate sottish hike. My husband was singing a few lines from Robert Frost’s poem “ Stopping By Woods in a Snowy evening

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”

The mountain was completely enshrouded in low clouds.  There were periodic bouts of clearing, leading us to hope that perhaps we would get lucky along the way.A light rain started, the weather cooled down a lot. Like a glass of ice water with the ice just taken out, I announced. “My favorite weather!” The cloud covered most of the mountain tops, so it was hard for us to navigate although the scenic beauty was mesmerizing. We spotted Bunchberry  which is an evergreen groundcover that grows up to 8″ tall. It has an erect stem topped with 4-7 leaves in a whorl. The leaves are oval with a rough “dogwood” texture. Tiny flowers cluster at the top of the stem atop 4 white modified leaves, which form a structure that looks like a white flower. While I was in the height of exploration I heard my husband’s voice from my back. “ We should go back. It is hard to navigate in the fog.” He did not want to face or surprise any animal.

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Anchorage, Alaska- Flattop Mountain Trail i the Chugach Mountain Range (Chugach State Park)

“ I understand but can we hike a little more? I don’t want to go back.”  My stubborn mind always takes over on mountains. But there is no point of argument, so we turned around to climb down. Although I was not in a mood to leave the place. The view from the top is amazing! A panoramic view of Anchorage; of the neighboring valley, looking back into Chugach State Park, and the Chugach Mountains. Our eyes lingered on them, taking everything greedily in. After the long day of adventure and sightseeing we eat in a Thai kitchen. The price was reasonable and we ate delicious steamed spring rolls, yellow and red curry with tofu and lots of vegetables. Around eleven in the night the sunlight was still lingering outside when we returned to the hotel room to take a good night’s rest.

Day 3 –

It was a  splendid morning! After breakfast we headed out to our next adventure to the Wolverine Peak Trail. From the new Seward Highway we drove east on O’Malley Rd for ~4 miles at which point the road bends sharply left.  Immediately after the bend, we turned right onto Upper O’Malley Road. At the “T” intersection, turn left onto Prospect Dr. One mile further, bear left where Prospect Drive intersects Sidorof Ln and continued .1 miles to the Prospect Heights parking area.  We reached a small parking area after one mile. You pay $ 5 dollar fee. The trail starts there. Upon starting we turned left at the T path leads to Powerline pass, followed the trail around the hillside until reached a wooden bridge crossing a pretty creak. The trail makes its way out of the surrounding forest. Along the side of the trail there are 1 to 4 feet long beautiful clusters of white five lobed flowers with long stamens shooting above the petals. A few western Hemlocks, leaves are wider, thin light green than the spruce, pointing down,Their cones are dark brown and the bark is gray-brown.The trail is a gradual slope for first few miles, trail gets steeper through the brush. It narrows and veers up and out into backcountry. After a couple of miles along a very well maintained flat trail, crossing Campbell creek, the trail forks uphill towards the peak passing through the spruce,black and paper birch forest.  The trail was a bit muddy and slick from rain and lots of mosquitoes. There are beautiful springs flow on both sides of the trail.A ridge will be reached after a long trek uphill, marked by a large pile of rocks. We were hiking up and the bells in our backpacks jingled all the way.My son was hollering “ Hey, Bear” in every twenty minutes or so. We are supposed to talk or sing when hiking in the wilderness to alert the wildlife and not to startle them.From now and then we had to stand still and look around to check the surrounding. That is a bear country for sure! It is a 8.6 miles out back trail and the elevation is 3,550 feet. Towards the top of the  valley the tundra stretches ahead and on the ground there were recently bloom white flowers, red flowers .pretty pink five petal roses and patches of eight-lobed flowers with a yellow center.Gorgeous all along!  

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Anchorage, Alaska- Wolverine Peak Trail, Chugach State Park 

A high alpine wonderland. We stood there and looked around.On a distant valley we spotted two moose grazing and on the opposite side, two white dots.

“ Must be the Dall sheep!” I said snapping a few pictures. Then I asked my family if we could climb a little further up to the top but they did not agree.

“ Mom, last month there was a bear attack in one of the trail here in Anchorage. We should climb down from here.”

As we were climbing down we saw a young man in a navy blue short and a white t-shirt taking picture of the Dall sheep in his professional camera.

We greeted each other and I asked him. “ Are you taking the picture of Dall Sheep’s?” I pointed to the top where the dots were moving slowly.

“ O’ they are not the sheep, but brown bears. I am a research student and trying to observe and study the bears.” He answered smilingly.

“Really!” We looked at him then turned our heads towards the mountain top. I could not resist.

“May I look through your binocular?”

We took turns to look through the binocular. The white dots were two light brown bears! We were glad that we did not climb up towards the bears. From there we went straight to Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria to eat.We had a great server who was efficient and prompt.Helpful with the menu, patient with our questions, and still had a sense of humor.Pizza was amazing and the atmosphere was cozy. It was almost eleven Pm and outside it was like an early evening sky! That night my husband and children were very tired from hiking. My husband asked me. “ You must be real tired too.How is your right heel?”

“ Nothing, no soreness so feeling fine.” I answered honestly arranging my pillow to a perfect position. I could see the astonishment in his eyes. Even I was surprised too. I had sore knees from the kickboxing class and Plantar Fascisti on my right heel. It was real painful for couple of weeks before I ventured out.But there was not much pain after two days of hiking, just a little soreness on my heel. My daughter overhead and smiled.

“ Dad, I think mom’s excitement has taken away all the pain.”  All our heads nodded simultaneously and laughter echoed in the room.

Day 4 –

A bright slice of sunlight moved slowly across the wall and when it reached the top of the clock on the corner table, we checked out of the hotel.Another gorgeous, lovely morning! We drove almost five hours on AK-3N to Denali. Mirror Lake is the first of many, located just a short drive from Anchorage, and a few minutes from the highway. Surrounded by the untouched wilderness of Chugach State Park, this lake is known for its flawless reflections of the mountains behind it. There are picnic tables and hiking trails, but we could not stayed longer as the sunny day turned into a cloudy and rainy day!  It is a two-way road and speed limit changes either to 60 or 50. We passed Reflection Lake, Eklutna lake,Talkeetna on our way. When you arrive at the entrance to Denali National Park, this is when your journey into the gorgeous, untouched wilderness will begin. Depending on how much time you take to reach Denali, it’s feasible that you will arrive late. After driving through the breathtaking view we were already fallen deeply in love with Alaska. We drove north on the Glenn Highway (AK-1), took the interchange north on the Parks Highway (AK-3). At mile 238, there is a signs for the beautiful Grande Denali Lodge on the right (east) side of the road. We drove in a zigzag road to the top of Sugarloaf mountain and checked in there.Their staffs and service were perfect! It has easy access to guided Denali activities,spacious rooms, Alpenglow Restaurant with local cuisine, peak Espresso in the main lodge and courtesy shuttle service.The view from the restaurant window was spectacular! It offers a panoramic view of the entire Denali Canyon, located less than a mile from the entrance to Denali National park. There in the  restaurant we eat black bean burger and chicken sandwich. In their Peak Espresso cafe they serve Alaska’s very own Kaladi Brothers Coffee and a wide variety of specialty coffees and teas.  The delicious pastries are a perfect way to satisfy a light sweet tooth craving.The place was beautiful, and the restaurant staffs were outstanding – food was terrific.

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On the way to Denali National Park – On the right is Mount Denali, seen only by 30% of the visitors to Denali NPS.  We saw it!

It was almost five fifteen in the evening and there was no sunset, so we decided to check the visitor’s center and go for an easy hike. We turned onto the Park Road at mile 237 of the Parks Highway. Just up the road on the left there is the road to the post office, Riley Creek Campground and the store.There is also the Wilderness access center where you can park.

The Denali Visitor Center is just up the road has information about the Park.Near the visitor center, there is a bookstore and cafeteria.Denali rangers repeated this message–run from moose, don’t run from bears.Of all the park’s critters, moose and bears are the two most likely to charge and injure a human if encountered at close range. “Stand your ground and talk to the bear. And wave your arms slowly above your head.Never run from a bear; that’s the worst thing you can do, because it could trigger the bear’s predatory instincts.” My son walked to one open corner of the room to rechecked his backpack to make sure that we have the bear spray.The hazards of surprising a grizzly are well documented, but moose can be nearly as dangerous.If you encounter a moose, get out of its way as quickly as possible. Run away from it. We thanked the ranger for his advice and left the center.

Dad and mom, both of you make sure to walk jingling your bells and do what the ranger told us to do if we encounter any animal.”

“ Sure, we nodded our head.” We smiled. It was so much fun to hear when the children act like your parents! After checking the map for nearby trails we decided on Horseshoe Lake trail. The popular trail begins at Mile 9 on the Park road near the railway tracks. It is 3 miles roundtrip, elevation gains 200 feet. We walked leisurely on a developed trail.The trail takes us into a forest of spruce, aspen, birch, poplar trees and  tall fireweed a  common plant with a tall stalk, long, willow-like leaves and fuchsia-colored flowers, the fireweed blooms from bottom to top. Looking around, we see that many of this forest’s aspens have had sections of their bark stripped away. After the overlook bench, there are lots of wooden steps to go down, the trail drops steeply. Along the way we had a panoramic view of the Nenana River, passing the impressive Beaver dam. We stood at the edge of the calm and serene beaver pond.  A steep slanted flash of sunlight was falling along the water, and the reflection of the sky and the trees and the mountains on the clear water were absolutely stunning! It is funny to see the teeth marks of the beavers on lots of trees surrounding the dam and surprised at the intelligent engineering skills of the beavers.We walked along the pond towards the Nenana River, the water flow out of the Nenana Glacier and runs south then west into a wide glacial valley.The Nenana River is a tributary of the Tanana River, approximately 140 miles long. It is the most popular river rafting destination and also a favorite whitewater kayaking destination for boaters throughout the state.It has an annual Nenana Wildwater and Slalom Race each Fourth of July. We watched the amazing whitewater rafting from one side of the river. The side of the river is full of rocks and pebbles. On the shore there are a few small white and purple flowers hugging close to the ground .Beyond the river is a heavily commercialized stretch of Parks Highway, with hotels, restaurants, and other tourism businesses. We could see the Denali lodge up in the mountain, the train track, the bridge and the surrounding mountains. The view is dazzlingly beautiful! While we were busy in looking at the rafters, we heard a very distinctive sound. We looked down and there on a small rock stands a cute yellowish-brown, gray-flecked arctic ground squirrel.It was persistent in chatter. It face was lifted up towards us.

“Begging for food?” My son asked him mischievously.

“Let me feed him a nut.” I opened my backpack.

“No.Mom. You can not feed any animal.”

I closed the zipper of my bag and watched the cute and intelligent behavior of the squirrel.

The squirrel runs to the other side and chattered again. In the Visitor’s Center they have asked not to feed any animal so we could not offer him anything but enjoyed its company.The squirrel left with disappointment. For dinner we went to The Black Bear restaurant.Amazing food with fresh ingredients, good size portions and very filling.

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Denali National Park- Horseshoe Lake Trail, beaver dams and arctic ground squirrels

Day 5 –     And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.”

Early morning around seven-thirty we drove to the Wilderness Access center. We parked the rental car and rode the Denali park and preserve transit green shuttle bus to Eielson Visitor center with our carefully packed hiking backpacks; sandwich, power bar, mixed nuts,water, mosquito repellent. The weather is extremely variable and changes without warning so we had both the rain and winter gears.Shuttle buses run frequently all day, making wildlife sightings and letting off park visitors along the park road and it’s an inexpensive wildlife safari.It is almost 3 hours to the Eielson Visitors Center via Park road. You have to purchase the ticket and make a reservation.The bus was packed. People were courteous to let others look out their side of the windows. The bus driver stopped for restroom breaks every hour or so, usually at some scenic spots. The heater was on during the whole trip, but the windows can be opened at will.The restrooms are outhouses with no running water, but are very nice and well maintained. The friendly driver asked all of us to shout if we spot any animal so that he can stop the bus. The other thing is we can take pictures but have to stay quiet so that we will not disturb the animals.On our way we stopped to see a brown bear resting on grass, a few caribou grazing on the field, state bird of Alaska ‘ The willow ptarmigan, a medium to large ground-dwelling bird, generally stands 14 to 17 inches high, has a wingspan ranging from 24 to 26 inches. Their plumage changes color from light brown in summer months to snow-white in the winter. In addition to color-changing feathers, another distinctive feature of the willow ptarmigan are its feathered toes. We saw Grizzly and cubs in an open field. The view of the snow-covered mountains and streams from both sides of the bus are impressive beyond words. They say that only about one-third of visitors ever get to see the  Denali mountain. There were lots of cloud that day and we could only see the tip of the mountain.Once arrived at the Eielson Center, there was a 50 min break before the same bus makes the return trip. The landscape was partially hidden by low clouds and fog, but gave a different feeling than when sunny. Just imagine if the sun comes out with blue sky and what more can we see!The Eielson Visitor Center is a large, shiny, modern facility in a gorgeous location packed full of people during the tourist season and fits into the surrounding landscape beautifully. It has limited displays & exhibits, allowing Mt. Denali and the surrounding vistas to be the focus of your attention during your time there. The Park Rangers had an exhibit set up to discuss animal identification. There is a small gallery of art inspired by Denali wilderness and wildlife are on display inside the Center and it is well worth viewing. Below Eielson there is a short walking loop which is a good option to take if after the long drive you need a few minutes to enjoy the peace and tranquility in the shadow of North America’s tallest mountain.  Outside the Center, there are plenty of benches and tables to enjoy the views from while eating a snack that you packed.

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Denali National Park  – Eielson Visitor Center, Alpine Trail

We could have signed up for a ranger led hike but preferred to hike at our own space. Another Indian couple joined us in our hike. We crossed the road to go to the Eielson Alpine trail head.The Alpine Trail is a popular one. It’s steep, well maintained, and gains about 1,100 ft. of elevation through serious switchbacks.We started up a narrow side trail that merges with the main trail after a hundred yard.It’s a single-track trail that winds rather steeply up the mountain on the other side of the road for about one mile. It ends a thousand feet higher in the tundra, where hikers can strike out on their own for as far as they want to go.Our elevation ranged from 3,766 feet at the trailhead to 4,883 feet at the peak. Reaching the top was breathtaking. We saw dwarf shrubs, sedges, mosses and tundra on the top. The tundra has bearberry to arctic rose, yellow marsh marigold,fireweed, dwarf dogwood Fuchsia flower at the top of the stalk and a family of cute arctic squirrels, very articulate.

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

  It was very windy at the top. We hiked a little more on the top and walked around, snapped a few pictures. Suddenly the partial clear weather turned into light rain and clouds covered the mountains again. We had to climb down to the visitors center to catch the bus back to the Denali Visitors Center.  We reached at our hotel around seven in the evening. Surprisingly, a little colorless sunlight forced its way around the hotel building and lay exhausted across the floor.

Day 6 –

It was a bright sunny morning, another magnificent day!  We were on our way to hike Mount Healy. It is a ridge system and reaches up to 6000 feet and the summit is 1500 feet higher. We drove to the Denali Visitor Center to access the trailhead easily. We followed the Taiga loop trail about 3 miles crossed the second service road. The stretch of the Taiga trail is relatively easy and with minimal elevation gain. Once we reached the trailhead, Mt. Healy Overlook trail begins going up immediately.The trail rises steadily through the forest of pretty Paper Birch, White Spruce, Alaska Birch and lots of pink five petal rose plants. Around half point, we reached at some wooden bench, took a little rest, snapped some pictures.It was a little hot that day so we had to reapply the sunblock, put on our hats before climbing up. The climb became steeper, rockier and trickier with lots of switchbacks and unsafe footing on the loose gravel.I have hiked before and on the same time I am scared to heights! When fear takes over I cry a little, but move on. So at the point when the trail tuned into loose gravel and real narrow, without any trees on the sides, I stopped and looked down. I should not have done that mistake! I started to cry and murmured to myself. “ I am really scared now, kids will you wait. Let’s go down. Kids!” No answer. They have moved ahead of me. I held both the hiking poles real tight, head down,eyes focused on the gravel trail and started to climb up. I don’t want Fear to win. But really it was very scary on those narrow turns!

On the top it was very windy!The breeze was strong enough to lift a ball cap off your head and send it flying,if you don’t grab it.But the breeze felt good, serving as a built-in air conditioner as we worked up a sweat, climbing the steep ridge. I stood with my back straight, took a deep breath and adjusted my hat. It took us almost a little over two hours to reach at the top.The actual summit is 1500 feet higher on the mountain. What a hike! “ Mom, we made it ! High five to us!” That was my son’s excited voice. We high-fived. On the top,the alpine tundra was stunning, dotted with patches of tiny, blooming wildflowers of all colors — yellow, white, purple, red, blue, white. Some flowers are densely packed like thickets hugging the ground, there are pink dandelions. They provided a stark contrast to the rock and talus-covered landscape.The views got more impressive the higher we climbed. The ridge we followed dropped off thousands of feet into creek bottoms on both sides. There were mountains stretched out as far as the eye could see to the east, west and south. Patches of white, creamy snow still littered the north-facing slopes while occasional patches of green grass dotted the south-facing slopes.  The top of the ridge was dominated by prehistoric-looking rock formations,and loose rocks with jagged peaks. We sat on two big rocks and eat our lunch. My son spotted a family of marmots.Near the top, the ridge turns to the south and you follow it to the top, which is marked by a rock formation consisting of four spires called “The castle.” The pucker factor increased the higher you climbed. There were several steep, rock formations and bolder fields to negotiate, some of which involved scrambling and climbing on hands and knees.We stopped at the bottom of the castle, which requires about a 50-foot climb up a steep crack in the rock wall. My children and husband went ahead to explore more. I waited for them and snapped some pretty pictures. From the top it was a beautiful 360 degree view. Below we saw the Nenana river, the Denali Lodge, visitors center. On the top surrounded by mountains in every direction. We did not spot any bear or moose. After one hour as the rain clouds started to move, we decided to descend back.

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Denali National Park- Mt. Healy Scenic Overlook Trail – We explored the entire ridge for ~6 hours.

Even though it was faster, the climbed own seemed harder than the climb up.Picking your way down through the rocks and talus slopes required more mental energy than climbing up. Our knees ached and our thighs burned as we made our way down the mountain toward the highway.It was our last day in Denali. We did not want to leave. There are so much to explore!

Day 7 –

After dinner we packed our luggage and drove back to Anchorage. Our last adventure was a journey in Kenai Fjord cruise to see the wildlife and glacier. Around 4 am we were on Seward Highway. It was the only highway to get between the two cities. The first stretch of highway is known as Turnagain Arm as it winds along the dramatic shore of the gorgeous bay. On one side there are the magnificent mountains  and the other side offers the gorgeous view of the alpine tundra across the Turnagain Arm. On the side of the road there are lots of dark blue flowers in long thick spike, bluebells and pinkish ¼ “ clustered flowers.We passed the Potter Marsh, a coastal wildlife refuge area for migratory birds including Trumpeter swans, red necked Grebes, pintails. But we could not stop as we had to catch the cruise at a certain time. The time plays a big role here. After two and half hour we reached at Seward, a scenic port city in southern Alaska, set on an inlet on the Kenai Peninsula. The majestic Fjord is a geological formation that has been carved by 38 glistening glaciers, and Kenai Fjords are massive stone monoliths and islands that sit on the edge of  great Alaska.It’s a gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, where glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield into coastal fjords.To the west, a trail leads to the summit of Mount Marathon.Seward sits on the edge of this fjord that is surrounded by steep mountains that come straight up from the ocean. This geographical formation, fjords, brings together two of nature’s most magnificent creations, mountains and oceans, in a very dramatic way.  A very striking landscape! We parked our car in a free parking lot and rode the shuttle across the road to board the cruise.

This family owned tour operator has distinguished themselves with their great Seward-based cruises into Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park: they were the first to get National Park Service Rangers on board We boarded the 95 feet long luxurious cruise around eight am. There are almost one hundred passengers. You can sit inside the heated viewing area with giant picture windows, or stroll the large viewing decks. We preferred to stay outside on the deck. There were benches to sit. It was chilly and a little windy.  But the air was alive with chatter and laughter and enthusiastic discussions.Also a wonderful time to meet and greet lots of international travellers. The boat was very clean (even the bathrooms). Breakfast and lunch were also decent. There is a galley on board where you can get snacks and extra drinks but you are also more than welcome to bring your own food/beverages on board as well. The staff was enthusiastic to fill your water bottle for you. The tour began with a narrative speech of the captain. Time to time the he narrated during the cruise, sharing some of his deep knowledge of the Seward area’s history and terrain. Captain was on the lookout for wildlife and stopped the boat to drift along when something’s been spotted. He maneuvered the vessel so that we could see, hear and sometimes even smell all of the wonders around us.  He had a great speaking voice and was very knowledgeable about the area and the history of what he was showing us.

Our captain cruised out to the Cape Resurrection. The east side of the Resurrection Bay presents a massive sheer cliff to the pounding waves. The captain explained it as a pillow basalt, a type of igneous rock. It gets its name from the bulbous, pillow like shape which forms as the hot lava underneath the water cools rapidly. The bubble texture of the cliff is an ideal habitat for thousands of nesting Alaskan seabirds like puffins, kittiwakes, and cormorants. The captain stopped the boat close to the seabird nesting areas, providing great photo opportunities.  Everyone scrambling to get their shots.There were the cutest Horned Puffin  and Tufted Puffin. Both birds have bright orange beaks, webbed feet with black and white coloring. The Tufted Puffin has yellow tufts of feathers behind each eyes and fully blackbody, bold white face mask. They can dive  deeper than 24 m to catch a fish. Also the captain was describing that they can also hold 62 fishes in their bill at one time! They can fly beating their wins 300 to 400 times a minute, speed up to 64 Kph. It was so cool to see those pretty birds!  

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Kenai Fjords Day Cruise – Out of Seward – Puffins, whales, sea stars, and more!

On the opposite side of the bay, the shore is eroded into cliffs and coxes, dark-colored stones. Mud transformed by heat and pressure becomes a fire grained dark stone with lots of layers and hardens to slate in time.There were very porcelain white, the black-legged Kittiwake, a smaller gull on exposed rock ledges. I heard that they are unique with three toes rather than four. Our eyes traveled to a small rock where one bald eagle was trying its best to catch a big fish but could not. It was either too heavy or too big.On a big rock ledge there were the Common Murre, a deepest diving seabird and it can fly too. The captain was telling that this birds do not build nests, but instead lay their eggs on bare rocks, typically in horizontal cracks or crevices.There was red-faced Cormorant paddling on the water to eat fish.  The Black Oystercatcher with bright red and flat bills, have their nest among the pebbles in shallow, rocky depressions on the beach.

Moving to the west, there is Cape Aialik juts into the tumultuous water. The rock her is granodiorite, a lighter color than the ocean rocks. Glacier has covered the bedrock into steep cliffs, the slate crumbles once the ice melts away. It’s sheer surface is draped with waterfalls. It was packed with tens of thousands of Puffins, Murree.

“ Birds must have an affinity for granite as we love that in our kitchen.” I whispered to my husband. Both of us chuckled.

On a triangular-shaped large rock with lots of small rocks to its right in the water which is the Stellar sea-lion colonies, where they gather on the rugged, rocky coastline. This area of water is called “Haul-out.” The forest ranger who was standing with us pointed out to one Sea lion. “ Look closely in your binocular. The one with thick enlarged neck is the male and the ones half the size or smaller are the female.” They were basking themselves on the rocks.

