Turning World

Prefer

Last two days it has been raining cats and dogs.The thunder and lightening lasted for long rumbling low and long. It was not normal to have this type of rain at the end of October.It is hard to tell where water ends and where the sky begins. Today the sky is clear and the bright sun is washing over the door steps. It seems like today colors wants to take on their old vividness; things have points, edges and have outlines.

But Isaac leaps into thought, stretching his tired legs, pushing the chair back against the wall. He is in touch of grief just like his whole family. Sometimes you try to hold on to something so tight but it somehow it slips away! His laughter has a desolate edge. He somehow feels a need to pray, he wants to fall on his knees and pray, but what would he pray for? To bring back his mother? The reality of life does not work that way! He sits upright, legs drawn in. Isaac glances at his watch.

“Where is she? It is getting late.”

He watches from the small window at the maple tree, the branches holding two slightly yellow leaves with apologetic gentleness and how have they held on until the end of October? Right behind it is the light, generously the color from the setting sun sprays upward over the open sky. Issac puts his large hand to the side of his face and thinks about his sister who is almost fifty, but because of brain injury sometimes it is difficult for her to understand the simple things of life. A soft knock comes on his door.

“ Hello, brother.” Sheba, her sister appears at the door in a long pale green dress, a little dusty at the corner. She smiles, her eyes warm as she walks past him into the room holding a few shiny rocks on her right hand and a small chips pack on the other. She moves to the couch and sits down. Sheba arranges all her rocks in a circle on the small  the coffee table and the shiniest one in the middle. Issac sits slowly in the  armchair in the corner and watches her.

“I have not seen you the whole day? Where did you go?” Isaac asks carefully clearing his throat. He does not want to upset her.

Sheba scoots her feet under her, leaning down to push aside her black sandal. “ Today I met one of mom’s friend. Remember Diana?”

“ Wow, you saw her. How is she. I have not seen her for ages.”

“So I was sitting under a big tree and watching the children playing soccer. I wanted to play with them but then I changed my mind. They are too young and I bet they do not play by the rules. So I decided to just sit and watch.” She giggles covering her mouth.

“ It was so funny that me and the tree looked the same; still and quiet.” She giggles again. Yes, a lady with nice looking gray hair in a navy blue saree was standing patiently and watching the game. At the end of the game she walked towards me and said, “ Hi, Sheba, is that you? O’ my you have grown so tall and pretty!” Her voice sounded so familiar. I glanced at her. “Diana!” Then we hugged each other and she told me all her stories; her children, her husband, a lot. But I did not have patience to hear such a long story. Do you know it is like the book says Never ending story. Yep, just like that. So, I waved my hand and left.”

“ It is wonderful that you met her. Did you invite her to our house?” Issac leans his elbow on the table in front of him.

She crosses her arms. “ No,next time.” She uncrosses her arms and runs her fingers through her hair, which parts towards the front and to her long braid. “So, where is mother? She told me that she will come back from the hospital and I have been waiting for last three days. It is hard to fall asleep without her on her bed. I stare at the objects, to the ceiling and let my mind go blank and when my tears dries I blink.” Sheba looks down to the floor.

“ First I thought she could not come because of the heavy rain and storm, but today the sky’s so clear and bright!” Sheba leans on to the open window to make sure that the sky is still clear.  She nods her head.

“ Well, it is dark now, but still a clear sky.” She returns her gaze towards her brother.

And there is a silence that went on for a little while. Isaac is used to silence, but this is not a nice one. He leans more against the cushion thinking how to answer his sister’s question. He sits straight.

“Remember, last time I told you that our mother is a star now, he points to the sky through the open window. “ There, I can see her clearly, just in the middle.”

Sheba cranes her neck and looks upward. “There are millions of stars in the sky, so which one is mom?” She consoles herself. “ May be the brightest one. You are right brother. It is the middle one.”

Isaac stands there with her sister. “She is the brightest one because she was the kindest, warm,loving woman. Everybody liked her.” Isaac returns his gaze. “ Show me your rock collections and I want to see the shiniest one.”

Sheba’s eyes are moist. She is still glancing at the star studded sky. Her mind, which has been spinning, rearranges itself. She feel herself again.

“I will,but you have to give two big half a dollar coins.”

 

“ Sure.” Isaac laughs. His eyes begin to break into a tenderness around their corners as he steps back from the window.

 

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Meeting an Angel

Express

The truth is bright and stark, not as willing to bend to the mind’s will. She presses one hand to her heart again and wonders if  she has made a mistake. Closing her eyes she thinks of her grandfather, grandmother, her parents, their love, affection. She could not meet their expectation! Sigh. Countless thoughts and questions envelop her mind. As Lekha leans against a soft pillow on the narrow bed, the thick printed curtain parts. Lekha sits straight. A woman in middle forty enters in a navy blue saree with gold border. Her black hair in a loose bun, small gold earrings on her ears, deep red bangles on her  both arms and a big red dot on her forehead, in between the brows. She appears to be a simple and friendly lady. Sometimes you meet someone and suddenly your heart sings. Yes, it is something like that. But who is she? May be a relative of my boyfriend .Out of courtesy, Lekha gathers her lilac colored silk saree from slipping and climbs down from the bed.

 “ Good morning! She smiles, pursed lips, raised eyebrows. She points at the bed. “ Please sit.” Her bright big eyes settles on lekha’s face for a while.