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There are lots of starfish, Harbor seals on a huge rock formation. My son rented one binocular, which was so much better to see the pretty,dazzling starfish clinging to the side of the rocks. I love the cute faces of the Harbor seals, as they pop their beautiful round heads quietly above the water surface and their curious eyes fall on the surroundings.There was red-faced Cormorant paddling on the water to eat fish.The cruise went close to the beautiful Fox Island, Pedersen glacier and Addison glacier.  Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge is the only accommodations on remote Fox Island. The waters surrounding it are a rich blue-green color that reflect the weather lapping upon the shore.. The air was getting colder. I walked down to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Holding two cups of hot chocolate I climbed up to the outside deck. Me and my husband leaned back,stretched out legs and enjoyed the ride. “ Isn’t the sea wonderful?” says my husband rising from a long wide-eyed silence.  I nodded and pointed towards the sea-gulls. “ It will be nice to wake up at sunrise, swoop down over the water and away out in the lovely blue day!”

“Really, they are so lucky!” he replies looking at the birds through his binocular.

It was fun to see Orca or Killer Whales, member of the dolphin family swimming together, where the mother and the young ones were in the center and the male Orcas surrounding them.  They have pretty jet black bodies and white patches over their eyes, under the jaw.There are three different types, but I think we must have seen the Resident Orcas. They are highly social and travel in family groups. The curious and intelligent Orcas made a beautiful show for us  for half an hour,by coming out together from water then diving into the water. Their tall fins stacked up out of the water as they were swim close to the surface. It’s just incredible. You can see the whites of their faces glistening in the sun as they rise out of the water. I was thinking to just relax and enjoy these views. Then we heard over the loudspeaker “Well, we’ve seen a lot today. But…. there’s one last thing. Your wish has come true”. Suddenly you’ve gained the energy back, your fingers are somehow working after 7/8 hours of pressing the shutter down and you’re back in the game. , the captain asked us to look to the right side of the boat. There were two or more Gray whales standing on their heads in water with their flukes above the surface. They fall back at an angle creating a loud noise and a big splash, stayed underwater for fifteen minutes then dived up again. After half an hour, in a distant there were Humpback Whales with a distinct hump in front of their dorsal fin and large wing like flippers. They were swimming on their back with both flippers in the air. It was so cool to see when they raised their tails and slapped on the water surface as if performing a beautiful show to entertain us. There were a few black and white Dall’s Porpoise with small pointed flippers and triangular heads, swimming erratically, zigzagging in the water very rapidly. It was hard to snap their pictures. The captain made us laugh when he said that the Dall’s Porpoise get a free ride on the bow-wave of the boat. It was almost one, our lunchtime.The weather was perfect chilly weather! It was gorgeous – low clouds and mist created a primordial scene with one awesome view  after another!

The cruise boat travels approximately 100 miles round-trip through Resurrection Bay into Kenai Fjords National Park. It cruised through the protected Resurrection Bay and continued around Cape Aialik (pronounced “I-al-ik) into Aialik Bay to view Holgate Glacier, an active tidewater glacier. It was the highlight of  the cruise.After couple of hours we reached in Kenai Fjord.The  Kenai Fjord park covers an area of 669,984 acres on the Kenai Peninsula in south central Alaska, near the town of Seward.There we spotted a few playful, cute sea otters swimming in the water. As we cruised into Aialik Bay we had our first glimpse of Aialik Glacier, an active tidewater glacier. We stopped in front of the glacier and watch for calving, where large chunks of glacial ice break off and crash into the water. Our next stop was Holgate Glacier, a 400 feet of high colossus of snow and ice that moves at four feet per day into the sea.  Standing outside on the front deck we looked at the glacier. We could feel the cold wind around us. It was freezing cold. Our captain took the boat as close to any glacier as safely possible—typically between a half mile and a quarter-mile. And because big-time calving happens almost every day. We heard a sound like the crack of a gunshot, then watched as a huge chunk of ice splinters off the glacier to fall hundreds of feet to the ocean below. The glacier is constantly shedding its ice from its edge in order to balance itself as it ever so slowly moves forward toward the Gulf of Alaska.The ice that falls does so in massive chunks that become the icebergs spotted around the sea.Some of the icebergs can be incredibly large, so seeing one of those icebergs actually fall into the water is a sight to behold. The whole boat quiets while you’re just listening to the amazing sounds of the ice cracking, water streaming down the rocks, and yourself: in disbelief of where you are at this current moment in time.

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Vibrantly blue pieces of the glacier break off and go crashing into the sea below, rippling into a wave around it. It will sound like you’re listening to a thunderous large waterfall as the ice breaks apart and descends.The forest ranger scooped up one large piece of ice from top of the water so that we could touch and feel the ice. It was breathtaking to see the glacier from so close.We stood there silently holding our hands,with an awe to the nature. At the same time a strong awareness for Global Warming wrapped tightly on our heart. Of the more than 100,000 glaciers in the state, 95% are currently thinning, stagnating, or retreating.The gray clouds started to roll over and the captain slowly turned the boat back to Seward.

Stand Tall

Blossom

One bright Saturday morning, just after breakfast Isaac drives to a nearby mall in a rundown car with his father. He sits in the front seat, behind the rustiest door. It is fun to drive with his dad. He loves how the tires float sideways in the wet road or when his dad honks the horn. It sounds like the Sesame street blue monster bopping its nose. The mall is full of people and on each door of the store it says “Don’t miss the Father’s day sale”. He takes a sip from the  grape juice bottle as his dad takes him to the glass elevator. “ So dad, I wonder if all these people are buying gifts for their dad. If you say yes, then I should buy something for you. Right?”

Isaac’s father pulls him to one safe corner inside the elevator and adjusts the small front pocket on his son’s faded blue t-shirt. “ May be they are shopping for father’s day or they may be going to watch movie. Remember the school is out for summer. But you do not have to worry on that. We are here to enjoy our day together and that is the best gift.”

“ I agree dad.”  He concentrates on his ride in the elevator with glass walls. He feels as if he sails into the enormous blue sky like Superman. Below him, all the people has turned into moving dots.He feels tall and brave.The elevator stops and as he pushes himself out his father stops him from behind. “ Isaac! Wait for your turn. I always remind you to follow the Rules. Rules are extremely important and more exact the better.”
“ Sorry dad.”

After the mall, they visit a friend’s house who lives in a few blocks from the mall. Their house resembles a stack of beige rectangles. The rectangles are brick and they glistened after it rains. Though they look delicious, he is not supposed to taste them.That is the rule. Sometimes when he gets crazy, he licks the wall. His friend calls him retarded and his dad abruptly pulls the chair back. “ He is tired from the long hours in the mall that is all. I better take him home.”  They return home quietly; his father concentrates on the wheel and Isaac looks at the puffy white clouds and the tiny birds up in the sky.

Around six in the evening Isaac plays with his bright yellow toy train on the front porch, while his father reads a newspaper sitting on the stair. The battery of the train stops working and his toy train stops in the middle of the first round.Issac kicks the train and it hits the wall and flips. He tries hard to fix it but could not. His father closes the newspaper and looks at him.
“ Don’t be so harsh on others.”

“ Sorry dad, it will not happen again, but at the same time I do not like the way the train behaves!”

“ Have a little patience!” He sits with Isaac and helps him putting the pieces together with lots of patience. 

After dinner Isaac brings out all his rocks from a big plastic box, and spreads them on the floor. This his collection from all the national parks that he has visited with his father.Once a week, he washes and dries his rocks. Sometimes he colors them to make them brighter and happier. He feels himself as the Superman of the lifeless objects.

At the second week of August, Issac starts the middle school. His Psychiatrist has guaranteed that he is normal now.In last visit, the psychiatrist, a tall, skinny, gray-haired man Dr.Robertson asked him. “ Do you want to draw a road runner looking at the picture, while I do the tests? Or you can color it. Whichever one you like. Go ahead.”

Isaac did, he is good with eyes but with bodies! Not that much. His road runner looks like feather duster attached to a gardening rake. And now he goes to school. In the school playground he meets his old school friend Ron. He always boss him around or clearly bullies him; he kicks his desk, snaps his pencil in two, sometimes eats his lunch, bumps him from behind in the recess line. But Isaac does not how to respond so he stays quiet, does not say a word.

That afternoon it rains. The parking lot reflects the sky from a thousand puddles. His father comes to pick him after school. As Isaac walks into the house, he notices that the brick of his house is dyed dark with water. They are stacked together like crispy double vanilla sugar wafers. But he does not want to lick the brick anymore. He follows dad’s rule; no tasting the bricks. That night before, bed Issac draws a spectacular rainbow with his father, sitting on the wooden floor of the living room. And the rainbow has only his favorite colors; Blue, orange and yellow.He dreams he is riding the glass elevator into the space. The earth disappears beneath  the clouds and a billion stars. His dad says, “ You are a superhero, do you know that? “ A big  delightful smile beams on Isaac’s face.

It is a cloudless day in early summer. A few cardinals are chasing each other in the back yard through the magnolia branches. A gray squirrel is busy eating nuts. Isaac sits close to the big glass window in the dining room and eats his lucky charms in a bowl of milk.He could see the planes drawing white chalk lines in the sky. After the school, his father looks at his tired face and bruises on his hand. “ Is it Ron?”

Isaac does not reply.

“ It is time I would like to teach you how to defend yourself, son!”

The wind is moving across the yard, swirling. The leaves on the grass are all glossy and speckled. They keep lifting onto their edges then slowly toppling over. That is when his father starts to teach him to punch,how to do back kick and front kick.

Next day the a substitute teacher comes to the class; a tall, skinny young man. He allows the class to vote on everything instead of taking his own decision: “ What would you like to study next: science or history? All in favor of eating in class, raise your arms.” It is a mess. No One listens to him. As the substitute teacher leaves the classroom for lunch, the students end up eating in the class except Isaac. As Isaac opens his lunch box, Ron comes, snatches his sandwich. It falls on the floor. The whole class turn and watch but no one says a thing. During recess in the late afternoon, Isaac spots Ron on a tower. He approaches the tower and climbs the ladder. It seems as if he is riding the glass elevator. He feels tall and powerful, he rises into the clear blue sky like a superhero.Ron stands at the platform’s open edge. Isaac runs towards him and shoves him. His body hits the ground, nothing happens except a few bruises. But the principal punishes him with weeks of suspension. During the car ride from school,his father drives quietly. Isaac turns his face towards him. “It may be very wrong dad, but I had to do this. He bullies me all the time and it hurts me. I am trying to stand for myself.”

 

Imaginary

“ Can you give me a house?” The boy asks standing close to the huge tree.

“ I have no house,” replies the tree. The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house.Then you will be happy.” The tree smiles.

The boy without any further thought, cuts off the tree branches to build his own house. It hurts the tree but she keeps quiet. She is just delighted to see the boy, her childhood friend.

“ Disgusting! So ungrateful! Selfish boy!” Hope uncrosses her legs, sits upright, legs drawn in and her eyebrow bends. She closes the book with a thump and hides it deep behind the other books in the walnut bookcase. As she turns around,she hears her mother’s voice from the kitchen.

“ Hope!It is almost time for school.”

Hope glances at the windsor cherry finish clock on the wall. It is almost 8.30 am. She marches through the narrow hallway to the dining room to grab her lunch box. Something fluttering out the  glass window caught her eyes. A bright cardinal sitting in the pine tree and staring directly at her. For a moment their eyes locked, and they look at one another their heads slightly tilted. “Welcome my new friend!” The cardinal chirps and then takes a flight, cheerfully. Hope’s gaze returns to the dining table.

“Did you memorize the timetable?” Her mother sips her tea, trying to look at her sideways with the cup at her lower lip.

“O, snap!” Hope nods her head in disbelief and tries to find out a reasoning.That is the main reason that she wakes up real early but she completely forgot! It must be the way she has arranged her books in the book shelve. Her study room has two doors. If you enter from the right side, then immediately you will notice the school books in the bottom shelve. But from the left side of the entrance your eyes directly fall  on the wonderful story books. Well,there is no other reasons to verify this event, so she must have the right conclusion. Now she realizes that instead of memorizing the time table, why she read a few pages of the book The Giving Tree.And she does not like the greedy, self-centered boy at all. “ Nope ! Nope! The friendship is such an amazing thing and the boy did not care to keep it! And on the other hand the tree is so affectionate, so kindhearted and so thoughtful! I am confident that my tree friends are wonderful like the tree in the book.

“Hope! Did you memorize or not? You need to focus more on your math.” her mother looks directly at her, one eyebrow arched.

Hope does not like to lie to her mother. There is something mysterious in mother’s eyes! They understand your inner feelings without any confession.She bends down to tie her shoes avoiding her mother’s eyes.” Don’t worry mom, it will be fine.I am getting late for school. Bye.” She leaves and her mother tilts her head back to sip the warm tea.

 

The bell rings for the first class.Hope sits with her two elbows on the small table, her hands clasped in front of her, her two fingers leaning against each other and against her thin pink lips.Hope tries her best to remember the time table before the class starts. She could remember up to the 7 but gets stuck in the eight table. The door opens and math teacher appears.He sits on his chair, takes the roll calls. He closes the book,pushes the chair to one side and abruptly stands up. He starts to ask question in a random order. Suddenly his eyes falls on Hope.

“ Hope! Please stand up. What is eight times eight?

Hope tries to count in her head. She stands straight. “ Sixty two.”

“It is hard to hear your voice. Come to the front of the class and speak clearly.”

Hope’s forehead and palms are warm and sweaty. As she tries to walk her way from her seat, her unstable nervous hand bumps into other notebooks and they fall in a pile. All the student’s curious eyes  are on her. She does not know where to look. “ Sorry! Pardon me!” She tries to  picks up the books from the floor.

She stands in the front. Her unstable nervous hands squeeze both sides of her maroon skirt.She closes her eyes for a second to do her prayer but suddenly she forgets the right one. Instead she begs the wonderful, kind tree of the story book. “Please help me.I will be your best friend forever and will not hurt you in any way.”

“ What is eight times eight?” A deep voice echoes.

A long breath.

Hope opens her eyes to answer. “ Sixty two.”

“What?” Now the voice is not only deeper but it sounds more angrier.

“Sorry, it is sixty four for sure.” Her voice is confident.

“ Excellent!Next week I will start the question with you so be prepared. You may go back to your seat.” The math teacher turns his attention to the class.

That evening after school, Hope opens the iron gate of her house and runs to the garden. She has to give this wonderful news first to all her friends in the vast garden.

 

Detonate

 

Lora nervously smooths her skirt and then her hair, and asks to see Mr.Daniel as soon as the butler appears. A small smile ebbs across his face. “Please have a seat,ma’am,” he says gesturing dramatically to a marble living room filled with elegant  furniture. He disappears without a sound. Lora walks into the living room her small heels echoing throughout the enormous, empty space.Sunlight glints off the shiny floors and reflects the gilded, mirrored furniture. She takes a seat in a stiff, high-backed upholstered chair, places her portfolio against the chair and then takes a deep breath. After a while of waiting, she takes a few echoing steps towards a set of massive French doors and pulls on one.The door opens with a silent whoosh and walks outside. Her eyes widens. Stunning, she thinks.

Colors immediately overwhelms her visual senses: the home is white, sleek, almost an homage to an ancient Greek structure and it sits against a towering hill lines with cypress and old grape vines. The outdoor patio is a world unto itself; the waterfall, the white clouds and house. She turns back into the room and opens her portfolio. She pulls out the sketchpad and set of soft pastel and begins to paint. For the longest time, the only sounds are the waterfall, her pastel dragging along the paper and two hummingbirds chasing one another around the patio.

“It is beautiful!”

She stops drawing, drops her pastel and reaches out her hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you sir,” she says.

Daniel smiles his famed dimpled smile. He extends his hand and takes a seat. He has a short-sleeved polo shirt and black pants, his dark hair slicked to one side. “ May I?” he asks, reaching out his hands for her sketchbook. He studies for a second, his dimples growing even deeper. “ You are hired. When can you start?” he says handing her back the pad. “ You are a real talent. It is lovely to meet you and let me know when your design plans are finalized and we’ll get started. I am sorry but I have another meeting.” He stands and shakes her hands again before lifting it up into the air. “ I trust your hands with my home,” he says before sauntering away.

Lora watches her beloved pastels roll over the paper, her smile widens across her face.

“What should I paint on the frame?” asks her daughter Summer, shaking her from her memories.

“Up to you,” Lora says into her mic, toggling her wheelchair closer to view what her daughter is sketching: the sun and the clouds. “Pretty.”

“ But it is boring mom, not like your paintings.” Summer says, her face serious as she scans the yard and the horizon.

“Close your eyes, be still. It is in quiet the wonder begins.”

Summer keeps her eyes shut. For a moment, there is complete silence. Suddenly she opens her eyes and watch the lanky,grey bodied, crimson-capped birds head nearby wetlands and the exquisite sunrise. “ I got it !” she says, setting down her pastel and picking up a paint brush. After a few minutes, Summer stops and turns to Lora.

“Is painting what it’s like to be you?”

Lora looks at her little girl and raises her eyebrows. Tears rushed to Lora’s eyes, but she swallows hard to stop their rise. “Yes.” she says, her voice breaking. You are exactly right. It is like I’m stuck in place but my mind is flying and full of wonder. I can do anything in my imagination and be anyone I want in my head, even though I can’t move.”

“That must be an art,” Summer says, nodding her head. Now I understand mom.” She turns her heels and begins to paint again. She holds the frame for her mother to inspect, her posture rigid and a proud look on her face. “What do you think?”

Lora’s eyes widened. On the frame, Summer has painted a birch arching over the window, its bark white. Instead of leaves, she has painted faces: Lora’s, her father Daniel’s’, her brother Don’s and her own. On the right side of the frame, she has painted Family Tree in pink. The thought behind it is very mature and deeply sensitive.

“Beautiful,” she says. “ You are a true artist. I am proud of you. Never give up.”

“ Thank you mom,” she says taking a dramatic bow. Today I will present this best gift to my  dad.”

Lora’s husband Daniel died in the last deployment, in Afghanistan although she survived.  Lora wipes her tears and looks at her daughter. “ Your father will love this gift.Go get ready to visit dad.”

 

 

Love appears in strange ways

Acceptance

It is a Friday before the spring break. Daisy drives back home picking her daughter Emily from her school. In the car, Emily eats her favorite vanilla ice cream cone and tells her mother all the interesting things of her day in her school. She is a brilliant story-teller just like her father.In the middle of her story Daisy’s cell- phone rings. A call from her son.

“ Emily, please answer the phone”, Daisy says looking at the road straight.

“ Hi brother! We are going home. Do you want to speak to mom.Well she is driving so you can tell me.’’ Emily asks taking one more lick from the cone.

“ What?Really! And you did not stay there? Yes, you are supposed to. Okay, I will ask mom to rush. Bye.” Emily takes a deep breath and turns to face her mother.

“Mom, my cat has a baby in front of our house under the iron bench. And brother did not stay there. He is older than me and he should know what to do in this type of situation.Right mom? So please drive faster.I want to check on the kitten.”

Daisy is not a cat person. She likes the dogs whom you can train or who listens to your command. But cats! They have their own mind and they climb on everything. A cat always behaves like a king and all others in the house have to obey its orders.The stray cat followed her husband and daughter to the townhouse a few times and before she knows, the cat was adopted as a pet. One evening Daisy returns from work and finds a small ceramic bowl with milk at one corner of the living room. “ What is the bowl of milk doing here on the floor?” She asks.

Her husband and daughter both look at each other and reply at the same time. “ It is a part of the game that we are playing, nothing to worry.” A shiny-penny smile flash on their faces as they turn their head towards the front door. Daisy leaves the room without any doubt. After a few days, the milk bowl appears again at the same place and this time tiny dry foods on a paper plate besides the bowl. Daisy walks into the room. Inside the living room, behind the sofa her daughter plays with a cat; game with a yarn. It is very slim yellow cat with white patches on its face and paws.

“ Emily! What is the cat doing inside our house?”, she screams. The cat runs away through the open door and her daughter apologizes. “This is the stray cat that followed me and dad. She does not have any other friend. She has decided to be my friend and I could not say no to the cat.” Emily says flatly, twisting the yarn around her finger.

Daisy looks at her daughter’s pale,sad face and understands her deep affection towards the stray cat. “ So the milk bowl and the cat food are real! She takes out her shoes and pulls a chair to seat. “Why didn’t you tell the truth on the first time?” Daisy asks.

“ So here is the fact,she says wisely drawing a long breath. Emily pauses and picks her words very carefully. “ I know that you do not like cats but she is a very nice cat and I do not have any pets. Dad told me that he will talk to you later. May be he forgot.’’ The next day tabby cat gets the name Blossom and becomes one of her daughter’s best playmate. Daisy receives warm tight hug from her son and daughter. Now she has a kitten. Daisy still do not like cats.She does not say anything but anger bubbles in her mind. Now they will be two, cat and the kitten. The house will be a big mess and the cat hair! laik!

In few days the house turns into a playground of the kitten. Inside Joy and laughter gather and spread. The beautiful kitten is named Chottu. He has the same color on his body just like his mother. Sometimes he hears his mom’s voice outside and climbs the window blinds to reach her. After a few minutes you will find him dangling in the blind by his front paws.Other days he sleeps inside the shoes of either Daisy’s husband or of her son. And the only way to find out is to slip your feet into the shoes un attentively and startle to hear a soft mew from inside the shoe. Even in early morning when you are in a hurry to walk into the kitchen and unknowingly step on the tiny kitten  who likes to sleep on the middle of the room. One night around one o’clock, just after the rain, Daisy’s son Aji is busy doing his homework when he hears a sound. It is faint but sounds as if someone is begging for help. The kitten has escaped through the narrow opening of the front door. Aji has to climb the slippery fence, walks to the house-top to rescue the kitten. That is Chottu’s first adventure where he climbs the fence, goes to the rooftop but could not climb down. Daisy’s husband loves to play with Chottu. He teaches him to play with a small rope or to catch a small bouncing ball. Chottu crouches, his eyes locked on the tiny ball’s movement. He lowers his entire body with all fore legs aligned as he gently lowers his haunches, contracting them so that he becomes slightly rounded like a cocked spring. From that place, he leaps off the floor with a force, boldly pouncing on the tiny ball. Afterwards he plays the ball back and forth between his two-front paws.  

In a big city it is necessary to find a good high school. Daisy and her family decide to move into a suburb for same reason a good neighborhood and best school for Emily. Before their move they decide to give away the kitten to one of Emily’s friend whose cat just passed away from cancer. It is a very hard decision. Emily does not want to give away her pet, but she agrees to in one condition that she will visit the cat every weekend. If the kitten stays with her best friend then it may not be a big deal.

Three weeks have passed. One winter morning, on a saturday, Emily gets a phone call from her best friend. “ Hi Emily! I do not know how to say it but if you don’t mind”, she hesitates, “Please take your kitten back.”

“ Why? Is everything alright?” asks Emily with real concern.

“ He is fine, but very boisterous. Last evening he climbed the table in dad’s room and knocked the coffee mug on his laptop. It is getting a little hard to manage him.He is not an indoor cat and he will enjoy more in your house with big back yard.” She replies.

The smile on Emily’s face is wide open, sunny without a doubt on the world that everything will be wonderful today.

So they get the kitten back.Gradually Chottu transforms from kittenhood into a young wildcat. He is like a character from a daredevil story, who loves daring stunts. He is a hyperactive cat who loves to leap, climb and explore-all the big trees and house tops. Happiness, in Chottu’s world is fresh can food, a few spoons of warm milk, cat nips and climbing the trees. He loves to hide in boxes and leap out from them unexpectedly. He would honker all the way down, making sure the flap of the box is closed over his head, and spring out like a jack-in-the box to scare their dog.Some days he growls at the door. Daisy opens the door and screams. Chottu stands there with an  awesome present  either a dead small bird or a squirrel in his mouth. He does not understand the scream because he just wants to make Daisy happy with a precious gift. He forgets and repeats the same thing in another day. Daisy has a very dominant personality which classes with the cat’s personality. Sometimes it is hard to understand who is the boss is it Daisy or the cat? Having played to his heart’s content,Chottu would come inside and take his power nap on Daisy’s pretty mats in the kitchen, in the hallways or on the nice leather sofa. He sleeps like a talisman curled gently in the shape of a coma as if dug up from a prehistoric archeological site. Quietly and gingerly, he tiptoes around the house in a leisurely fashion. He loves to sit with Emily while she does her homework but not when she practices the violin. He hates the shrill sound of it.

The back yard with trees is like a forest to Chottu. He would race recklessly around one particular area and then climb high up into one of the tall trees, exploring his body in mid air-as if about to veer off in another direction.

Chottu is almost sixteen years now. Almost eighty in cat year! As soon as Daisy comes home, he greets her and follows her in happy, half-swallowed little yips. “ Yes, you are home! Feeding time. Daisy gives him his favorite can food, after that a little warm milk and a few treats. The feeding time continues until Daisy goes to bed. Chottu has slowly but surely conquered Daisy’s heart.

It is the second day of spring when Daisy notices a difference in the cat. He approaches the food bowl half heartedly, sniffs, takes one lick then walks out from the room. It is not typically his behavior. “ Are you Okay? Come I will give you a treat. Come!” Daisy says opening the treat packet. Chottu turns around and walks slowly towards Daisy. He says a small mew and sits there. He is not hungry. “It may be the can food or the food bowl. I should clean the bowl again.” Daisy murmurs. She throws the food and washes the small food bowl again. Next morning, Daisy finds the cat under the dining table. As soon as he hears the footsteps he opens his eyes, purrs softly and walks towards Daisy. But after two or three steps he sits on the wood floor. He breaths heavily. “What is going on? She strokes chottu’s head. “ Come on kitty,” She coxes, “ you are a strong kitty. Come. Do you want me to feed you today?” Daisy runs to get the cat food. Rising unsteadily to his feet, Chottu lowers his head to the bowl but does not eat any. He rubs the top of his head against Daisy’s leg and purrs. And his purr is very feeble. “ Poor thing, Daisy sits on the floor close to Chottu and calls her husband to take him to the veterinary.

The next morning, a cloudy day. It is hard for Daisy to concentrate in her work. She wants to know Chottu’s health condition. Around noon she calls her husband. 

“ We have to let him go. The virus has spread in his body and he is suffering. Pray for him and for his soul. He will be with us in his next life. Are you listening?” Daisy’s husband asks in the phone.

Daisy drops the phone on the counter. She leans her elbows on the table and cries.

“…love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” – Kahlil Gibran

 

Here and Beyond

Vivid

Olivia climbs the stairs all the way up, negotiating the steep and treacherous stairs to tell Matt that he has missed a very important phone call. It is treacherous because they are remodeling their house again and stairs are just stones piling on each other. The caller, she says was a woman, whose name she did not catch. He waits. She is looking dreamily beyond him now, out through the sloped window in front of the desk, to the hills in the distance, pale blue and flat. What, he asks gently, had this woman on the phone wished to speak to me about? Olivia with an effort withdraws her gaze from the view. “A film, she says in which it seems you have an offer in a leading part.”

This is interesting. Matt has never acted in film before. He inquirers as to the movie title or what it is to be  about. Olivia’s look grows vague, more vague that it has been up to now. “ She did not tell any title or about the movie.” She lowers her head and frowns at her husband from under her eyebrow in solemn silence, like a child who has been asked a difficult and onerous question the answer to which she does not know.

“Never mind, no doubt the woman will call again.” He says.

Olivia was very sharp but now it has changed a little. Her glossy, kohl-black eyes have lately taken on a faded, filmy aspect which worries her husband Matt. Some nights are different from the others. She wakes up or at least leaps from bed, and goes dashing in the dark through all the rooms , upstairs and down, calling their daughter’s name. It is kind of sleepwalker state which seems to her real thing that her daughter is living, trapped in one of the room of the house. Matt holds her still until she grows quiet. “ She is there in her bedroom,” she whispers in the dark. A long deep sigh. They lay on the bed on their backs for a long time holding each other’s hands. Around them the hall furniture stand dimly in the gloom like shocked and speechless attendants.

After their daughter’s sudden death Olivia finds herself venturing, tentatively to entertain the possibility not of the next world, exactly, but of a world next to this one, contiguous with it where there might linger somehow the spirit of those who no longer here and yet not entirely gone either. When she overhears people speaking of bereaved, she hungrily scans their faces to see if they really believe their lost one not entirely gone.

The curtains are thick and drawn tightly shut and Matt does not realize the dawn has come up until he sees forming above him a brightly shimmering image that spreads itself until it stretches over almost the ceiling. At first he takes it for a hallucination generates out of his sleep-deprived. “ I can see her clearly. Look at her pretty blue dress with white laces and colorful tiny mirrors on the bottom of the dress.” Olivia whispers clutching Matt’s hand.

” I remember this dress. It really looks good on her. This is the one we purchased in one of our trip to Agra. Right?” Matt asks turning his face slowly towards his wife.

” Yes. She spotted this dress in one of the roadside shop in-front of the Taj Mahal.” Olivia replies with a small smile. ”

They speak in whispers as if the very action of their voices might shatter the frail assemblages of light and spectral color of the image above them.The thing seems to vibrate inside itself, as if the teeming particles of light itself. Surely they feel this is not entirely a natural phenomenon for which there would be a perfectly simple scientific explanation. But surely this is a thing given to them as a gift, a greeting, in other words a sure sign to comfort them that their daughter is there. They lay there watching it , awestruck for a long time. As the sun rise the world above them are setting, retreating along the ceiling until it develops a hinge at one edge and begins to slide steadily down the far wall and pour itself at last into the carpet. Straight away they get up and start their dealing with the day. They are comforted a little until the wonder of the spectacle to which they have been treated begin to diffuse, to slip and slide. They absorb into the ordinary things of life.

Her memory

Blur

Every hour a thought floats to the surface. If we’re all going to end up happy together in Heaven then why does anyone wait? A big sadness hangs behind her ribs, sharp and gleaming, and it’s all she can do to keep breathing. She does not know the reason but one early morning she had to fly to her grandfather’s house with her dog Luke. She never goes anywhere without her parents! Her grandfather’s house is long and narrow, like a train  and it has five bedrooms: a big living room in the front, a rectangle kitchen, a prayer room, one study room and other two are bedrooms.  The windows are all the same but the color and the pattern of  lacy curtains are different in each one.Grand father hugged her in the middle of a sentence and there are tears on his cheeks. “ Are you okay?” Riana asks with deep concern in her eyes.

“ Yes, now that you are here everything will be fine.” He replies. He says that there was a time when all the houses were a collective farm and grandmother used to walk everyday to work in a chemical plant. She was a brave woman. Now she has to be hooked up to her oxygen machine every night. “ It must be the chemicals!” He says with a heavy sigh. It is cancer. First they found it in my mom, then in dad in his lungs. She imagines cancer as a tree: big, black, leafless nasty tree which took her parent’s lives. Riana walked into her grandmother’s room to meet her. Her face resembles a lot with her mother. “ Hello grandma!”

She smiles and asks her to sit on her bed. “How are you young woman? It is so nice to see you here. Make yourself home and feel free to ask if you need anything. Your grandpa will help you.” “Thank you grandma.”

In the afternoon Riana stands on the front porch.Out side she can hear the little white butterflies are looping through the willows, the grasshoppers chewing the leaves.

“God made the world and everything in it.” says her grandfather. Riana thinks, then why isn’t everything perfect? She wants her parents back in her life. Up in the sky she sees her dad sipping coffee and watching the evening news and her mother reading a book leaning on the couch. Their cat is taking a nap on a piece of  old newspaper. It is not that blurry at all.

“ Tell me about my mom.” Riana asks her grandmother sitting on her bed. She glances over and then her eyes are a thousand miles away. She tells all trips down the river in boat, fun days of picnics in the park,  time that they spent in the swing set reading stories together. Suddenly she pauses and closes her eyelids. Riana understands and leaves the room quietly.

Oné rainy day,when she was five something happened to her. Her mother called the family physician and she put some drops in her eyes. Pretty soon all Riana could see are blurs and colors.Dad was a fog a mom was a smudge and world looked like it does when your eyes are full of tears. A couple of hours later, right when she was riding in the back seat of mom’s car, the world started coming back to focus. She could see the trees, the leaves more clearly dark on the top and pale on the undersides, are moving independently but still in concert with others.

Almost everyday she misses her parents; mom walking into the grocery store holding her hand or to the library picking books for her and the bicycle ride and story time with her dad.Sometimes in the silence she feels her mom, together with her, under the beautiful sun, both of with decades to live.

Her grandfather does not believe her. He sits on the edge of his bed, elbows on the small table with droopy eyes and broken blood vessels in his cheeks. He wipes his eyes and tells her that she needs read more books and start thinking about school. Riana stands close to her grandfather. “You don’t believe in anything that you can not see or feel? I believe in souls and I feel my mother on my side. Even I see her and dad sitting on the puffy cloud” Riana says angrily and leaves the room.

That night she lays in her bed with her grandmother. The unpainted plaster of the wall slowly cracking all around her. She tries to remember a sentence mom or dad said but everything seem so blurry!

Evaporation

Translate

She is alone in the suit. She sits in an armchair, wearing a robe and slippers and appears to be asleep. Her lean face, silver hair uncombed, pale hands folded in her lap. Celia sits on a cushioned bench watching and waiting. Soon her thoughts fall away from the still figure in the chair.Celia loves her mother who sits before her, leaning into the light shade by a table lamp nearby. Her mother is like a friend and they talk and discuss everything. It is hard to see her mother in this situation. She wishes her dad to take care of her mother. Her father defines terms, draws diagrams, rushing to airport or preparing for conferences. At home he stands before a full-length mirror reciting from memory speeches he works on, refining his gestures and facial expressions. He never has time for his wife.Her mother is a lover of daylight and dense of life. She gathers and tends children, teaches a course in an adult education program, belongs to a group of volunteers who read to the blind. Her mother opens her eyes. She is not surprise to see Celia. She knows that Celia will be the first one to appear on her side.She takes Celia’s hands and holds it.

“ It is so nice to have you here. How was your flight?” Her voice is a near whisper. She has trouble dealing with the congested syllables in few words. Celia is very close to her mother and she wants to make sure that her mother will be taken good care of. She moves her chair closer to her mother.

“ If you don’t mind then I would like to ask you something. Do you think about the kind of world you’ll be returning to?”

“ I don’t think about anything. There is the final point. It is a moment never to be thought of except when it is in the process of unfolding.” She replies taking a sip of water from the glass.

“ Think of the age of the earth, oceans appearing and disappearing, think of the age of galaxy. All those billion years. And you, me and all others. We live and die in a flash.” She continues to speak. She is all face and hands, body gathered up within the folds of the robe.

“ What will happen? Do you have any idea?” Celia asks tucking her mother’s hair behind her ear. Her mother knows the rigors of science and sometimes she is philosophical just like her father.

“ My grand father used to say that,lines of brilliant light, every material thing in its fullness, a pure object. They are everywhere, of course in libraries, in museums, in mud, places of worships.” She closes her eyes for a moment and then looks back at Celia.

“ The person is a mask, the created character in the medley of dramas that constitute your life. The mask drops and the person becomes you  in its truest meaning. It is the conscious mind that stays. The reality is that everything has a beginning and an end to it, so don’t worry about that.”

Celia leans her head on her mother’s shoulder. It is hard to understand her mother’s philosophical meaning on life. She wants her mother to be happy and to enjoy the last few days of her life..

“ I understand mom, just testing your knowledge.” Says jokingly.

 

unique

Lukewarm

There are large blank patches in her memory that shift locale daily, unpredictably. Every morning when Hope wakes, she remembers something that the day before she has been unable to recall her house number, phone number or the name of the book. Then an hour or two later she notices a batch of new blanks she can not remember her social security number, the name of a few mysterious vegetables in her refrigerator.She has been told by her doctor so many times to let her family know that but she does not care much.A nurse visits her every morning.Although she does not expect the day to play out like this.Around nine in the morning, nurse Jena enters to her room without knocking. She draws back the white curtains and the sunlight floods the room. From her bed Hope glances the sloping meadow, the pretty pond, the waterside houses and her irritation passes.

“Let’s check the vitals,” Jena says. “ Get ready to take a walk in the garden.” She is an abrupt, oval-faced woman with graying wavy hair. She treats her like a small girl who Hope does not like at all. But sometimes she likes Jena’s crisp personality and her bark of laugh when she resists her attempts to get her up or make her follow a strict diet or to drink eight glasses of water in a day.

Hope has been told by her surgeon not to live alone after the heart transplant.The residue of  painkillers and anesthesia lives for six to seven months. Her insurance covers some, but not much. Now that the new president in office, he wants to repel the one health care that she has  but not sure what will happen in future. Hope is stubborn to depend on others.

The doctor has called dozens of times since the surgery about her heart. But Hope is tired to talk to anyone.

Awake. The pulsing cry of doves. Hope cranks the shutters open. She takes the coffee mug from the drain basket, sets the water boiling.She lapses into thought, as she stretches her legs, pushing the chair back against the wall.Today she should return the call.

“ Hello doctor! You tried to reach me?” Hope asks running her hand through her hair very lightly, just once.

“ How are you feeling Hope? Yes, I tried to reach you several times because the mother who donated her deceased daughter’s heart wants to meet you.”

They are both silent for a moment.

“ She wants to meet me! But I am not sure if I can handle that doctor.” Hope places her right hand onto her heart and feels its sturdy beat.It belongs to the young girl who died in the car accident.“I guess I owe her a lot, right? I mean she is the one who made the decision to donate her daughter’s organ. Well, sure doctor I will go for a short visit.” A pause fills her chest.

“ Thank you Hope.This will be better for both of you.”

It is lovely day, the sky is bleached turquoise color. The meeting is set on the top of a hill,close to a small white church. Hope stands steadily for a few seconds, then squares her shoulders and slowly walks up to the top of a hill breathing hard, leaning heavily on her cane, her heart pounding. There the woman stands in a white dress.Young enough to be her daughter, Hope thinks. Short wisps of brown hair crosses her forehead, no makeup or any jewelry. She extends her right arm. “ I am Alexis,thank you for agreeing to meet me. I am so sorry that you have to walk all the way up.”

“ It is fine,I need some exercise too.” Hope says with a small smile. “ It is so thoughtful of you to make this decision.”

“ My daughter was very close to my heart. It was very difficult for me to leave without her.” She looks up to meet Hope’s eyes. “ I want to listen to her and feel her. That is the reason I want to meet you.”Alexis walks closer. She leans her face forward towards Hope’s chest and closes her eyes. She listens to her daughter’s heart.Tears run down on her cheek.They stand there for a long time holding each other.

Determined

Overwhelming

Louisa places herself on the sofa between a sheet and a soft blanket, her head resting on a white pillow. She closes her eyes and folds up, elbows at her midsection, hands pressed together between her knees. She lay in a kind of timeless drift, a mind work spiral, carried on half formed thoughts. She opens her eyes again. She hears something that sounds like sand spilling, a trickle of gritty dust between the walls of the room and the room begins to move in a creaking sigh. Louder, powerfully. The wind makes the shutters swing and bang.Louisa sits up for a long second,deeply thoughtful, before throwing off her blanket. She listens to the edges of the room, the interfaces. She rushes to the door and opens it, half aware of rattling lampshades. She grips the edge of door frame and faces into the room. All the things inside are jumping up and down.She opens the door and stands until the shaking stops.  She pushes her hands against the door searching for a calmness in herself.

The sky is low and grey.The traffic lights are dark in certain areas. The long lines of cars, knotted and bent. Outside the streets are crowded with people.Voices fall around her. The noise subsides then begins to build again. The world is narrowed down to inside and outside.

People call to each other on the street. Out side she has the oddest conversation with one of her neighbor. She has hardly said a word before this. Suddenly he wants to talk. “ The news said a power station may have failed, causing a flash. Thirteen people were dead.”

“ What will we do? The older woman with a dog in her tight arms asks “I thought my heart was going to jump right through my chest. I have never met this in my whole life! It is so scary!”

“We will wait and see.” The man says in a deeply concerned voice.

The older woman raises her eyebrow. “ I don’t think we should wait, instead we have to act in an intelligent way.

Louisa smiles. She has made up her mind.The loud, empty noise like an earthquake can not scare her.There is no point of sitting back and wait for magic to happen. Louisa shakes her head.The scale of justice has tilted a lot in wrong direction. Constitutional principles and societal values should not be threatened.They have to make the things happen and it is no doubt that they will. She walks straight into the big group of crowd to raise her voice and fight for civil right, women’s right and equal justice.

Twists of Fate

Unseen

It is the weekend after the Spring break. Emmylou and her father are having breakfast. She probably should sit facing her father and not the window so he would not have to compete with the diversions outside a few kids riding their bikes, an older woman is playing with her tiny Affenpinscher dog in her front yard, the construction that is going on at the end of the cul-de-sac, two squirrels scampering through the trees. They would have to wait  for her father to finish talking about miracles.

Her father believes in those things and in grand schemes God, religion and her.A few years ago, in November, Emmylou had a car accident. There had been intermittent  freezing rain, her car slipped and hit a truck.

Her father asks taking a sip from his hot coffee. “It is unbelievable! And I am thankful to God for protecting you.” He continues, “ There is one woman runs a wildlife charity, would you like to volunteer there? Try, you may like it.” He hands her a newspaper classified.

Emmylou has made it through high school and one year of college before the car accident. She is that kid, who moves sideways, lags behind, forgets her buddy in the partner system and loses the group. She has read a report from neuropsychologist that her executive function is severely impaired due to frontal-lobe injury.

“ So,” her father says. “ Are you ready for the interview?”

Emmylou takes a long deep breath and takes a sip from her herbal tea. Art and crafts she could do well or if she could find a job that allows her to play all day, that could have been perfect. The job search has been an integral piece of their morning routine for last two years. It is a complex exchange full of limited expectations, consistent disappointment.

Her father kisses the crown of her forehead on his way out and she watches his car fades beyond the driveway.

Emmylou walks into the kitchen.On the stainless steel refrigerator door there are a few faded magnets of wonder woman, ‘ I can do it’ and ‘Believe in yourself’ that her mother made infused with her strong believes. She passed away in cancer leaving Emmylou. Emmylou misses her mother her love and the time that they spent together.She wiped her tears and  looks to the other side of the refrigerator door.There is a long note from her father.

1.Take pills.  Pills to stabilize her mood, even if each one has a side effect that thins her hair and slows her metabolism.

  1. Feed Angel.  Angel is her cat. She is eleven years old tabby, has a shiny coat,mild arrogance, lots of stubbornness and a huge appetite.
  2. Shower and dress.  Clearly later. May be she could go back to sleep again or after one more cup of herbal tea.
  3. Find clothes for the interview.  Emmylou walks into her room. Clothes are everywhere spilling from the closet, exploding out of the chest of drawers, on the floor mingled with cat hair and dust.Folding requires fine motor skills and she does not have them. Her hands are weak and she can not fold them properly. She finds one black skirt in the back of the closet and one blue silk blouse which need ironing. She has to wait on that.
  4. Think about cleaning your room.Really!!

Emmylou looks around. Reams of papers are scattered everywhere, used art supplies on the desks. By the end of week her room is a colossal accumulation of socks, broken pencils, books and magazines.Every cleaning crew that her father has ever sent over, refused to work unless she could first get her room into “ manageable” shape, a concept which she does not know. “Sure I will try cleaning the room but in my way.” Emmylou mumbles.

The rest of the day goes fine. After shower,she watches a documentary on elephants,on polar bears, on climate change. Then she sits by the window sill and watches outside A spotted squirrel focuses on an acorn. Emmylou grabs her sketch pad.The squirrel is holding the nut in his tiny hands, gnawing on it pieces by pieces. She imagines his determination which pulses through her pencil creatively. She is almost done with her picture when her dad returns home.

Today her father has brought Chinese food for dinner so that they do not have to cook. He hands her a fortune cookie from the bag. “Open it.”

Emmylou opens it. “ Door will be opening for you.” it says.

“You see?” her dad says with a big grin. “ You never know what life will bring.”

Emmylou rolls her eyes. “You are taking a fortune cookie to heart?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” he says. “ The cookie knows.Tomorrow we will go together to the nature center, you will feed the ducks and approach the owner for the interview. And the door will open for you. You love to take care of the animals and this will be a perfect opportunity for you.” There is confidence in his voice and Emmylou is excited.

New Year

Year

It is almost midnight. Daphne pulls out her journal, not the old one but a brand new one in shiny cover. A precious Christmas gift from her daughter. In that journal every page starts with a unique quotes. Yes, this is perfect! She opens the first page to write her New Year’s resolutions. The whole situation plays like a movie. Imagine that you are the main character either in a movie or in a book and you wish to do some things. Suddenly towards the end of the story boom!All your wishes are granted. Just like that Daphne smiles as she starts to write the resolutions one after another and feels as if they are almost in her fingertips. It is no doubt that she is very determined and she may be successful. She pauses, her fingers caress her pointed chin,and then opens the old journal. There is a heavy sigh. She checks all her last year’s goals – she has achieved some of her resolutions in writing posts on refugee crisis, on women’s issues and on poverty.Then she wanted to do more volunteer work which she has not done in this year. The other important aspect is her health.Well, she goes to the gym regularly which is perfect although she ends up in the classes like kickboxing, RIPP instead of yoga or spinning. Daphne is head strong but her weakness is the sweet. This Christmas she went to the store to buy gifts. She had the list but strange thing happens as she steps into the store, mostly in the aisle with chocolates and cookies. So that day she returned with gifts and two big boxes of chocolates. She nodded her head in disbelief and the chocolate lasted only for a week At the end of the week the boxes were neat and clean like brand new boxes and ready to be recycled.The exercise will help you thirty percent but diet is the other seventy percent to be healthy that is her  doctor’s prescription. 

Daphne stops writing and leans against the cushion. There is silence in the room and it is so quiet that you can hear the hum of the refrigerator. A sudden brightness flashes on her face.  “Not to worry.”She adjusts herself on the chair more comfortably and opens the new journal again. “ I will start all over again.This year I will not get any sweets, sign up for more volunteer program and practice mindful meditation.” A big challenging smile plays on her lips. 

Daphne stretches her legs, then crosses her legs and opens the new journal.As she bends down to write the inner window in her mind pops open. “ Are you sure that your goals are realistic? You do not want to write them and forget as the days pass by. Are you??”

A deep sigh again. She sits with both elbows on the desk, rubs her forehead and sits with both hands on each side of her face.

Making resolutions at the start of the New Year is like the season for orange or blue berry. Everyday would be filled with false starts and high ambitions. She might even make a lots of progress towards the goal but ultimately she would always give up before reaching the goal. Daphne has a high hope that everything will turn around perfect in this year. She has to do something different. The entire New year resolution phenomenon essentially boils down to habit-making and habits are built over time. Her job is to contribute a bit each and every day until the habits are built. Daphne sits straight. Now her face is brightly illuminated with a strong hope and determination.

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Wishing on a star

Hopeful

A little girl is shouldering through the crowds.She walks in the middle of all the legs, luggage’s and lots and lots of children. Her heart beats like a tambourine under her ribs, tight and loud.The crowd follow their paths pushing and pulling around her,paying no attention at all. Her breath comes in short breaths like Carter’s horse and she feels tired. She is in the crowd but alone. The air smells of sweaty fear.Just at the corner of a pile of rocks, her memory bag slips and falls into the ground from her shoulder. A lots of happy memories are there; lots of from her home, her friends, her parents. But also the sad and scary memories of running around with her mother, hiding in cramped spaces,  squeezing the bodies and holding each other.The memory of hunger; it grew insatiably; her mouth began to expand, its roof rose to the top of her skull then the whole head was racked with pain. Some people ate grass and garbage and she just drew her tongue and chewed on nothing. She fights the urge to reach down and touch them. But she stops.

“ Sara! Sara!, wake up!”