“ I heard from my son and sister about you. Is it true that you like my son?” She looks up at the ceiling, then to the wall.” A small sigh. She shifts and leans gently against the bedpost.From the trail of her eyes Lekha notices a slight similarity between mother and son, same nose, oval face, big brown eyes. A voice distracts her.

“ I understand completely. In our society we have to think hundred times before taking this type of decision.” Her eyes fastened on lekha.

“ Your parents love you so much and you just left them! She nods her head in disbelief. “ Sweety, if you want then I will arrange someone to drop you at your house.”

Lekha sits quietly. Her head down. She has no answer.  The stubborn nineteen years old girl is there to stay.

It has been a month after that incident. Now she is married and stays with her in laws.It is bright Sunday morning Lekha comes out of bathroom with a wet towel and pauses as her mother in law calls her. Lekha looks towards the veranda. Her mother in law sits on a wooden chair with a small white teacup. Without raising a hand from her lap, she offers a narrow smile.

“ Darling, today is a very special day.” She takes a sip from the hot tea.It is a special day for the new daughter in law to cook lunch for everyone and usually the neighbors come to taste the food. You can cook whatever you want. A big smile flashes on her face. She pushes the chair back and takes the cup to the sink. “Let me know if you need anything special for cooking and I will get those from the neighborhood store.”

The wet towel  slipped from Lekha’s hand when she heard about cooking. It is a grave situation. She can prepare special tea with ginger and cardamom. What else? She knows how to make chapati. Well it may not be quite round but it may work and rice is the easiest. In her parents home the cook does everything so she has no idea how to cook. She always thing cooking is boring, wastage of time. Instead read book, write or explore nature. But somehow she gets the confidence to do the task. Her father always says confidence is the key to success.  Lekha walks into the kitchen. “Oh, no! There is no gas stove here”. You have to use kerosene to light the woods which she has never done before. “Well, I will try.” Lekha pours a little kerosene on the dry woods and strikes the match. Yep, it works, the flame starts.She looks at the pots to cook rice but they are not the stainless steel or brass small pots, instead they are huge clay pots. “ Wow! It is even hard to lift the pots when is full with water.”Rice is almost done. She has to remember how to prepare the potato curry. Which one goes first? She stands with six big raw potatoes in a container and spices in a small bowl.A long deep breath. Lekha sits on the kitchen floor and peels the potatoes. One end of her light pink cotton saree is towards the other stove. Her mind replays a few scenes of the kitchen but the there is no clue to know the steps of the cooking. It feels real hot in the kitchen. Lekha wipes the sweats and suddenly hears her husband’s voice. “Take off your saree, right now. Take off.”

“ What? Here in the kitchen?” A shy smile hovers on her face. But she feels very hot. Must be the humidity. Then her mother in law comes running with her husband and both of them pull her saree fiercely.

“ Fire on your saree!”

She pours a bucket of water on the saree to diminish the fire. All the faces are white with fear. She hears the soft voice of her mother in law.” Sweetie, are you okay? You should be more careful while cooking. Do not worry, you go and change. I will ask someone to help you out.” Lekha walks out of the kitchen to change to another saree. She returns back into the kitchen. There her husband’s youngest sister has started to  peel the rest of the potatoes. Inside the kitchen her mother in law is mopping the water. She stands straight as Lekha steps in. Lekha is scared that she may say something.

“ Lekha, do not worry about cooking.” She points at her daughter. “ She will finish up and if anyone asks then let them know that you have prepared everything.”

Lekha looks at her face.She is so nice just like my grandmother or  my mother! I am so lucky to have her in my life.

It is the second week of wedding, a pretty spring morning. The sun is resting on the mailbox when Lekha opened it to pick up the mail. It is a letter from her grandmother. She walks to the backyard and settles herself on a wooden bench to reads the letter.She reads and reread each sentence. All of a sudden he face falls slightly. All the sweet memory of her grandma comes live.  She starts to sob.

“ Morning!” Her mother in law walks through the back gate. “ What are you reading that makes you cry?”

Lekha wipes her tears in the back of her palm. “ It is grandma’s letter. I miss her so much. I wish I can go back to her, see her, hug her and spend time with her.” Her mother in law sits down next to her on the bench. They sit silently. The air is thick with the scent of  honeysuckle, white and yellow blossoms dotted the bushes.

“Smell that?” She asks.

Lekha lifts her face from the letter and sniffs. “ I do not want to. I want to go back to my grandmother.” Her face is down. Her mother in law’s hand touches Lekha’s shoulder softly. A tear falls from the corner of her eyes leaving a trail down her cheek. She put her arm around Lekha. “ I understand your emotion and I can feel your sadness. But you made this decision of marriage. The only way is to wait for a miracle to happen, so that you can meet your family again. Give some time.”

Lekha looks at her. “She is so kind, warm,compassionate! She is the  sweetest person and the greatest gift in her life!Time will heal this.”

“Thank you so much Mom!” says Lekha folding the letter in her hand.

“ What for? She smiles. “ Come let’s go inside.

Two days back my ninety-three years old mother in law  passed away.

Her motherly affection, love, kindness will always stay with me. It will be perfect to say that she was an angel not only for me but to all others in her family, her neighbors,to strangers!

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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.

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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.

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.”

 

 

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.

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

 

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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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