Sara opens her eyes., startled and gasping for air. It is middle of the night. She notices a woman approximately the age of her mother stands close to her bed and observes her closely. “ Tell me dear,are you having bad dreams?” She says with a warm smile. The woman picks up the blanket from the floor and asks, “ Would you like to come outside to the celebration? There are lots of kids of your age to welcome the new year. There will be lots of fireworks too!”

Sara looks outside and then back at the woman’s face. The smile on the lady’s face is wide open, sunny without a doubt that everything will be wonderful again but six years old Sara is doubtful. The rebel army killed her parents, her friends and took away everything that they had. Faith is a distant and a vague word now. She hesitates a little but changes her mind. As Sara climbs down from the bed, the lady takes a quick step and holds her hand.She has lost her right leg in a gunshot during the rebel attack.

Outside of the ten, in the vast open space the fireworks have started. Happiness, excitement and new hopes float in the air.Tonight Sara wants to dream again. She closes her eyes, leaning on a tree. Her prayer for the New Year is something different. “ I want people to be nice, to be respectful and to love each other. I hope for peace, just peace nothing else.”

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Dense fog and sunny day

Discover

There is no time for luck or good fortune or discovering new things in life instead to be at work from early morning to midnight. Jade works in a garment factory where she sews until her arms fall asleep. She sews elegant and expensive dresses which wind up looking very nice on Italian, Canadian, Swedish, American women, different ones for every season. Cutting, stitching, finishing, ironing, packing all the time makes life more difficult when you are not worthy of the product. It is difficult to break the agreement and to look for another job. She sits quietly looking at her severely dry long bony fingers. Her father used to say that long fingers are perfect for drawing, playing piano or any musical instrument, they are very artistic fingers. She remembers when for the first time she played the ‘Flight of the bumbled bee’; she played like lightning, every note so clear and perfect that the audience  were mesmerized and then clapped hard. It was her greatest revelation. But now it seems as though her life has been rolled up like a newspaper, fastened with a rubber band and tossed into the bushes. After her father passed away she started the job in this garment factory. A fat fly buzzes in circle just above her head. It settles on her one arm, she tries to swat it. Then it lands on the back of her neck, below her ear. It escapes and perches on the window frame. Jade tries to shoo it out through the open window into the air; she wants it to fly freely in the open air and to enjoy its freedom. She wants it also for herself and the people of Syria.

Sunlight falls in the long hall, while fluorescent light burns overhead. All the ladies are like tired children of a camp. Jade’s heart thumps inside her head. She leaves the half-stitched dress in the showing machine and grabs her small handbag.

Next morning She stands with a cup of hot tea. she holds the chipped cup delicately pinching the curved handle between her thumb and forefinger. She looks outside of her kitchen window. There the small black birds fly through a vast stretch of sky in circles of their own invention. This morning they are flying low and by looking at them she could tell that it is a whole new day.

Jade does not have the luxury of a car so she walks aimlessly on the streets to discover something new. The street side vendors are a destination, inviting her to linger. She sits on a wooden stool and orders ice-cream. Just when her exasperation at the wait  reaches the breaking point, the ice-cream arrives. It is a mix flavors of vanilla, chocolate with so many nuts. She takes one spoonful of ice-cream and it is delicious! She leans at the edge of the chair, her eyes wander around. At one corner of the street, under a small leafy tree an old woman sits. She is very frail and bony and from her torn, heavily patched cloth she looks very poor. She stares straight ahead, seemingly lost in memories. Jade stops eating and walks up to the woman. “ Would you like to try this?” She asks as she hands her the cup. She opens her purse and gives a few rupees. A grateful, happy warm smile lingers on the old lady’s face.

It is almost evening. Jade is all wrapped up, the decorated street lamps and lighted windows are glittering, the frost bit into her face, her lips feel like frozen crusts of bread, cheeks are smooth and cold as porcelain. The sky and streets are full of Christmas spirit. Jade stands in-front of a shop, her arms folded on her stomach, one foot crossed. The concentration is on the beautiful gown on the mannequin. “ I would love to see that on me.” Then she steps back. She has to save the money until she finds another job. “ Well, nothing wrong in just trying.” She murmurs and walks into the store. The heavy glass door opens in a soft click. She stands in-front of the long rectangular mirror with the dress. The sales woman asks her adjusting the belt on the dress. “ It looks so pretty on you and fits perfectly. Would you like to buy this?”

“ I will think about it, thank you.” Jade replies touching the soft fabric of the  blue dress and watching the news on the small television on the wall-” The evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebels held part of Aleppo ended yesterday, after weeks of heavy fighting, Damascus announces complete victory in the battle to retake eastern Aleppo from rebels.”

That is the best part of her discovery. The dress falls into the floor as she runs around the room, a huge smile sparkle on her overly excited face, she is happy for all the people and especially the children . Her struggle is not much comparable to the people of Aleppo.

Her inner strength

Calm

Nora wants to live more than a hundred years. She has planned everything in her mind, in front of her the future has stretched out like a long shimmering road.  But the other day when she fainted in her gym class, the doctor in the hospital told her  mother that her lungs are not good. But it can be changed. She has to draw the cool, clean air in, treasure it and release it and she has to stay a couple of days in the hospital. That will make her lung good as new. Ten years old Nora is confident that she can do it.  Although it is hard for her mother Maisie.

Nora dwindles over packing, folding, refolding her clothes, tucking in a few moments to brighten up her room before she leaves for the hospital. She squares the cover of her bedsheet, smooths the bedspreads,tilts the shade of the lamp cover of the reading lamp. She stands in the middle of the oval rug. Her room is small but tidy and decorated in shades of blue, her favorite color. Each significant object has a name and to each she says goodbye or rather until they meet again. Nora closes the door.

Maisie is busy or rather tries hard to stay that way in the kitchen. It is hard for her to see her daughter in this condition. Nora runs into the kitchen. “ Mom, Uncle Jess is here to take me to the hospital.” No answer but Nora knows her mother is sad and afraid. Nora hugs her mother with her small hands. “ I will be fine mom, and come visit me in the hospital.” Her mother sighs. Nora picks up her small suitcase.

The air is cold. From the car window Nora looks at the house. Her mother stands there leaning slightly to the metal mail box in her walker. She waives her hand to her mother and wipes her tears.

There is not much to do in the hospital wake up,  take bath, eat, read,take nap, watch television and be patient while the doctor takes a lots of test. The ward is alive with gossip, mostly about the imaginary romances between this or that girl or a boy or men. It is like a soap opera to her like the ones that come in television and her mom always say they are not real, just wastage of time and brain. Nora spends her time in reading the encyclopedias that her mother brought for her. She loves the mysteries inside and the beautiful information in them, their sedate dark-green binding, gold letters on their spines. She slides the little tower of books towards her slowly as though they are gathered treasure. Reading makes her calmer; she does not care about the hospital or health, she is confident that everything will be fine.

On the other hand her room-mate Liona is quite different. She loves to gossip in the phone with her friends. Some days she invites Nora to meet her friends in the lobby. But they laugh a little, sit pretty on the sofa touching their fancy jeweleries or adjusting their new hairstyles, gossiping on useless topics. “They are less sympathetic than the ambulance chasers. They are not real friends.” Nora murmurs to herself. When her mother comes to visit her the ward turns into a playground as if azaleas bloom and honeysuckle perfumes the air. Her mother tries to stay calm but sometimes she is washed to the emotion of rage which she does not know how to control its directions. At the end of the month  it started to get harder for her mother to see Nora in the hospital. She wants her to go to school, play with her friends and to have a normal life. She argued with the doctors. “ Nothing has happened to my daughter. She will be fine at home and I will take good care of her.” 

Just before Christmas Nora returns home with her mother. They sit in their living room. The bare  Douglas-fir-tree sits on the corner of the room and the ornaments in a metal container. Her mother smiles brightly at her. “ Have faith and everything will be alright.” She says wrapping her hand around Nora tight as a robin’s nest. As they hang the ornaments on the fir-tree, her mother says,“ You are an angel straight from heaven.”

 

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Surprising Turns

Moody

Maeve has been blessed with beauty and a pencil. Her beauty comes from within she is honest and kind-hearted, and the pencil – a gift to open up her creativity. The other day when she was begging for food in a crowded town in Calcutta, a shiny white car stopped at the curb of the road. Maeve ran towards it with a plastic bowl as a woman stepped out from the car. She waved her hand as the gold bracelets jingled and hid her beautiful leather black purse behind her back. “ I do not have any money to spare, go away. ” She began walking off.  She pivoted sharply back towards Maeve, “here take this pencil, it may help you.” The yellow pencil bounced a couple of times on the dirty road and then laid still on the side of the road. Maeve walked up quickly and picked up the pencil very gently in her small hand. From that day onwards that became her treasure.

She picks up torn, wrinkled papers from the side of the roads, from the fields, from the school grounds and last time she struggled with a cow for ten minutes to drag a perfect white paper from cow’a mouth. She collects them and in her spare time draws pictures on them with the perfect yellow pencil. Her father does not like her spending time in useless things instead he wants her to spend more time in begging. Every night after Maeve returns home, her father snatches the plastic bowl and takes all the coins. He spends her daughter’s begged coins in drinking cheap liquor. Her mother on the other hand encourages Maeve to draw. “Maeve, take a break. Your father will return late today so spend your time in drawing whatever you want to.” Her mother says in a warm voice placing in front of her a thin piece of white bread and cup of black tea in a chipped cup. Maeve is grateful to the woman who gave her the pencil and to her mom who allows her to draw. She wraps both her small hands around her mother’s waist. Delight blooms on her face.“Thank you mom, you are the best.”

But life is very moody just like the humans. It is a one long curve, full of turning points.

It is a rainy day in December. The rain continues for a long time, the thunder lasts for more than an hour rumbling low and long. Instead of staying inside the patched gray tent which is their house, Maeve’s father decides to take her to another bigger town. “ But dad, it is raining outside and I am not feeling well. Let’s go tomorrow.” She begs as she tries to cover herself with one of her mom’s torn blue saree and concentrates on her drawing. Her mother insists not to let go of Maeve but father’s deep voice echoes. “ Yes, she has to go and I have already talked to the woman.”

“ What woman? Where are we going?” Maeve asks her dad. But no answer. “ Go get ready, we have to go today.” There is nothing to pack except one dress and her pencil and drawing papers in a plastic bag. As they leave, her mother hugs her tightly. She cries muttering repeatedly to forgive her. Eight year’s old Maeve’s simple heart does not understand anything, but she leans into her mom’s frail body. “ We will come back soon, don’t worry mom and I will surprise you with prettier drawings.” Her mother stands there outside the tent, in the rain, crying loudly and begging her father to stop.

Life is moody; sometimes it brings you joy and sometimes unbearable sorrows.No one can predict the next moment.

It is a long walk. In one point of the day, the rain stops and the sun tries hard to peep out from behind the cloud. Maeve and her father sits under a dull green woody tree waiting for a bus.His father sits looking out with his back against the tree trunk. His knees bent and feet flat against the red-brown sand. In front of him the landscape is speckled with a few trees that stand either alone or in group. Maeve opens the lunch bag that her mother packed. After lunch she asks “ Dad! Are we going to the doctor? If not sick then why are we going to another town?”

“ Have patience.” His father’s voice is dry and irritated. Maeve decides to talk to the tree nearby and ask the same question. The tree at one point clears its woody throat and says, “ I can not answer your question but I am very thirsty and can barely talk.” Maeve runs to her father’s side to get the water bottle and pours all the water on the tree. “ I hope that quenches your thirst.” Her father screams, “come here and sit quietly.”

As Maeve turns towards her father, she notices that the water that she poured over the tree has risen to her father’s face and they drip from his eyes.

As they drive off in the bus, she waves goodbye to the tree but surprises at his father’s tears. He never cries!

After a few hours they reach in another town. It is almost night. A harmony of shrieking metal-wheeled carts, barking dogs and gentle rhythm of human noises. They unroll a thin gray blanket under a tree. Maeve sits there staring at the zig-zag white patterns that pierced the woven sky and slowly drifts into sleep. Next morning is a cloudy day.They start to walk and arrive at the destination after three hours; a two-story red house squats upon the  hill with a group of wind-tormented trees opposite to it. The bricks are chipped, sharp and eroded at the corners The guard at the gate lets them in. A narrow stony staircase leads to a tall red door. As you enter it opens up into a long, narrow hallway which is lit by a single light bulb. A faded plain beige carpet with painted flowers on the sides is on the floor. At the other end of the hallway there is a thick  maroon colored curtain and a small bell on the white wall. Maeve’s father rings the bell. A tall woman appears in a fancy saree. Her arms are crossed, her eyes narrowed and eyebrows lift over icy brown eyes. “ You are late!! Leave her here and go back home.”

Maeve’s dad nods his head and shifts her attention to his daughter. “ It is all my fault darling. I do not have any other option.” He moves forward to hug Maeve as he hears a strong commanding voice from behind.

“Leave now.” The guard thrusts a thick envelope into his hand.

Maeve glances at his father’s face.Their gazes touch and from him she feels  terror and panic. “ Father do not leave me here.” She holds her pencil tightly in her hand as warm tears roll down on her cheek.  Her small body thumps on the floor. “ Listen dad, I just want to draw pictures, if you want then I will sale them and bring a lots of money to help you. You do not have to worry. But do not leave me alone with strange people. Give me a chance to your little girl. Dad! Dad!”

 

Solving a dilemma

Conundrum

Olivia and Paul try their best but the house itself start to takes part.

The lamps dismount from their stands at the slightest touch, the glass from the frames start to shatter when anyone walk past them, the air inside the house  has acquired a poisonous residue from the negative things they have said to each other. Now the house is haunted with pain. One could feel it  the minute  one walks in the door.

They sit there on the white sofa unsmiling, neither of them say anything. A little colorless sunlight has forced its way around the neighboring buildings and lay exhausted across the floor.It is so oddly quiet, as if  the house is holding its breath. Both husband and wife are like two becalmed sailing ships carrying sailors from different countries who shout and curse at each other as they drift farther and farther apart. Sometimes they forget the nicest things that they do for each other.

Olivia sails past Paul, then makes a half turn and looks over at him in the gathering dusk with a genuine expression of surprise. An acute observer would detect the presence of rich nature, warm heart, thoughtful intelligent eyes. Olivia twists her wedding ring. This is the man for whom she fought with everyone to marry. Now she should try her best to fix the problem. She would rather find happiness in the quiet of ordinary things; a book, a petal falling from a flower or an extraordinary shape of a rock.

Miracle happens everyday they are rarely tallied. No one keeps the score.

A late afternoon in November. Olivia sits up startled, gasping. Her husband Paul appears at the door. “Is everything okay?” He asks irritably flipping the pages of a book.

Olivia smiles. “ I had a strange dream!”

Paul turns around. “During the afternoon?It is really awkward.’’ Paul glances at the clock. “ It is almost one thirty. You should spend time in your sketch or writing.” He evidently wish to return to his reading.

Olivia murmurs. “ Well, my dream was strange but sweet.She smiles mischievously. “ There is a handsome man in my dream and I would rather enjoy his company.” She hums a few lines of an old romantic Bollywood song and lays back on the bed.

Paul closes the book that he is reading and stares at his wife. “ How absurd and nonsense!. Keep your silly dream to yourself.” He walks out from the bedroom.

Next morning is very delightful.

As Olivia tries to cover the rose bushes from freezing rain Paul walks into the deck. “ Are not you going to work?”

Paul gives Olivia a helping hand and says, “ I have taken off from work to spend some time here.”

Olivia raises her eyebrows and laughs a charming little laugh.

A long walk

Giant

People think packing a small suitcase is something that you learn through practice, like singing or praying. Eight years old Yara has no practice at all. She has arranged her favorite coloring book with two colored pencils, a book of fairy tales which her father brought as a special gift on her last birthday, a framed picture of her on the lap of her grandmother, and two slightly torn dresses and a tooth brush.One of her dress is baby blue with white frills but missing one pocket on the front and the other one is a pretty lilac dress with velvet trim and has a small patch on the back. She has no idea what she is packing for,except a long journey. On one side of the suitcase her dog sits wagging his small brown tail. His curios eyes glances at Yara.  Yara runs to her mother. Her penetrating brown eyes look out through tangled hair. “ What about Kazo? I want to take him too.”

Her mother sighs. “ Kazo can not travel so far. He will miss playing in the village, so let her stay here. Do not worry, she will be fine. I will make sure and ask our neighbors to take care of her.”

Yara is confused now. She arches her an eyebrow. “ But mom, we do not have the neighbors any more. The bad people has burnt their houses.”

Her mother turns back abruptly.She pulls Yara closer. “ Don’t worry, I will find some one but now there is not much time. So go get your bag.”

One of her friend cries holding her tightly before she leaves the house. “ I will miss you but I know you’ll come back.We will go to school together and play with Kazo.”

Yara hugs her friend and carries the sentence with her. A sentence like that keeps her alive in her journey.

It is impossible to count how many people are walking and it is a long walk in a cloudy day. Yara walks  slowly dragging her tired feet holding her mother’s hand in the middle of all the legs, luggage s and lots of children. Some people talk a lot quietly with eyes wide open and some cry a lot quietly with eyes shut and air around them smells of fear and anxiety. They walk countless hours without stopping.

After the long walk they travel in a small and cramped boat, squeezing their bodies and holding each other. On the fourth day most of them run out of food. The giant hunger grows insatiably. Her mouth begins to expand, its roof rises to the top of her skull, then the whole head is racked with pain. Yara draws her tongue and chews on nothing.Her mother notices. She opens her small bag and searches for something and then a small smile flashes on her face. “ Eat this Yara.”

Yara takes the small piece of stale sandwich from her mother’s hand and swallows.No words are adequate for the suffering caused by hunger. She leans against her mother and looks up. The moon on the sky seems like a cup of cold milk. Yara pretends to drink the milk and tries to sleep.

The journey on land starts again. In freezing cold or searing heat, they spend the entire journey holding each other’s hands. After this long journey their bones become heavy as iron when most of the flesh on the bodies disappear, their bones become a burden.

Now they are in a tent with all other refugees. Although it is very crowded. She lays wide-eyed on a narrow cot. Her thoughts come in disconnected glimpses of this moment and that. She remembers the beautiful evening with her grand mother. They sit on a giant wooden stump in the small front lawn. As Yara looks at the pretty sky full of silvery stars her grandmother says pointing at the sky, “ Do you know that heaven is very beautiful and peaceful.”

Yara turns her simple face towards her grandmother. “ What do you mean? Have you visited the heaven?”

Her grandmother laughs. “ I have not visited yet but I am sure I will.” Then her tone changes. “ The honest, truthful, loving people go to heaven so always be a good person if you want to go to heaven, there is no place for evil.”

It is a bright day, sun is still white and the heat closely packed. Instead of playing with other kids in the camp site or reading a book, she sits with her feet on the bench and both knees tucked under her chin. She misses her dad and her village. Bombs and missiles have been aimed at her little village and destroy everything. In the middle of one night the bad people like giants in masks took her father and he never returned. For a long time her mother has cried sitting on her dad’s favorite chair. Her neighbor’s village has already burned to the ground or the enemy soldiers have threaten to kill who do not leave the village. A few drops of soft tears escape beneath her eyelids and run down on her cheek. Her father used to say that each and every event has its own place and own time. This is Law of nature. It follows that everything has its reason for being in the world. Maybe it means I should wait patiently for the day to be better and a perfect time to go back to my home.After school, I will play hide and seek with Kazo.

 

refugee

Candle

Candle

A very pretty October afternoon. Outside the blue sky and white clouds tumble over each other. Jane has decided to stay home and read. The library books in her blue tote bag are each chosen  carefully because the blurbs on the back promise love and happy endings. She settles on the sofa with a cup of herbal tea. An acute observer would detect the presence of a rich nature. And looking closer, might also discover the depths of her kind, loving heart.

The doctor don’t stop by much anymore, the nurse only come in to give medications and the families hover in the doorways assuring one another that everything will be fine in due course. At this moment Jane steps in as  a volunteer, to be the last witness.Jane agrees to make tables capes: to be the one who sits and waits once a situation turns into truly hopeless. After her grand mother’s death in cancer she dedicates most of her time in caring for others.

Jane always imagines lives to be funnel-shaped, they grow narrow as we age and we all begin to swirl faster and faster until the concept of a day or an hour or a year no longer has any meaning.She strongly believes in love and faith to heal others in need.

In the late afternoon her phone vibrates, it is the Hospice again. Jane drives to meet another new person who needs her care. Jane knocks softly adjusting her plaid pleated skirt. An old woman in a peach colored cotton gown opens the door. Her white hair is pulled into a loose bun. She straightens eye-glass.

“ Are you Jane?”

Jane smiles and nods her head. “ You must be Darlene.” Jane says shaking Darlene’s heavily veined but soft hand.

“ Please come in. I want someone to talk to me.People, I mean families, friends used to come and give me company but slowly they stop talking to me.” She folds her arms across her chest. “ Life gets lonely and boring staying in one room. I want real talk.”  She says pouring a small glass of juice in and handing that to Jane. Her heavily veined hands are hidden nicely inside a pair of cotton gloves.

“ I can do that.”Jane replies.

Seventy five years old Darlene has cancer. “ Come sit here tell me about yourself?” Darlene slips one hand into her pocket and pulls out two pieces of fruit flavored candies. “ Doctor has warned me not to take any unhealthy sweet but this is my guilty pleasure.” She giggles handing one to Jane.

They chat for one hour, play one or two card game, recite some poem together until Darlene is ready for her afternoon nap. She used to read tons of books, take long walks but now she does not have energy to thumb through the magazines, even small walks make her tired. Sighing  loudly Darlene stretches out and gets ready for her nap. “This is not fun at all. But your company is very enjoyable.”

The last round of chemo appears to have done  the trick. Doctors are ready to let Darlene go home. But she comes back in two days. She can no longer screen out the everyday toxins of life, so she will spend her last Christmas in Hospice house after all.

Jane takes a couple of movies along with a bag of popcorn and the oversize box of raisins which Darlene loves.

Darlene is excited to see Jane again. “ Come here to the bed. I can not sit so we will watch the movie from here.”

It is the Christmas day. Darlene has been sick all week. The cold has dragged on and her lungs have gotten worse. It is obvious that her immune system has given up.

Jane is in the middle of rearranging her book shelf, when the phone rings. She rushes to see Darlene.A little colorless sunlight has forced its way around the neighboring buildings and lay exhausted across the grey floor. Darlene can not stand to open her eyes and finds herself back in this place where Christmas is carted away in boxes, where angels are being taped into bubble wrap. Jane pulls a chair. She does not have any book to read so instead she sings her favorite Christmas carol to Darlene. “ Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, All is bright..” Jane chokes into tears. She sees the rest of  Darlene’s life in a flash, like a child’s flip book, the pages rushing forward and the pencil thin illustrations slimming down. Jane’s generous heart always wants to see others happy. She does not want to lose Darlene.

This time Darlene opens her eyes. “Hi! You look so pretty in this blue dress! The color is so good on you!” She touches Jane’s hand and wraps her fingers around. “You are an angel! In a few days you brought so much happiness to me. And I enjoy all your stories on hiking trips. If I recover soon then we will go together.” A small smile beams on her face as she closes her tired eyes holding Jane’s hand softly in her.

candle

Daring

Daring

Darlene moves back and forth between kitchen island and refrigerator, between stove and the sink with an insatiable energy. Her husband sits at the breakfast table with a I pad, trying to remember which section of the news he has not finished. He hears his wife’s monologue on an instrument.

“ I am trying to read the news,” he points out. But he lifts his eyes from the I pad.

“What is bothering you?”

Darlene wipes her hand on the corner of her tie-dyed blue dress and pulls another chair close to her husband. She looks out of her brown eyes from beneath her long bangs and asks,“ I have agreed to take part in a group performance  in a chapel in this weekend, but not sure if I can really play.” She toys with the music piece on her hand and says, ” I get so nervous in front of people and even I am not musical enough.”

“ Of course you are. Remember how you did not know how to play piano and then after practices you have started to play so nicely.” Her husband says taking one spoonful of oatmeal. “ Just like we used to say to our children Be confident, and you will do fine.”

Darlene is a little shy but stubborn. Her creative mind is always dares to try new things and to achieve the best.She has a clarinet, which responds much more readily to her breath. Sometimes she tends to be panic if any note gets too high. She blushes. Her cheeks suddenly matches the tint of her eyelids and the rose color sinks into her throat. The other day, her friend Andrea, eagerly smiling woman in long bangs, a tangle of gold and turquoise pendants speaks up in her music class. “ I like when you play with so much attention and you are really good at it! Why don’t you join our team?”

Darlene smiles. “ What team? I am a new learner, but I am not sure about a performance.”

Andrea arranges the flute on a wooden box and says. “ You should try. We will perform in front of a small group and we have one long month to practice.”

There is a little concern in Darlene’s eyes. She hesitates and then replies. ” I will let you know and thanks a lot for the suggestion.”

Darlene has made up her mind to play in the music group.

A cold Friday evening in November, the  day of the performance. Scarves, mittens, down coats pile up on the corner in the back room; boots accumulate under it. Cold fingers unfold the steel music stands, chilled mouth pieces are tenderly held in arms. Darlene adjusts her plaid pleated long black skirt and sits on one of the wooden chair. Her slightly protruding brown eyes intent on the sheet music, her nicely shaped thick eyebrows arched in concentration.When all are in place, a fidgety cough and a narrow giggle. Finally they hear “ one, two,three, start.” There is a unified intake of breath and the astounding manifestation. Darlene tries her best to make it perfect.  The concert is a success. There are happy tears on her face. She is proud of her bravery to perform in front of the audience. Infected by the warmth of the audience, the musical group join their sweaty hands and bow.

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Promise to stay

Ghost | The Daily Post

Around midnight Miles wakes up with a start. ‘Either a bad dream or I am thirsty. A glass of water will be good.’ He walks into the kitchen but he stops. A figure is leaning over the dining table and reading a book in dim light. The figure at the table does not move. He never agrees on ghosts. But he used to, yes all the time. His after-world is quite a different affair, a heaven where usually people do not return but he would say with a half-mischievous smile.. “ Only if the person wants to stay and protect the family like an invisible body-guard, then only the person comes back to earth.” He would say switching off the night lamp to scare his wife.

The figure is now bending over the table in a light blue night-shirt or white shirt with flowers. It is hard to tell in a dim light.Her pale face profile outlined against the moonlight.

“Fiona”, he calls , thrilling from head to toe and reaching out with his long arm. “ I am so glad to see you back. I missed you a lot. You should understand that I am not young any more. I need you here with me.”

The figure does not stir. Miles walks uncertainly towards the figure. As he draws near, he finds his shirt over the high-backed chair and his half-opened journal. “ Oh, she is not here.” He runs his hand vaguely through his hair leaning against the wall. “ Where is Fiona? Where can I find her?”

Miles is eighty-two years old and still deeply in love with his wife Fiona.He does not belief that his wife is no longer with him.

On Sunday morning, Miles wakes up with a determination in his eyes. He needs to find Fiona.His worn shirt stirs busily as he walks and his old shoes clumps soundly on the road. He walks to most of the houses in that village and asks for Fiona. But there is no answer.He is an odd figure in the sun and rain, in strange , unexpected places looking for his beloved wife. His dark brown eyes , underscored by purple half circles of exhaustion’ stands out starkly against the yellowish cast of his skin. That night he falls asleep on a wooden park bench. At midnight , the silver moon shines through the dense leaves of the trees and makes a silver pattern at his feet. Miles sees a feeble light dancing lightly before him. He leans forward. “Fiona! Is that you?” No one is there, just the branch of the elm tree that swings faintly in the breeze.

One early evening in November.The first flakes of snow clumped together as they twirl and flutter to the ground. “Fiona loves snow. She will be so delightful!” Miles murmurs picking up a beautiful lilac dress with white laces from Fiona’s room. He hangs the dress on one of the dining chair, and bakes a pie for his wife.  Fiona has a sweet tooth the size of a rhino tusk, blossoms like the desert after rain. Miles smiles as he takes out the pie from the oven.Miles is confident that today his wife will come back to him. He sits on the sofa and waits.Around eleven thirty in the night Miles slowly opens his eyes.He is still on the sofa waiting for Fiona. It is a moon lit night. A bright fierce little moon is shining, dimming the stars, pouring metallic brilliance on the  thin sugary snow that lay on the small lawn. He leans on the glass window to see the moon. There in the back yard, a figure sits on the empty bench. She has a long black skirt, a white v neck shirt and a plaid scarf around her neck. One leg crosses over the other and her foot swings rhythmically. Miles squares his shoulders, twists the doorknob and walks out. There sits Fiona. Her hair parted on the right, has a few silver hairs,while her heart-shaped face tends to be thin. A simple chain dangles around her neck and her finger toys on it. “ Fiona, you are here. I have waited for you.” Fiona raises her simple face and their eyes meet. A delightful smile flashes on Miles face as he slides to the bench and wraps his arms around his wife. “ You should not wait for me Miles.I can not come everyday. You need to let me go.” Fiona says with a quaver smile, touching her husband’s shoulder.

“ I can not live without you and you know that perfectly well.” Miles lays back with his eyes closed. A few soft tears escape from beneath his eyelids. “ I am too old to live by myself. Just stay with me Fiona”

Fiona’s thin lips give a slight twitch, but she makes no reply and merely touches her bracelet.

Now they are both silent, each looked unmindful of the other and yet full of an inward joy at being so close to each other.

ghost

Laminate Surface

Surface

Isa gives her heart-shaped face the briefest of glance in the compact mirror as she steps out from the car. Her face looks normal, just a small hint of anxiety, nothing big.A small smile flashes on her lips as she goes through the security screening and boards the flight. All the happy faces of her family and friends from the other side of the world envelop her mind.

After the long screeching take off ‘It is all right, it will be fine’, Isa has mouthed to herself, hunching against the tug of gravity. But the sensation of imprisonment only tightens as hours drag by. She sits with her hands clasped in front of her, her two forefingers leaning against each other and against her thin pink lips. arches the seat to stretch her stressed back.The plane is not that spacious. She is only 5’2 but there is barely room for her knees. To her right sits a woman whose body spills over the armrest, engrossed in a book. To her left, a young man his head tilts back, pale eyelids down. Isa tries to cross her legs, but there is not much room, so she just crosses her ankles instead. She should have booked the ticket in a new aircraft who boasts to give a luxurious experience.

Isa is on her way to India to attend her youngest cousin brother’s wedding. She tried lots of excuses not to travel. It is almost eleven in the night, before she closes her eyelids a gust of uneasiness blows through her mind. She turns her head towards her husband. “ I do not think it is necessary to visit India now. Instead we can plan to visit Alaska or any other winter hiking place. ”

Her husband replies, “We will plan some hiking trips but this year you should go to India. This is the last wedding in your family and also you can spend some time with my mother.”

Isa sighs. She nods her head.She should. She closes her eyes.

After five hours Isa wrench  the in flight magazine out of its plastic sheath: she scans the articles and briefly distracted by the advertisements. Fatigue swims into her legs. She closes the magazine, takes some slow, deep breath. She peeps through the small egg shape window. Out side is the vast blue sky and the white puffy clouds. When the plane tilts to one side the vast ocean winks at her. ‘ Really there is nothing to worry about’, she tells herself toying with the pearl necklace. ‘people fly all the time’. She heaves a long breath. It is almost seven hours. Her head is hammering. She needs strong Darjeeling tea. Stiff-necked, she stares around  in the dim cabin. Some of the passengers glue to the small TV monitors in front of them and some sleep with a thin grey blankets tucked under their chins.But they look relaxed. Isa pushes her seat back but then jerks upright again.She remembers the ‘ bed’ in Edgar Poe’s story where it says that the bed closes up like a mouth. Isa turns on the tiny TV monitor.

The plane heaves slightly, then it shakes for a while as it bumps into clouds. O’my! It feels like one of its engine has fallen out, now it may spin and smash into the ocean. I even do not know how to swim. And what about my children? Who is going to recommend them as a Hallmark card whether they like it or not. The other day her son told her, ‘ Mom, I am almost thirty. Will you please not worry so much about me”. We have to let the adult children lead their own lives but it is the mother’s heart.

The plane bumps again. Isa closes her eyes and chants all the prayers. Her grandmother used to say, “ Pray in your mind and all the fears will disappear in thin air. Just like a magic.” After a few minutes Isa opens her eyes slowly. Across the aisle, a nun gets up stretching and gives her a little smile. Isa feels absurdly embarrassed. Isa remembers watching the discovery channel on ‘Bird migration’, they spend most of their lives on the wings back and forth, they are not scared at all. She should not.

Next day as the plane starts to descend, Isa feels the pressure builds up in her ears, it is like being underwater that time when she was almost drowned during the swimming lesson. It was really scary. Isa does not surface much of her emotions.The landing is smooth’ the engines roars, the wheels clawed, she jerks forward a little.

At the airport she adjusts her hair, applies a lip gloss and checks her face on the compact mirror..Her face looks calm, the way she wants to project herself. Outside the early evening sky is a tight-fitting grey cap,the street is thick with bodies and at the exit gate the excited faces of her family.

surface

A special gift

Paint

They stand on the sidewalk in a patch lit by the afternoon sun. The sky is harsh blue. The mother digs into her torn cotton bag and pulls out a  bag of raisins with a hint of nuts. The six years old daughter Pearl takes a small handful of raisins and glances sideways to the posters of ballet dancers. In their city Ballet dancers are celebrities. Their faces gaze out from bus stops and from billboards next to diamonds. Their limpid eyes meet the barren concrete. Pearl turns to her mother. “ Mom, do you think I can learn ballet?” Her mother seals the left over raisins in the plastic bag for the evening snack,adjusts the chipped sun-glass on her small nose . Her forehead pinches together.Then she smiles. “ Sure, you can. I will ask around to find a school. Do not you worry.” Her mother does not want to discuss too much on that topic. The important word is Survival. She takes out the faded straw hat from her own head and adjusts it on her daughter’s small head. “ It is too hot, this hat will protect your head.”  The bus arrives.

Ballet is a big thing in this city .Throughout the bus ride Pearl could hear the impassioned discussions about which dancer’s Swan Lake is  most powerful or whose jumps achieve the greatest poll. The ballet dancer’s names spring from grown-up’s lips in excited whispers. Pearl leans against the seat with a big smile and closes her eyes.

Her mother never complained. She worked in two different jobs to color her daughter’s dream.

One early morning in August, Pearl pulls on a cotton dress and gets ready for her first audition. The hallways are packed with girls in leotards and tights, Mother’s stiff-backed sitting on long wooden benches. Each girl wears a number pinned to her leotard. One mother with a grey vest, striped grey pant, small heels leans towards Pearl. “ Do you know that I have to drive one and half hour to reach here? If my daughter gets in, we have to move closer to the school. She needs a chaperone. I mean her mother, right?” Her red lips part in a smile. For a moment Pearl wishes that this woman is her mother. Her motherly love overflows.

“ Where is your mother?” She asks adjusting her necklace on her white neck.

A small airless silence. “ She is not here. If you will excuse me, I hear my number.” Pearl gets up from the seat and walks into the room across the hall.

One evening after school Pearl sits on a chair, dangles her feet, listening to Don Giovanni. She braces herself against the thundering orchestra and the thrills and vibrato of expelled emotions. Then she could not stop herself. She starts slowly, just her head side to side, swaying her hands back and forth. The music grows and so do her swaying arms. She lifts herself up as if floating. She crosses the small floor in quick footwork. As the music slows down the front door opens in a soft click. Her  mother returns. She looks exhausted.Pearl runs to the kitchen to bring a glass of water in a small cup for her mom. “ How was your day mom?” She asks as her mother takes the cup from her hand sitting down heavily on a chair.

“ Excellent! Have you finished all the homework?” Pearl shakes her head leaning towards her mother. Her mother looks around and clears her throat. “ I am hoping that in a year I will have enough money to send you to a Ballet school. Also I will inquire for a scholarship which will be a great help.” She takes another sip from the cold water and rolls the cup between her palms. “ Future is like a cup board full of lights and all you have to do is find the key that opens the door. Then it is all yours.” She smiles her shiny penny smile. Pearl has faith on her mother.

Even if they are poor, they laugh, play games, read together in spare times. Each day they could help to be lucky, the hope is their only joy.

On a clear sunny day the letter arrives to Pearl’s mailbox. An invitation for the Ballet audition.

Pearl shows the twists, turns, jumps, two allegro parts.The lady instructor smiles. “ I like your neat and fast footwork, your graceful moves. Congratulations and welcome to the school of Ballet.” She hands a paper to her. Ask your parents to give us a call. Pearl leaves the building.

Tonight Pearl could not sleep. She lays back with her eyes closed. A few soft tears escape from beneath her eyelids. Pearl wants to share her happiness, her achievement with her best friend, her mother. Exactly six months back her mother died of heart attack.She rushed to the emergency but the doctor could not save her mother.Pearl dreams that she could fly. She has sprouted strong  white wings on her shoulder blades and flying high in the air with her mother on her side. They soar high up in the blue sky wheeling through the air, gliding and turning.Their giggle and laugh fill the endless sky.

Strange things in a modern society.

Crisis

At 3 Am on Saturday morning Serenity wakes up in a start. A strange sensation that something is not right. A swirl of anxiety spins in her mind. She sits on the bed . Last night she did not hear anyone coming in or the barking of the dog. That is not possible because she is very light sleeper. Serenity slips from the bed. She pushes her daughter’s bedroom door and stands in the doorway staring. The bed is undisturbed. Celeste is supposed to be back before midnight. Serenity tries her cell phone number which rings but goes straight to the answering message. Something is very wrong here. Serenity breaths quickly now  though her heart beat is calm.

She walks outside to the wooden deck.Only a smoldering dull light seems to descend from the sky as if a bright moon is trapped behind the clouds. Her daughter’s sagging hammock between the two sturdy trees is there but no Celeste of course. Serenity goes to the garage, entering through a side door no one inside there.  May be she stayed with her friend but did not call. May be her phone battery is down. Serenity enters again to her daughter’s room and turns on the light. She sees how neatly tightly books are arranged into the small Red oak bookcase. Celeste always love books and mostly classics. Her favorite pencil drawings on stiff white construction paper decorates one side of the white wall. Serenity moves closer to the wall the drawings are so elaborate, fine and meaningful. She looks at the small vintage clock on the table. It is almost 5 Am. Where on earth could she be!  Serenity speaks sharply. No she is angry and at the same time despair. She  fumbles for a chair, a kitchen chair and sits down heavily as if the air has slammed out of her. She starts to call all of Celeste’s friends one after another. Nobody knows. They all reply that she was with them in the school dance until it was over and they did not see her after that. Serenity feels so weak and so frightened. Her daughter is only thirteen years old. She contacts the sheriff department, her last hope. It feels as if a nightmare movie runs at high-speed for a cruel-comic effect. And she does not like scary movies not at all. She has watched and read so many news on missing children and she has cried many a times for the mothers, for those children.

We have found your daughter-alive and well. This call, so desperately wished for  does not come.

The search team has looked for Celeste everywhere, morning to dusk. Volunteers a flex flyers to telephone poles, trees, public walls, in post office, in walking trails. But no answer yet. Serenity’s eyes pouched in tiredness and damp. She sits in her prayer room eyes closed, hands folded. ‘God if I could trade my life for my little girl, then let that be, please keep her safe and spare her, take mine instead.’

There is a reward to find Celeste. Many calls come in but not the right one. Someday Serenity fantasizes to here ‘ We have found your daughter and she wants to talk to you.’ But there is nothing, nothing at all. The sheriff finds Celeste’s navy blue scarf and one pair of her black high heels in a parking lot but not her. Serenity has accepted the fate, the cruelty of life.

Six years have passed.

One summer evening in July. Serenity has just returned from her volunteer work from the women’s shelter. The doorbell rings. In front of  the door stands the local sheriff, who has helped Serenity a lot in her daughter’s missing case.In his eyes a strange elation. “ I have a good news for you. We have your daughter.” He says with a tight small smile.

“What? Serenity begins to feel very faint. The news is dazzling as a sudden bright,blindness scalding her brain. “ What did you say? You found Celeste?” Serenity tries her best to stand straight holding to the side of the door.

She runs towards the police car in bare foot.Her dog runs behind her. There on the back seat, someone is lying wrapped in a grey blanket and her face hidden, unmoving and she has known at once who it is. “ Celeste!” she lifts her daughter’s body and wraps her arms around her in a rib-crushing embrace. “ I love you so much.” She says kissing her daughter’s forehead.

The daughter’s pale skin, her shadowed eyes, dark curly hair that has thinned a lot from malnutrition and the scars on her abused body tells a very long sad,and heart breaking story to her mother. Serenity glances closely. Mother understands very well the emotion,the feelings, the sadness in her child’s eyes. “ I am so grateful that you are with me.” Serenity wipes her own tears. “ Do not you worry, I will take care of you. I will bring justice to you.” She carries her daughter to inside the house as she whispers choking in her own tears. “ Together we will fight and we will win.”

 

The stroke of the clock

Clock

“There was a sudden stillness like the gap between ticks on a clock, but the next tick never coming.” – Sadie Jones.

It is Monday morning. Instead of going to work, Vincent is busy in taking out the beautiful, decorative antique clocks from all the rooms of his house. They lay quietly and silently on top of each other in a  big blue plastic  box in one corner of the living room.

Destiny tries to sit up straight. The earth is spinning on its axis and flying through the space. How strange that despite all that speed and motion, she feels only the stillness. Her daughter slides into the bed and wraps her arm around her mother. “ You are fine mom, don’t you worry.” “ How about a selfie?” Destiny smiles a little leaning against her daughter. Destiny has eaten a little, sleeps for many hours as soon as she returns from work. Now the pain is relentless, but she does not want to take so many painkillers to dull her mind. Today at her office, the meeting is in the third floor. Destiny always take the stairs instead of the elevator so that it will be a good exercise for her legs.She stands at the bottom of the stairs looking up. It seems like a long climb. Go ahead, that’s my girl Grandma would say. Put one foot on the first stair, then the other one besides it like when you are two or three. Yes she can make it. Destiny climbs taking a deep breath; breath in, breath out just like she does in her morning pranayama.

Vincent returns from India after two months. Destiny is there in the airport to pick up her husband. From the driver’s seat Vincent looks at his wife. She looks so frail in her loose sea-green shirt. Only her  masses of thick wavy black hair, her sharp roman nose, her wide-set eyes like the rich dusky blue of a sky, seem youthful. Destiny turns her head. “ How was your trip? And your mother?” She asks taking a gulp  of cold water from the bottle. “ The trip was good and mom is fine. She was asking about you and the children. Also she has sent your favorite thing; one more antique clock.” Vincent replies with a quick glance at his wife.

At dinner Destiny takes a few bites of the vegetable curry  which seems like a three-course meals.  A deep fatigue descends on her. Rising with effort, she places the plates in the dishwasher. From the corner of  his eyes Vincent watches his wife’s tired face. Her dark brown eyes, underscored by purple half circles of exhaustion stands out starkly against the yellowish cast of her skin. Something is not right.“Let’s go to the check with the doctor. You look different.” He says taking the plates from his wife’s hand.

Next day in the doctor’s office Vincent sits with an open magazine on his lap and do not read a word until  he hears the voice of the nurse. Vincent walks behind the nurse to the doctor’s office.“ I am sorry to say that your wife has liver Cancer and it is in stage four…” The doctor says reading all the reports. “Only thing left is the pain management.”

The magazine hits the floor from Vincent’s shaky hand. He sighs and lines of worry and sorrow course deep paths from his nose to his chin. Destiny shakes her head, her thoughts flutter without order like the pages of a book in a capricious wind. “ It can not be!” she whispers.

Background noises fill in the silence that follow the whirring of the overhead fan and the sound of their heavy breathing.

Destiny sits in the backseat of the long, smooth silent car. Her lower lip is quivering, a tear is trickling out of her eyes. “ This is it then. I can not feel the time any more. It seems like the clocks have stopped ticking.” she says wiping her tears with the back up her palm. She continues her sentence. “ Take care of our children. I know you always do a good job. Keep it up.” She chokes on her own tears but with a small smile she turns her face towards Vincent. “ Be strong, imagine all the fun that you will have with the grand kids. Right?”

Vincent pats his wife’s arm. “ We have time. Let’s pray and hope that everything will be fine.” He says warmly. “ Also we have to visit all the beautiful castles in Europe and do lots of winter hikes, all your favorite things.”

“ Sure, hiding the truth!” Destiny says with a small quaver smile.She could feel the thinning of the veil, the certain between life and death, between the world and the next.  “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”

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Fast and Exciting

Slowly

It is almost two o’clock in a Friday night.Grace is on her bed,tries her best to sleep. Some researchers say that calming thought helps to sleep. She tries that and it does help her. Now Grace sits cross-legged on the pebbles of the bank of a small river. It is very peaceful; tiny ripples on the water, cool wind and endless blue sky. Here and there, little breezes creep over the polished waters beneath the haze of the sun. The Adagio of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto plays in her mind, very serene melody. But the problem is that all of a sudden her calming, happy thoughts cross the boundaries. Now to her front stands the snow-covered famous Denali mountain of Alaska. All the articles that she read in the national Geography on Alaska comes alive and her hiking spirit reaches to its height. She stands there wearing her blue jacket, a black and orange backpack and with hiking poles in both hands. “ Mom are you ready?” Asks her daughter.

“ O’ yes.” Now her eyes are wide open with excitement.

Damn it, this calming thoughts are not working for me. Grace opens the bedroom door slowly and quietly.She pads barefoot to the back porch door, twists the brass door knob and walks out to the deck. The heavy night air, very humid and mild , is alive with the sound of cicadas. Thick clouds, pushed by a southern wind  obscure the stars and the moon. It is too hot to stand out side so she comes back but not to the bed. Grace walks into the living room. A coloring book ‘The Secret Garden’ in the wooden book-case caught her eyes. Last month her son purchased that for her. Coloring is extremely therapeutic which calms the mind and sometimes brings the same benefits of meditation. Grace colors the pages for a while and she stops. The coloring activity takes her mind to the kindergarten class. She sits straight with her hands folded upon her blue dress. On the desk  in front of her lays  an alphabet book with pictures and a pack of coloring pencils to the side of the book. Her teacher stands in front of the class close to the chalkboard wearing a white blazer, sleeves pushed up.  “ Please listen attentively. Today you have to color slowly and carefully only the pictures that start with the  alphabet ‘A’ from the coloring book.Raise your hands as soon as you finish.” She says adjusting the wide silver bracelet on her left arm. After coloring for a while,Grace leans against the chair. She shakes the brown pencil in her right fingers and then leans forward to checks her coloring. “Stop.” Grace hears a not so nice voice and drops her pencil. She lifts her eyes. The weather changes in her teacher’s eyes.“ You are already on alphabet D!”  

Grace looks down to her coloring book. Really! Wow! Now the opened page has a beautiful brown dog with a long tail and  fluffy white ears. Her numb fingers closes the book. Sorry did not work. She should have done the homework slowly and carefully. She could not touch the coloring book for one week. On her watch it is almost four now. She should go back to sleep.

Door slams, the water rushes through the garden hoses, neighborhood dogs bark, the stir begins. Another beautiful day;bright and sunny. But Grace could not open her eyes although she does not want to miss her Saturday gym class. As she opens the door to leave the house, she hears her husband from behind. “ Instead of going to the kickboxing and Ripped classes, you should go more to yoga or Pilates class where the movements are slow but more effective and better for your joints.” He says while adjusting his downward dog pose on the yoga mat.

“ I Agree”, Grace replies tightening the shoe laces, ” I will try the  Pi Yo class which is a mix of yoga and Pilates  with faster movements.”Most of the days after  the kickboxing class she returns home with severe pain in her knees and shoulders. She lays in the bed, bone tired. The fatigue is crushing, it feels as if she lay already entombed underground,pressed down by a great weight on earth so that she could not move. But Grace does not like to slow down. The word ‘Slow’ itself clouds her face like fog on the Serengeti. She draws her thumb and fore finger from the outer corner of her eye to the bridge of her nose and smiles. “A day will come when everything will automatically slow down. But now I like it better to be fast.”

Rearranging a puzzle

Clouds

Overnight it has turned into thick Summer. Clarissa closes the book ‘ The Sun also rises’ and leans back on the chair. Too much reading leaves her mind contracting and expanding like the mainspring of a clock. The sounds in the garden outside joins with the clock and the small noises of midday. She raises her first finger and lets it fall on the arm of her chair so as to bring back to herself some consciousness of her own existence. She leans deeper on to the soft cushion and her thought takes a different perspective.

What is life? It is only a light passing over the surface and vanishing, as in no time she would vanish though the furniture, the books, her writings would stay same. She sits perfectly still. It is too dense even to think. The huge mountain range through the glass window looks spectacular. Clarissa twists the brass knob of the door and walks outside to the right.  A hiking trail towards the mountain.

She walks faster and faster until she reaches on the summit of a little hill. On a narrow turn she sinks down on to earth, clasping her knees together and looking blankly in front of her. A yellow butterfly which is opening and closing its deep blue wings very slowly on a little flat stone.Hypnotized by the wings of the butterfly she sits for some time longer. Life is beautiful, she agrees. She continues to walk until she reaches on the flat space on the top of the mountain. The extraordinarily beautiful forest has merged into mountains. The Colorado river down below runs across the plain as flat as the land. Clarissa looks around, then stands still. She shouts out a line of poetry but the words escape her and she stumbles among lines and fragments of lines which has no meaning at all except for the beauty of words.The sun is beginning to go down. Long thin clouds of flamingo red with edges like the edges of curled ostrich feathers lay up and down the sky at different altitudes.She runs down hill.

Inside the hotel room she sits with her chin on her hands, trying to remember the things she is supposed to do. It feels strange to be in a hotel by myself. May be I have taken off to write a book. If that is the case then I want to write a novel on Silence, the things people don’t say; their sorrows, difficulties, their nightmares. She sighs as she leans on her elbow and arranges the flowers in the glass vase. In front of her on the small oval  mirror her reflection plays.She must be in her fifties. Who is she? What is she doing in a hotel in Colorado? What about her family? Clarissa opens her black hand bag, picks each stuff and checks them closely to find her identity. Nothing. She looks at her phone. So many names and so many numbers. She leans her head on her forearm.The phone rings.Clarissa startles. “Yes this is she. Who? O’, yes I will. I will text you the address.” She replies nervously touching the ring on her finger.

Early morning. Clarissa moves across the hall. Her thoughts spin into fragments. There are days when memories run away and hide, by the time she comes chasing after, they have wriggled off somewhere else to be another thing.With a hot cup of tea in her hand, she settles herself on a stool to play the  piano in the lobby. Up and up the steep spiral of Beethoven sonata she climbs, like a person ascending a staircase energetically at first, then more laboriously advancing with her feet with effort.The front glass door opens and a gentleman walks in smiling warmly. He sits down on the chair close to Clarissa.“ How are you? Are you having a good time? I am here to take you home.” His voice is cheerful and loving.

Clarissa rocks with a happy rhythm as she tries to build a new body of memory.

images.jpgmemory

 

Mending the fence

Fence

Her purple scarf was looped around her throat, school books scattered on the bed. She dances to her favorite music. She has pushed up the sleeve of the shirt; the silver bracelet moves up and down the smooth skin of her arm, almost slipping off. Sophia is glad to see her daughter wearing the bracelet that she presented on her last birthday. Leaning against the living room door she watches her twelve years old daughter Jade.

“ Mom! You are here.what do you think of my dance?” She pulls out her earphone and looks at her mother.

Sophia steps forward and quickly kisses Jade on the forehead. “ You dance so gracefully with a natural flow!”

Jade’s voice is impatient: “ No, I mean my shoes. Look at them.”

Sophia is surprised to see the black, pencil high heels. She tries not to criticize so she laughs. “They are so high..”

“ They are not. They are comfortable and I am in love  with them.” Her voice is triumphant.

She smiles and leaves.

Jade is Sophia’s only child and her love. They used to do everything together; library visit, shopping, movies, hiking. Gradually it has changed. Jade behaves very different. She tries to defy whatever her mother says.

On one weekend Jade gets ready for her high school play.  It is a competition between two last teams. Clothes are spilling from her bag, she has thick makeup on her face. “Dad and I will be there tonight.” Sophia says brightly. “ We will pick you after the play around ten.”

She stares at Sophia. “ I am not a little girl. Pick me at eleven. I want to enjoy some time with my friends.”  The anger in her tone is surprising. Sophia does not want to argue. Jade shrugs and turns, bending over the dog. She kisses her, pulling  her ears gently; though she hardly stirs, her tail thumps the floor.

Sophia walks closer and hugs Jade. “ Sweetheart, you are a triumph, so relax, everything will be fine.”

She waves from the door. “ Bye, mum,” she says.

Later that evening it gets windy; a storm is brewing. The raw power of storm is terrifying.  Sophia accompanies her husband to pick up Jade. The doors are locked, parking lot is empty. They drive to a couple of Jade’s friends houses but she is not there. They search her desperately. Sophia’s face is white and hands are cold.

One early morning in October.  Sophia could not sleep. It is hard to see the her daughter’ empty room. She walks into the deck and stands quietly.The silence presses coldly against Sophia’s face. The morning sinks into a dull afternoon and unannounced grief settles closely around her. She misses jade so much. It is hard to see exactly where the change started. Sophia goes back over and over to different points in time to find where she could have altered the fate. She sits on the bench and her tired eyes closes. Jade’s lovely face floats in the gray space in front of her.

Sophia wakes up early; outside the first layer of dark has lifted, leaving the garden as still and flat as a painting under the gray sky. In her dream, Jade has been there, under the tree,shadowed by leafy branches. Minute passes. The stinging shock of empty garden fades into the familiar ache.

As she enters into the kitchen, the doorbell rings. Sophia twists the silver knob and pulls the door open. There stands Jade in a white t-shirt and a jean with a small black duffel bag on her right hand. Her hair has grown long. There are tattoos on her both hands. A small smile flickers on her tight lip. Sophia could not wait to hear her daughter’s excuses. She runs and pulls Jade closer and hugs her. Tears of love runs on her cheek. Jade sobs and whispers. “ I am really  sorry mom, I have given you so much trouble.  You can punish me the way you want.But I could not live without you. You are the best thing in my life.Please forgive me, please.”

Sophia cries and laughs at the same time. “ Yes sweetie, I have forgiven you. But now that you are back, everything will be fine. We will work it out.” She wipes her own tears with the back of her palm and her other hand wraps tightly around her daughter’s delicate hand.

One Summer Morning

Voyage

One bright summer morning. Through the small opening of the thick bamboo blind of the kitchen window I glance outside. The woman of the yellow house to the front and her English Mastiff dog return from their morning walk. She stops close to the curb and wipes the sweat from her forehead with a small  towel. The dog sits there with his mouth open and tongue out.It must be hot! I squeeze my head a little further. The two fat squirrels play hide and seek around the Crape Myrtle tree in one of the neighbor’s yard. All the new exciting mornings! The promise of them,a blank slate and a chance.I walk through the slightly opened  back door and  sit on the wooden porch. The crowded roses to the right are hotly odorous. A faint rustling breeze among the foliage of the tree is shifting pale-gold patches of sunlight back and forth over my tawny body. My eyes follow the flying birds across the sky until it is hard to trace any more. I lay there and enjoy the quiet morning before the lawn mowers start in all the lawns in different intervals.

A familiar voice comes from inside of the house. “ Let’s go”. This is a very magical word when it comes from my mother like water bright Soprano in a choir then I know that it is  special. So I raise my head, perk up my small ears, straight the back and run towards the door. Delight blooms on my face.

My mom walks to the garage and opens the door of the suv. “Yeh!” I bark softly,wag my long busy tail and jump to the back seat. I feel my breathing quickens as if there is not enough air inside the suv and search for oxygen, like the crew of a doomed submarine. My mom switches the Moth station in the radio and starts the engine. As the suv rolls, I snuggle close to the window and glance at everything; different types of people in different shape of cars, the older man selling newspaper on the sidewalk, a few young boys and girls on their bikes with their parents, new moms jogging with the babies in the strollers. As we drive on the long highway I see only cars, trucks, eighteen wheelers and big trees along the sides of the roads.

After a while we stop in front of a big white building. I jump down from the seat to the pavement and look closely to the building. It seems so familiar. Wait a minute.I look up towards my mom and then back to the building. No, really! My mom turns the black knob of the door in one hand and holds my leash on the other. We walk in. Inside there are some parents sit on a long wooden bench with their dogs and waiting patiently. Some of the dogs are squeaking, some are barking and some are ready to go.  We sit on one chair to the left of the front desk. My mom talks to me and flips through a magazine. After a few minutes a woman in a white jacket and a blue pant calls my name. Now I remember everything. As soon as we enter the room I start to pull the leash. My heart beats like a hammer. Fear curtains my small face Both my ears and tail are down. I do not like strangers to touch me. I feel so nervous that I start to bump myself into the glass windows of the room. I want to get out from here. My mom says warmly, “ Lucy, come, sit with me. You will be fine, come.” She pulls out a treat from her hand bag to calm me but I do not want to eat anything. I want to go home. My body starts to shake from fear. I move closer to my mother and glance at her face. At home she understands everything that I express through my eyes but today she is different. She pretends not to. Then the door opens and the woman doctor walks in. I lick her hand. “ Mom! Please let’s go. The door is open and our last chance to escape.”  But today she is very stubborn. The nurse holds me tight, my mom pats my head lovingly while the doctor checks. It takes a few minutes but for me it is really a long time.

On the way back I climb to the seat and just lay down there. I do not want to see anything, nothing at all. I do not care any more. It is a very hard day for me so I close my eyes and sleep until we reach home.

 

My grateful heart to a perfect hero

Perfection

Meteors let go past the sliced moon in the pockets of a dark pulsing  thundered. No one can say how long it will rain. But the five years old girl is determined to find him. She has not moved from the left side of the car window .Her anxious eyes are glued to the glass, hoping to see her special person on the side of the road, may be in another car. She sighs. I hope he is safe. Her uncles and aunt waited for a long in the airport even after the last passenger picked up her luggage  but he was not there so they decided to return to the hotel. Suddenly the little girl’s penetrating gaze comes to rest on a familiar face inside a navy blue cab on the left. All the cars have stopped on the red traffic light. Immediately she rocks in a happy rhythm and her pale face flushes. She swipes the stray hair from her forehead to one side and screams. “ I found him! Open the door. Stop, do not move.” The driver, both her uncles and the aunt roll down the rain-soaked windows at the same time and look through the window. Their excited voices fly sharply towards the driver. “ Driver honk the horn and pull the car to the curb”. Yes, after a long drive in an overly crowded city in heavy rain they find the special person.

Suddenly the world is perfect and the little girl Sue is in paradise. The special person is Sue’s grandfather who returns from his trip from America. Sue and her grandfather open doors of their car and the cab at the same time, and run towards each other. The special person is Sue’s grandfather. Her grandfather lifts Sue from the road and swings her around. Sue wraps one hand around her grandfather lovingly, while wipes her tears with the palm of her left hand.Then they both laugh an absurd but charming laugh and hug each other at the same time.

Sue’s grandfather is not only a rich business man but also at the same time a publisher,a writer,  a very intelligent, honest warm-hearted simple person. Sue is the second eldest among the fifteen grandchildren. Everyone in the family, in the friend’s circle know that  Sue is her grand father’s favorite. One late afternoon in June, the sun is out of control. Sue tries her best to color the flowers brightly on a coloring book but the sweats drip down from her forehead and makes it hard to concentrate. She lifts her eyes from the book at the shrill sound of the bell on the  front door and the barking of the dog. As she opens the heavy oak door, the delivery man from the nearby convenience store smiles.“ Your grandfather has sent these for you.” He says and hands her the basket . She can not carry that heavy basket so she opens it right there at the doorstep. O’ grandpa you are the best! , Sue claps and giggles at the sight of the cold drinks and ice-cream inside the box. Her grandfather knows the perfect time to send the right stuff to his grand-daughter.

As the time passes Sue’s interest grow more and more into reading. She loves her grandfather’s elegant study room. The long rectangular room is stocked with walnut furniture and a renaissance bookcase of an ancient oak full of literary fictions, non-fictions, poetry. As if the heaven is right there in that room. In every summer the new collection of books come and decorate the book shelves.  Sue curls up on a chair with her favorite book. Delight blooms on her small face.

In some evenings after supper Sue sits with her grandfather on a couch. His speech is always pretty to hear. “ Do you know that your body carries language within it; a timeless seed of meaning.” He would continue. “ It is the outward manifestation of your inner being. So it is very important to be a good human being. Practice from now-be honest, truthful, help others, respect others.” Sue is almost nine and enjoys every bit of the wonderful time with her grandfather.

One summer afternoon. The  fourth year college final exam result appeared in a letter, Sue was disappointed.  She drops her head until she could see the reflection of her unhappy face in the polished surface of the table. In that night she lay wide-eyed for an hour on the bed but could not sleep so she walks into the open terrace and stands in the gathering darkness. As the night darkens the Milky Way spread like powdered glass above the head. She hears a heavy footstep from behind. Her grandfather appears. “ Come, sit here on the chair. I know you tried your best. But never give up,” he said, “ No matter what. There is always a road out. Try again and you will be successful.”  Sue could not see his face in the dark but guessed he was really concerned. Sue wipes her tear and hugs her grandfather. He is always  a hero for Sue.

Smiling at the memory, Sue moves closer to the widow, Just like the days her grandfather and she used to watch the stars in the night. The flashing silver stars wiggle, illuminated by a cheddar-yellow moon. Sue lifts her eyes. “Thank you grandpa for everything. Happy Father’s Day!”

 

Crafting Life

Purpose

From time to time a gust of uneasiness would blow through the back rooms of my mind, as if a window has been left open there and a storm has come through and her neatly stacked pages of notes in being human has blown off the desk.

Joanna is an ordinary woman with high hopes, very loving, sometimes funny, overprotective, loves her family, thoughtful and always ready to help others. Last week she attended the wedding of her cousin sister and had lots of fun with family and friends. This week the regular day has started- go to work, run to the grocery, make time for the exercise routine either Body combat or kickboxing, prepare dinner, watch TV, make phone calls etc… All these striving, all the joys,miseries, meetings, mood swings, parties she asks to herself, leads exactly to where? Too much of fun and then what?

Early Sunday morning. Joanna feels enormous feeling of emptiness. Turn your eyes away from the good life for just a second and there it is : kind of lingering questions what is the purpose of life or what is the point of all these? She sits up on the bed. It is only four thirty in the morning. But can not sleep. Joanna walks out to the back deck and stands leaning against the wooden post, her arms folded, one foot crossed and the toe pointed into the ground. She tries to search for an answer in the darkness, in the air, within her own self.

Sometimes a particular memory sparkles more strongly than the others.

One bright summer day in June.  Sixteen years old Joanna sits with her grandmother in the living room. In Front of them sits a sage in a deep orange robe with saffron border. His eyes are very clear, bright,calm and full of kindness. He sips the mango juice calmly and deliberately, then looks up giving a beaming, magical smile to us. He waves his hand around in a way as if he is playing an imaginary upside down keyboard with floating fingers and tries to explain a meaningful life. His voice comes out without rise or fall. “ It is fine to enjoy what you like, but always keep a balance in them.” He says waving his hand, “ Life should be purposeful, meaningful. Clear visions and positive goals, leads to positive actions and purposeful life. Different types of pleasure, sadness are all very temporary; they come and go. But when you help people it lasts for long time and that is more enjoyable.”

 

He smiles and says, “ Is it clear? It should.”

Treasure

Childhood

Leaning upon the ship’s rail, the captain breaths deeply, her lips part slightly as though she could drink in the fresh wind that billows the sail.The  morning sun dances on the water. The captain looks up to the sky. “ A day like this is a special gift.” She says clasping her hands behind her back. “ Do not worry we will find the sea monster.” The captain is  six years old Arushi and her friends are her cousin brother Anup and his little sister. She wants to be Dr. Aronnax, the renowned scientist of the  story ‘Twenty thousand leagues under the sea.’ They are on the fourth floor of there grandfather’s house which accumulates one foot of the rain-water in every rainy season and it stays for one or two days. Arushi has arranged a long,flat wood which will work as their ship.In those days their were no TV or computer so make belief games are their only option. Her four years old cousins clap and shouts, “ Look, Dolphins! Not one but two!”Arushi adjusts her cap and deepens her voice. “ Dolphins are good signs.” She says, that means we will capture the monster.

Around eleven in the morning they return from their voyage. Their faces are little tired from the adventure but satisfied.

The morning sun falls across the long rectangle wooden table, touching a brass vase of homegrown flowers there and scatter pages of the newspaper on Arushi’s grandfather’s hand.A gorgeous smile lit on her face as she leans forward. “ Good morning grand pa!.” She says in a pleasant voice pulling the chair closer to the  table. “ Do you know that  we went underwater, visit an island and saw lots of beautiful fish and different types of rocks. But there was no fight,just a twist at the ending.”

Her grandfather laughs.“ I am glad that you had a wonderful time under the water. Now go get ready to visit the bookstore.”

“I will.”

Arushi and her grandfather walk to their bookstore, not too far from home. On the way, out of her trail of her eye she spots an old woman on a bench. One leg crosses over the other and her foot swings rhythmically. Her big yellow purse sits on the bench a slight distance from her as though it is her companion. She stares straight ahead, seemingly lost in memories. Is she lonely? Arushi mutters and then stops on the middle of the road. “Grandpa wait.”

She runs towards the old woman with a delicious smile. “ Hi, do you need any help? Why are you sitting here alone? Where is your granddaughter and kids?”

The old woman adjusts her eye glasses on her nose. Her pale face flushes.“ I do not have any grand-daughter. I am taking a break from walking. It is so hot out there. I have to walk to a nearby shelter to eat and rest. You go ahead.”

Arushi runs back to her grandfather. “ I am tired of eating ice cream everyday,so can I give that money to the old woman? She is humgry and she does not have anyone to help her.” Arushi pushes her curl black hair behind her ear with one hand while she stands on her toes and whispers “ Even I think she can not see properly. That is really sad!”

Her grand father looks at her face lovingly and understands. “ Yes, it is sad.” He takes out a few coins and says, “ Go give this to the woman.”

A few years have passed.

Now Arushi is in fourth grade. She loves reading. Nothing disturbs your thoughts, she says. “ The hour passes without moving, you walk through the landscape you see in your mind’s eye and your thought caught up in the story, stops at the details or rush through for the plot. You pretend you are the character and feel it as your own heart beating. She slid into books like a seal into water. Her parents think she spends too much time in reading story books and not giving enough attention to her math subjects.

One late afternoon Arushi returns from school. As she enters through the front door, she glances the familiar stage. Her father holds a book but reads the empty spaces and close to him on the sofa her mom knits and hums like a tea-kettle. Arushi steps in. “ Hey!”

Immediately her mother opens a smile like a lightning and says, “ There is a surprise for you but it is for your benefit. We have asked one graduate student to come here to help you in math.”

“ What?” Arushi says adjusting the navy backpack on her hand.

She hears her father’s deep voice. “ It start from today.”

Now what?  Arushi thinks to herself.She hates math.

The teacher comes sharp at seven. They introduce each other and sits on their chairs facing each other. First day and lots of expectations.

This continue for a month.

At the beginning of the second month,something happens on a Saturday.According to the tradition tea and snacks are served to the teacher. Arushi tries her best to concentrate on math but her mind is in the half-finished story ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’.  A brilliant idea flashes on her mind.

She leaps forward, opens her ink pen and drops the ink to the tea.

Her math tutor watches in disbelief. He stares with large astonished eyes.

“ You are not supposed to behave this way!”

Arushi shakes her head. She says while twisting the cover of the black pen in her hand, “ I do not want you to come and teach me math. I want to finish reading my books. I can learn math by myself. I have tried to explain so many times but could not. May be if I act strange then you will understand. Sorry. Please let my parents know that you do not want to teach.”

He sits quietly on his chair for a while before he leaves. Arushi knows that it is not a best thing but the attraction of her story books are stronger. She stares at the closed-door and sighs.

Arushi crosses and uncrossed her legs. She sits with both elbows on the desk, rubs her forehead, then keeps one hand on each side of her face. She has to make up a story for her parents and it should be the best.

 

“The older I grow the more earnestly I feel that the few joys of childhood are the best that life has to give.” Ellen Glasgow

 

Accepting Life

Fake

It has been a long two weeks after the high school graduation. Except sketching and reading there is nothing much to do. One morning at the dining table Alexa sits with her parents for breakfast with her hands folded on the lap, on her blue dress. Instead of eating her cereal, she glances through the window. Outside the presence of summer is clear; some of the neighborhood kids are riding their big wheels, one woman is playing catch with her dog, a construction is going on at the cul-de-sac house. The most interesting scene for Alexa is the two squirrels scampering through the trees and playing hide and seek. Her dad clears his throat. “ Alexa finish your breakfast.” Then he takes a sip from his tea-cup and says. “ After the breakfast I will help you in applying for a part-time job so that it will keep you busy.”

Alexa is not sure about that but she takes a deep breath and faces her dad while pouring the cereal to a bowl. “Sure.”

After three weeks she receives a date for the  interview. Before the interview Alexa  goes to different sites in the internet to find out a few tips on how to answer the interview questions, how to show her confidence…She changes her mind and occupies herself in watching the Animal planet. It has more interesting facts on the movements and impulses of the animals to understand them better. She taps one finger on her cheek and smiles. May be I should work in a zoo.

On the day of the interview Alexa walks into her closet to pick up something nice to wear. Inside it is a big mess: unfolded clothes are everywhere. She tries her best to fold neatly but her weak motor skills make it impossible. On one hanger  she finds a black pant and a white shirt. At the top corner of  the hanger there is a sticky note from her mother. “ Wear this to the interview and best of luck!” A brief smile flashes on her lips. Alexa opens the front door but then she steps back.  She is not sure if she can talk in the interview or if she can concentrate. Instead she decides to stay home. It will be fun to  spend the day in studying the birds and the squirrels in our backyard. She grabs a writing pad and wheels into the deck.

After this incident on one Saturday Alexa’s parents decide to visit the zoo. Alexa prepares the picnic basket with trail mix, cheese sticks, sandwiches in one plastic bag and a few water bottles in another. After spending the day with the cute animals Alexa decides to sign up for the volunteer program. Her parents eyes grew bright with excitement like incandescent lamps.

On a bright Sunday morning after her morning walk with the dog, Alexa stands in front of a mirror. She is getting ready for a birthday party. She does not want to but her mother insists.

“You should go and enjoy with your friends.” Her mother says affectionately touching Alexa’s shoulder. “ It is good for your health.”

Alexa tries a black mascara but pokes herself in the eye, around the lid and all over the sink. Next she picks up a mauve colored lipstick. Instead of coloring the lips her unsteady hand colors all the places around her lips. She looks down. Oh, No! The immaculately cleaned white sink has turned into a painted canvas. The door opens. Her mother walks in.

“Come, I will help you.” She says lovingly.

Alexa returns early from the Birthday party. She walks straight into her room with her head slightly bend towards one shoulder and her hands dangling down.She settles herself on a bean bag and leans back on the wall. Her arms folded on her stomach, one foot crossed the toe pointed to the ground. Everything in her life has changed after the accident in her middle school. She is not the same energetic, bright and lively girl any more. No one can see her mind churning out distractions after distractions, squandering her concentration. People could not  seem to understand her inability to pay attention, to stay focus or to calculate simple math problems. They do not know that Alexa has brain damage from the accident. She has to visit  so many doctors in so many clinics! Alexa wipes the warm tears from the corner of her eyes with her palm. She has tried so many times to fake that she is perfect,to be like others but truly does not know any more. She wants to embrace the reality, take the life as it comes and move on. I do not know if I can work anywhere but I want to continue my study. May be I should volunteer in the zoo and learn the animal behavior.

 

Bedtime

Bedtime

It is almost ten forty-five in the night. The house is still alive with chatters, giggles and the sound of dishes.  After dinner, five years old Elena quietly escapes to a room in the second floor of the house. It is a very cozy and relaxing room; white walls that are covered with hand painted borders, a renaissance book-case of an ancient oak full with her favorite story books. On the wall a few of her aunt’s beautiful painting of landscape, paintings of famous faces and different scenes from nature. She sits on the floor leaning against the bed . On her lap there is an opened book with the  picture of two small kids and a fairy sitting on a wooden chair. The kids are Molly and Peter on the wishing chair and the glossy pages are full with the pictures of  their adventures.The book is called ‘ The Adventure of  Wishing Chair’. Elena slid into the books like a seal into water. For her every part of a book is magic and what delight her in the most are the beautiful descriptions and the various wonderful pictures of an adventure. She is fighting hard with a plastic ruler and trying her best to escape the giant when the door of her room opens with a soft click. Elena loosens her grip on the ruler.

“Elena, What are you doing here? It is getting late, so let’s go to the swing bed where all the other kids are waiting.” Her aunt says while looking at the big mirror at the back of the door. She stands there adjusts her side bangs, smiles warmly then leaves the room. She is Grace, Elena’s father’s youngest sister. Her favorite thing is sketching, drawing, singing and looking at her own face on the mirror. Everybody in the house loves her. Grace knows how to take care of others in the big family.

Elena slides the ruler inside the book , closes it properly. I wish I can finish the fight and fly on the wishing chair with Molly and Peter. May be tomorrow. See you Molly, take care. She whispers closing the door from the front.

The swing cedar bed is inside the open hall in the second floor of the house. It has rails on both sides and in the back with a huge thick mattress in the middle. It is hung from the ceiling with four steel rods attached to the ceiling hooks. The mattress has a white sheet on the top with blue colored  flowers all over it. The color of the sheet is almost like the color of the sky on a crisp, clear day. Every night after dinner aunt Grace takes all the small kids of the house to the swing bed and sings different songs until the children fall asleep. It takes from fifteen minute to half an hour.

As Elena approaches the bed she finds all her three small cousins there on their favorite areas of the bed. She moves to her side of the bed. The hall is dark but if you tilt your head to the right, you can see the outside sky through an open window. In the night sky there is the beautiful bright full moon,the twinkling stars and the heavily Jasmine scented breeze. Aunt Grace settles herself gingerly on the thick cushion to the front of the swing. The swing goes higher and higher in the air, mingling with her melodious, angelic voice as if to touch white ceiling on the top and then to touch the moon in the sky. After the third song Elena glances at her cousins through the fingers of her right hand while she adjusts the pillow.They are all asleep. Aunt Grace slowly stops the swing while adjusting the lilac colored scarf on her shoulder and is ready to go to her room, then she stops. She arches her eyebrows. Elena raises sharply her simple face.

“ Aunt Grace, will you sing one more song? Your voice is so vibrant and sweet that it is hard to fall asleep. One more please!”

Aunt Grace opens her mouth then closes. A small pause.A concerned look.Then Elena hears an unpleasant tone. “ Sorry Elena, not now. I have to finish my research paper for the class. So go to your grandmother and she will help you.” She leaves.

Click! A mischievous smile illuminates her face.She does not want to sleep. She wants to finish the fight with the giant, listen to one or two stories from her grandmother before she falls asleep. Elena runs to her grandmother’s room.

 

His Journey

Not Lemonade

It is a very unusual Monday a very cold and cloudy day. Anthony squints his eyes and looks at the small clock on the top of the three bricks that are stacked nicely as a table. It is almost six. He does not want to but he has to go  and it is almost half an hour walk to the school. He looks to the other side of the room where her mother sleeps on another torn rug on the floor with her three years old sister. “She must be so tired from working.” Anthony murmurs. I have to study hard and do good in the school to get a good job. Hopefully my mother can take break from hard work and live a peaceful life. Hope is good ! He walks into the kitchen to grab one baleada for breakfast. He opens the container but it has only two. Anthony closes the cover gently. I will save those for my mom and my sister.  He hears the voice of his caring mother.“Anthony! Come eat your breakfast.”

“ I am not hungry and I will take one fruit if we have any.” His mother bends over and looks into the straw basket. There is one small papaya and one chicozapote. “which one you want son?” Anthony picks the chicozapote from her mother’s loving hand.

“Thanks mom and I will see you after school and I will help you in your work too. Bye.” His mother hugs Anthony.

The road is very quiet except the cooing of few pigeons on the grass, black birds skipping from branches to branches and jumpy hungry squirrels. Anthony walks slowly towards the school with a small blue backpack. His anxious eyes wander. A few feet from the main street at the junction an argument is going on between a  boy and a tall man. Anthony walks faster to hear the conversation.Suddenly he hears the sound of the gunshot. The body of the boy falls to the floor. Anthony runs to help him. The tall man stands there. Cruelty flashes on his eyes and it turns towards Anthony. “ What did you see? The boy did not listen to me so I had to do this.” He laughs. His whole body shakes. Anthony turns sharply and looks at the face of the boy. He is fifteen years old Kenneth from his village. Last year the gangster killed his father and uncle too. His eyes are blank. His voice comes out without rise or fall. Anthony gathers courage. “ Why did you do this? I will inform this to the police and I am not scared of you.”

“Really! I have seen you in the village with your mother many a times. She sells baleadas in the market. Am I right?” He says in a very deep voice and walks closer. He puts the gun to Anthony’s waist. I am from Barrio 18. You don’t want the same fate like Kenneth so do as I say. You did not see anything.Tomorrow you meet me here at the same time for further instruction.” The man leaves on his motor bike.

Anthony stands there. His shoulder shaking and hands clenched. His eyes flexed wide as from blasts of photographic power.  He sucks his breath like iron popsicle. For a long time he could not move. Anthony takes a big gulp of air as he could and held it to push back at the fear. He turns back and runs blindly towards his house.

 

 He stops at the entrance of his house and pants.  He leans at the fence.A few years back the gang killed his father so Anthony does not want to risk his life or of his family. He leaves with his mother and sister with three small bags in hands and a few lempira. It is a very long night. They cross the river with some other family in a small boat then swim half the way. After the long treacherous journey  they reach at the boarder.As they stretch their cramp, stiff, tingling leg muscles,the careful intelligent eyes of the border patrol catch them. But Anthony is happy that they have survived and his family is safe. Life has given him lemon but he wants to change it . He still has a high hope to stay in the new country and continue his education.

Hope for the best.

Worst Case Scenario  (Of all the awful possibilities, what’s the worst possible thing that could happen to you today? Now, what about the best?)

It happens on one of the week days. It is morning.I yawn, spread out my paws one after another and raise my head slowly from my cozy bean bag bed.My long brown tail beats gently, just a thump or two to say good morning. My eyes lazily roam the surrounding.I could see my father neatly dressed in a khaki sports court, a dark-blue  shirt, sits on a chair in the living room behind the  broad table. He talks to someone in his phone and then bends down on the yellow pad to write. His eyes dart back and forth. My mom walks around with a teacup in her right hand and a list on the other. Her eyes are anxious. She take a sip from her cup,wheels around and sits on the sofa facing dad. “ Are you sure about this? You can wait until Thanksgiving.” There is a small pause. My dad turns his head. “ I can not wait. This is the perfect time and I have to go.” It’s like stepping into the dog park in the evening; people move around in all directions and dogs everywhere. It does not feel like a normal morning.

To get a closer look I inch open one of  the bedroom door with my nose.There are  two big oversize black suitcases on the floor. One of them has been nicely packed with dad’s shirts, pants, sweaters  in the other with toys, candies, beautifully wrapped gifts. What is going on? Inside my mind there is a hurricane going on. I do not like him to leave. Not at all. He understands me completely. In every evening we walk together to the nearby field. There we play throw and catch with the ball, he lets me run around after the squirrels. There are perpetual smile and cheerfulness in his eyes. He has a pleasant sense of power of knowing about my wish and demands. He is the best dad and playmate! I stretch myself on the floor in front of the bedroom door. I remember clearly that last time when he packed his suitcase and left somewhere.I did not like it. The days seemed too long without him.

I walk back to the living room to check on dad. He is on the sofa with the laptop. I need his attention. I back away a few feet  with my ears crawl up to the top my head and start barking. Without looking at me he says, “ Not now, go outside.” Hmm, May be I should not disturb. I leave the room obediently and through the back door walk outside to the yard.

Outside everything stirs gently in the breath of cold air; the trees, the bushes, the birds skip from branches to branches.The light is full of action illuminating the tree trunks and blurring the dark foliage. I make two quick loops around the deck, decide to go inside and check on dad. Inside my bowl is full of food and water. I sniff and examine  the food but could not eat. As my dad pulls the zippers to close the suitcases and grabs the car key, I roll over on the wood floor in front of him throwing my whole body and substituting with yelp and excited high-pitched barks. He drops the suitcases and leans over. His voice is kind and assuring. “ Be a good girl! Give company to your mom. She will play with you.” He scratches me behind my soft floppy ears in consolation and throws a new colorful ball high into the air.I  jump with excitement to catch the ball waging my long tail back and forth with happiness. The best thing is that I have a new ball and the promise that mom will play with me. Now the day seem perfect.

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Simple & Elegant

New Sensation

Ah, sweet youth. No matter whether you grew up sporting a fedora, penny loafers, poodle skirts, bell-bottoms, leg-warmers, skinny jeans, Madonna-inspired net shirts and rosaries, goth garb, a spikey mohawk, or even a wave that would put the Bieber to shame, you made a fashion statement, unique to you.

I am too simple and shy wallflower. Nature and books are my first preferences than the style. But there is something in the youth and in the fashion statement!

There in my country most of  the schools; elementary, middle and high schools have strict rules on uniforms. After school one has only a few hours for snack and friends, then back to homework and preparation for next day. The only time to lean onto fashion is either in a weekend  with friends or to a wedding with family or a family get together. There was no TV or fashion magazine at that time, so the only way to see new style was through movies and in the store. During my high school days my favorite thing to wear was a pair of goldenrod color bell bottom pant and ruby-red top. I loved the flare of the pant and the cling v-neck top. Gradually my wardrobe grew with a few more bell bottom pants, tie dye shirts and platform heels.

It was 1970.Everyone wore bell bottom pants from kids to middle ages, it was a fad but has returned again and again through a slightly different look. Some of my jeans were so wide that one could trip over on them. My friends used to call them ‘elephant bell bottoms’. If I recollect the history correctly then the bell bottom pants worn by American sailors during the war of 1812, adopted by British Navy in 1850. Some experts say that it came into the scene in Europe in the mid 1960s as vintage clothing. In 1967 it came as a real style to North America. It was immediately adopted by the  hippie subculture worn with beads, granny glasses, tie-dyes and long hair. In 1970s the bell bottom pants entered to the main stream and reached a fashion apogee during the  Disco craze.

 

 

images.jpgbellbottom

 

I used to have a lots of different platform shoes. The average platform had a front of about 2” with a thick heel about 4-5”. Most of them were made of woods. One of the best things about them was that they were very comfortable. Because of the large front platform they helped keep all the weight off the toes.

images.jpg1970          1970shoes

Fashion and style change so much that it is hard to keep up with them. Now I just like to see the style and fashionable clothes in others. For myself I prefer more simple design and lighter colors. And on platform heel, no way. It has to be flat shoe or shoe with a small heel.

 

“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”

Coco Chanel

A special Day

Childhood Revisited

Dahlia inches the heavy wooden door open with both hands. A slat of sunlight falls onto the floor at her feet, brighter and more concentrated than what filters through the  glass window.Out side the warmth of the sunlight rests in the crown of the tall oak tree.She looks around and does not see anyone. She starts her morning adventure.

 

She climbs the circulars staircase passing the beautiful portraits on the wall to the third floor. There in the prayer room, on the white marble floor grandmother sits cross-legged with her eyes closed. She has a pretty cream color saree with green border on the sides and small forest green flowers on one side. The room is very serene She stays there for a long time in front of the deities  Dahlia does not want to disturb her.Instead she descends the stairs to the second floor to see her aunt. She opens another door a quarter of an inch and peeks inside. Her aunt sits  straight on a chair. Her fingers caresses her pointed chin and her eyes on a sketch. There are lots of colored pencil, paint brushes and a big white paper on the square table in front of her. On the weekends the creation of nature, famous faces of politicians, freedom fighters play beautifully on the blank posters. Dahlia loves to stand in front of the pictures and just stare at them without blinking her eyes. She does not want to disturb her aunt’s concentration. Dahlia leaves closing the door softly from outside.

 

downstairs in the third floor the air is very alive; cooks are busy in the vast kitchen;  a feeble bursts of many voices mingled with the tinkle of silver and glass floats up. Dogs are barking, delivery guy is there with vegetable and fruits. Dahlia overhears from the milkman that today is Sunday. For five years old  Dahlia it is a day of excessive joy; she will go shopping with her grandmother, watch movies , buy chocolates and new coloring books. She smiles delightedly and walks to the front porch.

 

Outside in front of the big iron gate there is a long row of beggars; women, men, old men,mother with small  children. They have worn clothes covering only half of their bodies, standing with small bags in their hands, asking for either food or money.They come in every Sunday and there is always someone to give the beggars either food or money. Dahlia’s eyes are full of kindness and sympathy. She stops and looks around with astonishment. Today there is nobody in the front not even the doorman. She wheels back inside the house, straight to the food pantry. It is a long rectangular room with different types of rice and lentils on one side and vegetables in other side. Dahlia flexes her neck towards the shelves which have all the rice jars but they are too high to reach. She pulls a stool with her small hands. Her pale face flushes. She opens the lids and carries bag full of raw rice. No one notice her. Dahlia climbs down the stairs. Through the  small open iron bars of the gate she  distributes the raw rice. But the line gets longer and now her bag is empty. She raises her eyes towards the hungry children and sighs. Dahlia does not want to carry the heavy bag of rice. A brilliant idea flashes in her head. Dahlia walks into her grandfather’s room. The door is wide open but he is not there. A chord of delight strikes inside her as she notices the big clear jar full of folded bills and coins on the table. Dahlia slides a chair close to the table and tries hard to  hold the coin jar with both hands and to walk outside. The coin jar is almost empty when she hears a deep voice from behind. “Dahlia! What are you doing here? Where did you get this jar?” Dahlia turns back towards her grandfather. Her grandfather stands there with his hands clasped in front of him.

“Sorry, Grandpa. I did not see anyone helping the beggars and they are very hungry so..”

She continues without a pause. “ You and grandmother say all the time that we should always help the hungry and the poor. Right?”

Dahlia’s grandfather looks at her with astonishment, then smiles warmly. “ Yes, you have done the right thing but always ask other’s permission and help before doing anything. When you grow up you can do by yourself.”

Dahlia’s grandfather hugs her. And the world feels perfect right.

 

Cute kindness image quotes

Graceful Aging

Young At Heart   What are your thoughts on aging?

“Youth. I don’t seek it through another because I have it within; it’s a state of mind, a spirit that is free, and a mind that is playful. The shell of my being is altered by the effects of time, but nothing will tarnish a soul that will never forget what its like to experience creation with endless wonder and appreciation.” ― Donna Hope

 

The perfect middle of a splendid November afternoon. The flood of sunlight has began to ebb, the air feels cool, fresh and a little chilly. The shadows are long upon the smooth dense turf and lengthen slowly. The shadows on the perfect lawn are  not that straight but angular; they are the shadow of  my mother-in-law sitting on an old-fashioned garden chair. From the doorway I watch her. Her hair is as light as milkweed fluff has gone from the dark shade of black to white. It is pulled up with a black hairpin. From this angle her face is obscured by the cotton hat. She sits with a newspaper on her lap. Occasionally she raises her eyes to look at the pretty dark pink and red roses of the garden than lowers them to the newspaper. I walk closer to her chair. “ Hi, mom!” She turns her head slowly,her eyebrows lifted.She could not believe her eyes to see me suddenly after so many years. She makes an attempt to rise, she leans forward,she nods her head in disbelief then bounces off from the chair. She hugs me and begins to ask me series of questions in a thrilling voice; each speech is an arrangement of special notes.
I look at her. She is almost ninety years old; still strong, and sharp.The lines around her mouth are overshadowed by  pleasant and angelic smile. Her large bright deep brown eyes overflow with kindness. We touch on lots of topics; on kids, on work… Our laughter mingle and fill the house.  

 

She has a wonderful routine. Every morning around five she does the deep breathing exercise,lots of stretching and meditation. She makes sure to donate either her time or extra money to the needy all the time. Every night before bed she sits on a chair and writes the diary and a gratitude journal and her memory as strong as a young . I stay with her a few days.

 

It happens for the first time on a Sunday morning in December just before my last birthday. I stand in front of the brightly lighted rectangle mirror in the powder room. After the shower as I apply the cream to the face something strange catches my eyes. “ Wow!” I lean forward towards the mirror then taken aback by the reflection; there are small lines at the corner of my eyes, two deep lines around the lip, a few tiny light brown spots here and there on the face. I glance more closely. Even the hairline has changed; they are wavy but not so thick as before,grey hairs start to emerge from different sides of the head. I nod in disbelief. When did these changes happen?? The bold promises of the giant  beauty care industries suddenly overpower my thoughts; Antiaging serum, Retinol, Collagen injections, chemical peel, laser resurfacing, wrinkle fillers…

 

Sunday afternoon. I sit with a cup of  Darjeeling tea in the fading warmth of the filtered afternoon sun spilling through the kitchen window. My German shepherd dog drapes over my feet. I keep fidgeting crossing one leg and then the other. I put the teacup down on the table,lace my fingers together on my lap. I trod over deeper into the outer ring of oldness. If I can hold my youth a couple more years. I blink rapidly and sigh! The dog sighs too, she understands me pretty well. Suddenly my mother-in-law’s face flashes in my head. I have never seen worries or anxiety in her, not a bit! She does not care about the physical beauty but only the inner beauty. People enjoy and cling to her love and affection.There is always an air of calmness surrounds her. I sit straight. I cup my chin in one hand.

 

“Life is not measured by the number of  breaths we take but by moments that take our breath away.”

 

A smile break through the gravity. Old age is a gift and I have decided to shift my perspective.

Bring your attention towards greater self-awareness through simple actions such as meditations, journal writing, walking in nature.

build new habits, challenge your brain with new learning; writing, sketching, gardening.

-Eat healthy and exercise daily.

– Do something adventurous.

laugh more often.

– Volunteer your free time.

 

A Christmas Gift

One Monday morning just before Christmas Anna drives to the university.The road is busy with stressful, inattentive and impatient drivers. The air is vibrant with rich tensions. Suddenly out of  the trail of her eyes Anna notices something on the side of the road, something live. She slows down the car, tries to move into the left lane and stops at the shoulder of the road. Anna opens the car door slowly and walks back a few feet. As she spots the place, she walks closer.“ O, you poor thing!’ A little whisper escapes her slightly parted lips. Anna crouches down  on the pavement.He lays there on the hot concrete with mud and blood on his face and several deep cuts on his body. There are traces of fresh tears just below his eyelids. He blinks his almond-shaped eyes with sadness,lifts his head a little from the ground. His eyes are agonized and face reflects extreme grief. He sighs and closes his eyelids. He is wounded, can not move. Whose dog is this? Or who left him on the road ? Why?? She cupps her hand around her mouth. This so inhumane!! A cold hard wind seems to blow through her. It must be the dog fight! Anna’s eyes are wet and lips are sealed. She strokes the brown fur of the young pit-bull very gently. She removes her silk light blue shawl and covers the dog. She wants to assure him that she understands her pain and she is going to help her, protect her. Anna leans over, lifts the dog with both her hands, brings him close to her body and walks to her car.  She lays the dog  gently on the floor of the car. The dog trembles either because of cold, or from fear, or he is anxious. Or it may be  because of the cruelty of certain humans who likes to raise the pit-bulls and later engage them in dog fight for their own pleasure. Shame on them!There is no extra sheet or blanket in the car, so Anna takes out her jacket and covers him. She drives to the veterinary instead of going to her important client meeting.

Late afternoon in the same week. Anna sits on a rocking chair in her bedroom and rocks back and forth. Sadness flickers across her face;her forehead is shaded with a heavy cloud. Her lips are sealed into a thin line and her carefully tended eyebrows draw together. She feels restless.This is the tenth times in this year she has found the dogs, cats, horses who are harshly treated, and  abandoned. There are stories of abuse in the zoos, in circus, on the elephants poaching for ivory both in the news and magazines. In one news on some laboratories it says how they use the poor helpless animals for experiments in different harsh conditions and then abandon them. Anna wipes her tears. She can not take these any more. She has to do something to help. A sudden brilliant idea flashes on her head. Anna stops rocking, gets to her feet. She searches for the property paper about the plot of land. She pulls out the paper from the file, adjusts her eyeglass on the nose and flips the pages. The area is one hour north-east to the city, has few hills, has a small lake, forested and almost ten acres.That sounds great. Anna settles herself on the beige sofa in the living room. She leans more to the soft pillow, rests her chin in her hand and  lingers to think. She draws in a few breath and finally decides. Though exhausted, manages a small smile. Anna’s final decision is to make that plot of land a sanctuary for the abandon and rescue animals. She pulls out a white Moleskin notebook from the Espresso finish side table  and starts writing the important steps for starting the sanctuary: Check the zoning, register as a non-profit, making brochures to present the organization’s value, mission, program for the members and visitors,  create a website with contact information, new face book page, print newsletters, add in the local newspaper and TV, radio stations.Wow! this is so overwhelming! I am  determined that I can do it and nature will support me and for sure, that my friends in the wordpress will support me. A smile breaks through her gravity.

Christmas morning. The sky is clear blue, full of sunlight and hope. The rescued pit bull stretches out on his belly , nose pressed against the crack of her bedroom door. As Anna opens the door,his tail begins to swish and a small growls of excitement escapes from the corner of his mouth. Anna laughs delightedly and bends down kiss the dog. Today is the big day to announce her plan to her family.

 

 

” Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures”.  – His Holiness The Dalai Lama

 

 

He is just like you

If I Ruled the World

The December sun dances on the  bedroom window pane. Through a small opening it falls in a long pencil stroke on the cream color carpet of the cozy bedroom. Tiffany rolls over and pretends to sleep until the alarm goes off. She opens her eyes slowly, squints and looks towards the clock.  It is almost six and the room is full of morning. Today is Saturday. A feeble burst of voice mingled with the tinkle of silver and glass float up from the kitchen. She hears the padded footsteps of her son Luke down the hall towards her bedroom. The door opens. A square face with bright brown eyes and a pleasant smile appears in the doorway. “ Good morning mom! And Happy Birthday!” says Luke cheerfully. He hugs Tiffany and surprises her with a cup of green tea and a folded white paper.

Tiffany gently pulls Luke closer.“ Thank you Luke”. She says warmly taking a sip from the hot tea and unfolds the paper with excitement. The white page has deep blue borders and within the border there are three pictures- two dark pink roses in one side, One long snow covered mountains in the middle and a beautiful elephant on the other side. They are not that perfect or clear but the picture overflows with lots of love and affection.Tiffany smiles deliciously and looks at Luke. Before she ask any questions, Luke slides to the bed and says, “ I try to draw all the things that you like and it took almost three hours to draw. Do you really like it?.”

“I love it. This is the best gift.” Tiffany says flinging her arms open.

 Tiffany feels lucky to have Luke who is verbal and blisteringly intelligent. He tries his best to be like others but truly does not know how. Bullying started in the first grade, when he got his first pair of eye-glass. Gradually he gets used to kids telling him to leave, or sit  some where else. He does not like the pats on the back or handshakes. Tiffany remembers when Luke  was 2 years old, he could not hear her or did not want to. According to the psychiatrist he suffers from an impairment in social communication and behavior.  It was devastating but Tiffany completely devote herself to Luke. The behavioral and speech therapy  help and Luke starts to communicate.

He has Asperger’s syndrome which is an autism spectrum disorder. The Asperger’s have 47 chromosomes and it is the one extra chromosome that makes them disable in certain ways.  He reads, watch tv, listens to music. His favorite things to do is to write poetry,playing chess and drawing.He is almost eight and Tiffany’s greatest joy.

Saturday is always a day full of plans and actions. It is almost eleven in the morning.Tiffany drives Luke to the library. She pulls into the parking lot and ignores a perfectly good parking spot because it happens to be next to a shiny purple car. Luke does not like the color purple. She feels him draw in his breath and holds it until Tiffany drives fast and moves to a different spot. Luke opens the car door. He  loves books. He pretends he is the character and slid into books like a seal into the water. For Luke every part of a book is magic and what delight him in the most are the descriptions of a adventure.

Sunday afternoon. Tiffany reads the newspaper in the back porch sitting on the swing. Luke comes with a book and settles himself on the lawn chair close to his mother.“ Mom do you know what I read today?”

“What?”

“The dog can smell the presence of autism in kids. Just like the dog in Brandon’s house who tries to sniff me whenever I visit him. But I do not like the dogs that much, because they always like to lick you and hang around with you all the time.” Luke adjusts his eye glass on his small nose and continues with his sentence. “ On the other hand, mom I think cats have Asperger’s like me.”

Tiffany folds the newspaper quickly and looks at Luke’s eyes with astonishment. There is a small breathless pause. “What? why?”  Tiffany asks anxiously.

“O’ mom, it is very simple. Cats are very smart, solitary, quick , intelligent  and they like to be left alone just like me, so they have Asperger’s.” Tiffany nods her head and could not stop smiling. She  would like to have magical power to read Luke’s brain and his wild imaginations.

Luke loves puzzles and chess. Most of the evenings after homework they sit on the cream colored sofa  in the family room with  jigsaw and sliding puzzles, spiral ooze tube, tall stacker building set and a chess board.  The room gets lively with Luke’s exciting voice and giggles. But after half an hour, he knits and unknits his fingers and leans towards his mother and says ” mom, are you not hungry? I can help you in making the lunch.”

Tiffany loves when Luke express his feelings and emotions. She lifts her head towards the innocent face of  Luke. “Excellent idea”. Luke walks into the kitchen holding her mom’s hand. It is a long way to go. But suddenly everything all at once seems very pleasant and gorgeous.

  • Tiffany do not want to rule the world. She is happy and grateful for the gifts that universe has given in her life. She has a high hope for people to have positive values in life to enrich this beautiful world .

 

 

Let’s make a Proper Choice.

Bloggers, Unplugged

Sometimes, we all need a break from these little glowing boxes. How do you know when it’s time to unplug? What do you do to make it happen?

“I am an Addict”, I say jokingly sitting on the creamy white leather sofa of my parent’s living room with my head down, eyes glued to the smart phone on my right hand and the trying to download a movie on my laptop on other. I do not want to look at my mother’s face although she stands there in front of me. She slides in and settles herself gingerly among the thick cushions of the couch. Suddenly the room gets very quiet like the quietness before a deadly storm.

“Is it drug?” She asks in a grave curious voice.

I try to install the app and say. “ No, mom, it is not drug. You watch too much of the useless news on tv. Let me finish this hold on.”

“I can imagine from the news, how the alcohol affects the brain and turn the people into something else. I should have given you more attention. I think you need more affection but remember we always love you and your sister…’’ Her stressful and concerned voice prevail in the room.

I stop in the middle of downloading the app and  sharply turn towards my mother. She tries hard to control her emotion so before she starts something else I say, “ Mom, do not worry, it is not alcohol or drug I am addicted to the technology: my smart phone, facebook, apps, netflix… so on. I am planning to stop this addiction. I want to avoid the negative effect on my sleep pattern and productivity.”

Before I finish the sentence she wipes her tears from the corner of her eyes.

Technology definitely serves a purpose: Provide access to some incredible information, engaging with people at a global level, promise of new ideas, continuous chatting with friends.Technology is spectacular but one should not be a slave to the technology.” She says warmly but with a strong emphasis on the sentence. My dad quickly closes the laptop sitting on his rocking chair from the opposite side of the sofa and joins in the conversation.

We sit together to check the reality.

The stress overpowers when I am away from the fleeting pleasure of my cell phone. I often imagine my phone is vibrating in my pocket. I reach for it subconsciously and with a jolt realise that it is either in the laptop bag or in the bedroom- on silent. Somedays I watch Netflix until I feel sleepy which hampers my productivity in the next day. The TV drama, buffering or fast moving pixels trigger the mental exhaustion. Other days I even do not respond to some important calls and envelop myself  in new apps, push notifications from facebook and twitter, off topic articles emails…So I have some new ideas to stay away from the blinking objects for a while.

  • Turn off the Push notifications.
  • Use auto lock at least to 1 minute because as the screen goes black, it seems easier to ignore.
  • Limit apps.
  • Be in the moment. We need to be mindful in what we do in each moment.
  • Develop interpersonal social skills: Responding to people, initiating and actively participating in conversation.
  • Switch the phone to airplane mode. That way  you can listen to music,take photos or jotting down notes but can not access to text, tweet or mail.
  • On the weekend take a long stroll  outside. It is better for both the mind and the body.
  • Instead of watching late night movies  read a book and  go earlier to bed. A restful mind will always be more creative and amazing.

 

                                   

 

 

A Surprise Visit.

Modern Families          If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking.

A late evening  in June. Rain has finally stopped. Faith is preparing dinner in the kitchen. In the living room, on the sofa her son is furiously typing on his phone and  her daughter is voraciously devouring articles on her kindle. In the back yard her husband is busy in the vegetable garden; taking out the weeds, nurturing them with organic compost. The nine years old dog Lucy lays by the kitchen door,nose on the paws, tails beats gently, just a thump showing her welcoming gesture to all the family members. The dog loves the weekends when all the members of the family stay together in the house either for lunch or dinner or for any celebration. Time to time she raises her head and glances from the corner of her eyes. Faith is almost done in the kitchen when she hears the door bell. We have not invited any one so who is here. She murmurs, takes off her navy blue apron, leaves it on the Granite conter and walks up to  the front door.

Faith twists the brass knob and opens the front door. There on the front porch stands a tall gentleman, slightly bend from the back in a pale white shirt. His skin is light brown, sits nicely with his grey curly hair. Faith guesses that he is in his late seventies, but looks lean and strong. His big brown eyes and small sharp nose seem familiar. The dog rises from her bean-bag to greet the gentleman. Her tail is wagging rhythmically. ‘Good evening! May I help you?’ Faith asks.

” You must be Faith.” He says with a delightful  smile and walks closer. ” You have a very pretty name and your face resembles a lot with your dad. It has been so many years of my departure. I am your great grand father and I have heard a lot about you from my son. He loves you more than any of his grand children. I want to meet you and your family. But do not worry, nothing to be scared, I have taken this form just to met you and your family. His long slender hand  touches Faith’ head lovingly. Faith’s face is pale. ‘He is a ghost! O’ my! But really! I can not believe this. Is this a dream?’ Faith murmurs. She takes out her eye-glass, wipes it and adjusts back on her nose. O’ he is still there but it can not be true!’ What is happening?’  Faith runs to close the door but looks back . He is standing there with a warm smile. ‘May be it is  my good luck that my great grand father is here to see me. He seems so nice. I  need to invite him to my home and take his blessing. I should not scare of ghost. I can do it .’  She breaths deep. She turns back, walks closer, bends down to touch his feet. 

“Please come in.” Faith says and both walk in to the house. Both the children and her husband are surprised to see a stranger but then Faith introduces him as one of her grandfather’s friend. She keeps the secret. Her great grand father smiles and hugs them. He sits on the cream color sofa in the living room . The large book collections on the wooden shelf to the right side of the room catches his eyes. Faith understands and says,’Those are my collection.’

He asks curiously,”Do you like to read?”

”Yes. I love to  read and write.”

”Lovely. Just like your dad. Do you get enough time?” He leans back to the pillow and asks Faith.

Faith likes how her great grand father appreciates her writing. “Yes. I try my best. It is hard to spare time while I work a  full-time job.”

‘What? He raises his eye-brows in astonishment. “You are not supposed to work out side. You should only take care of the house and your family, like your great-grandmother and grand mother did. Your husband is supposed to provide you everything.”

Faith smiles, tips her head . “It is a completely different time now and a different age. Now -a-days every women work.’ Let us go to the dining table otherwise it will get late for dinner.” They sit together at the oval shape oak table in the dining room where the French window leads to the garden. Faith’s great-grand father sits on the chair and looks around . On the  middle of the table sits a hand crafted white vase with delicately  arranged pretty pink and white roses besides a beautiful branching silver candlestick holder. Faith serves vegetable soup in pretty white bowls in golden leaf patterns on them. Spiced cauliflower in a Clarice cliff bowl, lightly fried okra in a Mason’s iron stone dish, Indian lentil and fragrant basmati rice with a dash of ghee on it. After a small prayet they start their supper. In the middle of the dinner he turns towards the grand son and asks” Why are you staring continuously at that black device? Is there something very urgent that  needs your attention? You can attend them later. Always be mindful.” He takes a sip of water and looks at Faith’s husband. Then asks, ‘ Are you looking for a daughter-in-law for your son? He is almost thirty. And your daughter is a lawyer and she is ready for the marriage too. In our time the marriageable age were sixteen for the girls and twenty for the boys.’

The children lift their eyes at the same time and then they turn their head toward’s mom with a surprise look. Faith does not want to reply so she stays quiet. After dinner they sit and talk.

The great-grand-father folds his arms across the chest and leans heavily against the soft cushion of the sofa. Something bothers him. The big black square box with live pictures.”What is that?”

Faith smiles. “That is called a television or tv . It shows live news, recent discoveries on Science,  old and new movies…” “Hmm! A very surprise box!” He says. His fingers caresses his pointed chin.The more her talks, the more his eyes get bigger. He can not believe that the great-grand -son does not want to marry and he wants to choose his own wife, then the great- grand-daughter instead of marriage is working as a lawyer and does not have time to think about  marriage. His beloved grand-daughter is working somewhere. The children do not live with their parents. What type of family life they lead? Then he turns his face and looks at the dog. She is  sleeping inside the house on a soft cozy bean bag bed bed, wagging her tail and glances at him from the corner of her eyes. The dog is supposed to be in the back deck not inside the house. The grand children in one side of the room are busy staring at their black square box  and time to time smiling at their phones on their hands. He  nods his head in disbelief . He does not approve the present life style at all but it may be appropriate for the time.

Around ten in the night the great grand father gets ready to leave. Faith hugs him and begs , “Stay overnight with us. I want to spend more time with you.”

He smiles warmly. “It is so wonderful to meet you and your family. I can not stay to-night but I will stop by again. I am really proud of you. May be I will come to their wedding. And you keep on writing.” He takes a step closer and hugs her one more time and says,”Your dad,your grand-father and your grand-mother are proud of you and mostly  your dad for your writing. Their blessings will be always with you.”

Faith bends down to touch her great grand father’s feet but where is he? It is just the wind. She stands there on the front porch leaning against the pillar. Outside the stars arrange themselves nicely on the beautiful night sky. Suddenly everything seem so gorgeous.

Harvey

Homage

Friday afternoon. Paula sits on a brown rocking chair in the dining room wearing a light blue long sleeved high-necked dress, sipping coffee and reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. She has silvery hair with a center part. Her dog Lucy drapes on her leg, eyes half closed.The gusty wind and an abrupt rumble makes both Paula and Lucy to lift their heads. Lucy sits up, her eyes are big, small pointy ears are up covered with anxiety. Paula closes the book and gets off from the rocking chair, She sets the empty tea-cup on the small wooden table and slowly steps closer to the rectangle glass window. The old wooden floor creaks beneath her bare feet. Out of curiosity, she lifts the slightly old white curtain. Outside the clouds are rolling in. Grey and thick clouds swirl and twist in the ever-rising wind. The sky explodes, lighting flashes and in a few seconds later the thunder crackle before finally settling into a loud angry rumble. Eighty eight years old Paula turns back from the window.

“ I did not know that a storm is coming!  Yesterday my daughter told me that it will  hit near Corpus Christi. Well, maybe the wind turned around. Let me bring the cat inside and then I will call my daughter.” She mutters.  She lifts the white shawl with small dark blue flowers from the top of a chair,wraps it around her shoulder, and walks towards the front door. It takes her a while to drag her old feet to the door. The knees have started to give up slowly.She used to run at least forty minutes in every evening after work, used to take lots of protein to keep her calcium level up but now it is hard to walk even to the front door. But she tries to keep up with yoga stretching, walks back and forth a few times from the mailbox to the front door and front door to back to the mailbox.She twists the knob and opens the wooden door. Outside the wind thrashes the rose bushes, gold Lantana,purple Petunia and the purple,yellow and red flower petals are scattered all over the green grass. The tree branches bent in wind bowing to a higher power. The sky is dark as a northern sea.

“ Kitty! Where are you? Kitty!, It is so hard to see in the dark. Paula takes a few steps towards the mailbox. “ Kitty, Kitty! where did he go?” The rain start to pour. Paula walks back into the house. From the kitchen, her dog Lucy barks furiously. She does not like this stormy weather at all. The grey cloud, thunder and lightning wrap her with wild imagination of falling sky or meanness of the world. Lucy wants her master to stay inside,close to her in one room in a tight circle. Paula closes the door from behind and takes off her sandals.

“Meow.the kitty jumps off from the small sofa.

“Kitty,when did you come?” She bends down and gently pats the cat on his head. Lucy is calm now to see both Paula and the cat inside. As soon as they settle in the living room, the phone rings.

“ Mom! Are you okay? I called you earlier but you did not pick up the phone.”

“ I am fine. I just went outside to get the cat.”

“ Listen carefully mom. Three of you go upstairs and stay there until I come to pick you. The Hurricane Harvey is coming and we will get lots of rain. But don’t worry I will be there soon.”

“Sure honey but do you think that  Harvey will be like Allison or worse?”

“ Mom, really I don’t know that yet and I hope it is not the same or worse hurricane. But please try to walk upstairs to be in the safe side.”

“ Sure, don’t worry,we’ll wait upstairs. And listen drive carefully. It is very windy outside.”  Paula hangs the phone. Three of them sit there for a while until the wind start to howl and heavy rain start to slip under the front door. Lucy starts to bark again and the cat immediately hides under the sofa.  Paula adjusts the blackrimmed eye-glass on her nose and gets off from the sofa. From the top of the  glass coffee table, she picks up her late husband Steve’s framed photograph gently in her shaken hands. They fell in love when Paula was in the last year of high school and Steve was in his undergraduation, who came as a visiting teacher to her school. He was a perfect gentleman; kind hearted, thoughtful, loving, respectful. They had a wonderful life until he passed away in last year. It is hard to live without Steve. Paula touches the picture with her finger. If anything happens, then she wants to stay close to Steve.

Paula lifts the curtain from the bay window to glance outside. The road has transformed into a river and the muddy rain waters has started to gush into the house. She holds the small frame in her right hand and calls both the dog and the cat to follow her upstairs. It is not that easy to climb the stairs with swollen knees but she tries her best. As she reaches upstair she leans against the wall to calm her heavy breath and looks down to the first floor. The first floor is full with water and the dog toys, her tea cups and her favorite classics are floating on the water. The water has sstarted to rise and cover a few of the stairs. Paula is scared and anxious. Lucy starts to bark.Paula pulls Lucy from the collar and drags her own feet slowly to the bedroom. In a hurry, she has left the cellphone in downstairs. Her forehead is knotted with desperation. Her daughter is not here yet and also she can not contact her. There is no way to call anyone from here because of the sound of the wind and the rain noone can hear her feeble voice. Paula opens the window and looks out side for help.

She tries to locate someone who can help her before the water gobbles her. A young man pulls a rowboat on a rope through chest deep water and comes towards her house. Paula wipes her wet eye-glasses in her dress and looks down to the street. Well it is not a street any more but a river. People floating carrying their dogs and gripping black plastic trash bags stuffed with their belongings. Some people are standing on the roof tops and the mail boxes and waiting for help. Paula pulls both her pets close and folds her palms together. Her prayer is for all these desperate people and their safety.

“ Mom! Mom!” Paula turns around from the window and walks a few steps towards the stair. But the staircase is full of water. She glances back to make sure that both Lucy and the cat are safe inside  while clutching Steve’s photograph in her hand. “ I am here darling. But what are you going to do?”

“ Don’t worry mom, just stay there.”

A young man in his thirty helps her daughter in rescuing Paula and she is placed on a small row-boat with her pets. As they arrive in the George R Brown Convention center Paula turns her face towards the gentle man who rescued her.

“ Thank You so much for risking your life and helping me. I will be always grateful to you. Are you a friend of my daughter?”

A small smile appears on his wet face. “ No, I am Luis, a homeless guy. I used to live in a small tent under the bridge and now the bridge is underwater and I was not prepared for a hurricane. Otherwise I should have moved to a shelter nearby. It caught me in surprise. I was swimming to reach to the other side, when I noticed your daughter. She is brave and loves you a lot. She did not care for her life and she was trying her best to pull the row-boat in the water. It was hard for her to pull the boat on a rope through chest deep water, so I decided to join and help her. I am happy to see you safe. Take care.”  They stand there in silence for a minute. Then he walks away and arranges himself in a line with two thousand people to get a shelter.

flood1  flood2  flood3

Welcome to relax in a strange world

Heal

A series of images fill the whole area in front of her; People running, crowds of running men, women with infants and children holding their parent’s hands, showing desperation. A dozens, then hundreds, in pants,t-shirts,shouldering each other,shouting,crying for help. It is almost possible to hear the mass pulse of breath and pounding feet. She can see the tennis shoes with holes and some without the laces, sandals, barefoot. They keep on coming, trying to escape somewhere, something dreadful, mouth open, arms pumping. So desperate to hold on to their families, small children, older parents. She does not understand the words that come out of their mouths but she feels their feelings!

The image fades away slowly but the screams continues. The images reappear again, they come wheeling around the corner.Jade hurries to the only safe zone, the market wall, back flattened,arms spread.The people blast past with wide, scary eyes.They don’t have any destination, they don’t know where to run, where to hide themselves and the children.Outside it is like winter fog, not quite yellow and not quite white. Parents run past her holding tightly to the small bodies of the infants.They try to breathe, but it is hard and there is something in the air. Very suffocating! The white foam comes out from some of the children’s mouth. People are on the side of the road with their older parents,choking, gasping for air. Some are lying motionless in the  mud. Most of the people crying for help and begging for mercy.

Jade’s mind is tunneling back to the parents who are hovering over their children. She could not take it anymore, she wants to do something. Do more that a pledge, write articles, blogs, sending donation.“We are with you, we promise”, she murmurs with a determination. Jade runs through the fog. But she starts to lose her balance.Her eyes sting, nose start to stream.Her out stretched hands hang in the empty air and fall to her sides. She could not take it any more.

It is almost morning.Jade opens her eyes.The dream is so real as if she was there with them. She takes a deep breath. It must be the news that she watched last evening and she switched off the TV before the news ended. “Who is going to help all those innocent people?” She wonders and sighs.It is mentally tiring and hard to believe.  Instead of waking up, she pulls the bed sheet up to her chest and closes her eyes.

She is in a garden with trimmed hedges, shade trees, blades of grass, every sort of flowers. On one side of the garden, a bench in the shadow of a tall tree, a still figure, apparently human. He turns her way and nods, a gesture of permission and Jade approaches slowly.

“ How fragile we are.Is not it true?” He says inviting her to seat on the bench.

“I do not like all these things that are happening to the innocent people.The sadness and stress are hard to bear.” Her forehead wrinkles as she say.

“You try your best to help others and sometimes you have to gather more energy to move ahead. Stress will come but at the same time you need to learn how to cope with that. You seat in a quiet room, close your eyes and listen carefully. What is it you hear? Not traffic,not much sound.” he says “ You hear something but what? The mind itself. The world hum.”

As he explains she tries to understand what it means, she wants to heal herself and others. She closes her eyes.She is able to say what she feels and she is also the same person who stands outside the feelings. All the words themselves all there is or she is just the words. she listens to what she hears. She can feel the time! It feels like she tries to become someone or she is inside something. Is this her own body! Where is she? She is the first person and the third person. She is with all the people she watched in the news and they are in her. Is she trapped? Or this is the reality? Her mind lengthens and reaches them, console them touching their hearts.

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Lekhamisra

Lekhamisra

Hello and Namaste to my wonderful bloggers and readers. I am Lekha, grew up in one of the beautiful city of Odisha in the mystical land India. My paternal grandmother was a perfect story teller- stories of brave kings and queens to stories of freedom fighters, to stories on kindness,honesty, compassion, truthfulness. As soon as I learned to read, my marvelous adventures started through the fairy tales, the mysteries, the classics and the autobiographies. O’ Yes, it was lots of fun! Life got busy with my son and daughter in their school,library, music class, dance class, tennis, soccer, scout, debate...Staying active is very important for me. I have a deep affection and respect to Nature. After the children started their own lives, enormous time has poured into my weekends. I decide to do devout my time in volunteering. But still I could not satisfy my hunger and craving to do something more. One evening, I was reading some article on international issues on children, women,and on animal cruelty, which were very disturbing, traumatic and sad. It is very hard to see others in suffering. Life is more fulfilling and rich when you help others, when you bring smile on others. “ Be a rainbow in someone else’s clouds.”- Maya Angelou. So I start to write again. I want my writing to be a strong voice for others in distress; for the innocent animals,for children, for women, on global warming and for all other social causes. And I am thankful to WordPress for providing this wonderful platform to express my observation, views and dreams. I hope you explore the stories,enjoy and leave appropriate comments.

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I may make you feel, but I can't make you think.

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I retired at 50 something, returned to North America and began blogging. All posts are 100% true, except when they're not funny enough, or when I can't remember the details. Menopause is heartless. Huge thanks to my comic book writing son, Matt, my Header designer.

I'm a Writer, Yes, I Am!

Martha Ann Kennedy's Blog, Copyright 2013-2017, all rights reserved to the author/artist

Books, j'adore

story lovers unite

The Bookshelf of Emily J.

life~lessons~literature

Book of words

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Just because you CAN read Moby Dick doesn't mean you should.

The Misfortune Of Knowing

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moviejoltz

The website where movies count

ParkInkSpot

I may make you feel, but I can't make you think.

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I retired at 50 something, returned to North America and began blogging. All posts are 100% true, except when they're not funny enough, or when I can't remember the details. Menopause is heartless. Huge thanks to my comic book writing son, Matt, my Header designer.

I'm a Writer, Yes, I Am!

Martha Ann Kennedy's Blog, Copyright 2013-2017, all rights reserved to the author/artist

Books, j'adore

story lovers unite

The Bookshelf of Emily J.

life~lessons~literature

Book of words

Books, reviews and all things worth reading

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Just because you CAN read Moby Dick doesn't mean you should.

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moviejoltz

The website where movies count

ParkInkSpot

I may make you feel, but I can't make you think.

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Fiction based on reality. Any similarities to the characters and events in the life of the author are purely intentional.

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