Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


4 Comments

A Poltergeist who Loves the Toilet

It has been my secret fantasy to encounter a ghost. Not the scary ones that haunt, possess and kill their victims, but the cute and cuddly Casper the friendly ghost types. My grandma met her fair share of ghosts in her lifetime and I thought it only fair that I should too.

We moved into our apartment in North Carolina last month. One morning I woke up and my husband announced that the toilet had flushed by itself. I laughed when I saw his expression, intent on giving me a scare. He insisted that he wasn’t making it up. But I didn’t believe him for a second. He tried the same thing with my daughter and I shook my head and continued pottering around the kitchen. He tried the same ploy with my son as well. But we all openly dismissed the idea of a ghost that flushes.

A few days later I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, owing to jet lag. I used the bathroom and sat down quietly on the spiral stairs that went up to the loft. I didn’t want to wake anyone. After a few minutes, I heard the toilet flush. I dismissed it thinking that it was probably the tank filling. But I did mention it to my husband. Over the next couple of days all of us heard the toilet flushing. One time however no one had used the toilet and I actually went in to check and there was water flowing into the toilet! Yup we had ourselves a poltergeist.

We alerted the property manager and she sent a maintenance guy to fix it. Well, he did a bad job fixing it because then the toilet didn’t flush with enough force. So my husband who is handy around the house, fixed the flush. The anonymous flushing started all over again. And as if to confirm that I was right about the poltergeist, this happened.

So I was in the kitchen cutting veggies for lunch. The rice cooker was sitting on the counter right next to me. It was on and the water was barely bubbling when it switched to warm with a loud click. I turned around to see that the rice was not cooked and the water wasn’t even boiling. So I pushed the switch back to cook. It switched back to warm again! I switched it back to cook and it stayed. The same thing happened a couple of weeks later.

Now we’ve made peace with our harmless poltergeist. The kids have even given him a name. He seems to like the toilet and I’m ok with that. He sometimes likes to make the bathroom door creak open slowly. Just as long as he knows that my kitchen is off-limits I’m fine! On several occasions I did ask him to leave in the name of God. But he has ignored my pleas. I was a little concerned about the water bills though and he seems to have read my mind. The number of flushings per day has gone down considerably. And I am thankful for that. Happy Halloween everyone.

 


1 Comment

The Rise of Heart

Had enough of the negativity and the ugliness that is popping up everywhere? Do you believe that the world is on the brink of an apocalypse? Do you really think that all the good is gone and only dark days lie ahead of us? Then this one is for you.

In the midst of death, despair and devastating loss, I’ve seen ordinary people do extraordinary things. Now it’s easy to open your heart and show kindness to less fortunate folks when everything is going plum good in your life. However, it takes a different kind of heart to shift your focus from your suffering to the plight of another.

A friend’s friend, who is recovering from a serious illness with prolonged complications, is constantly in pain and sometimes unable to perform day-to-day activities. In the midst of her health crisis, she managed to rescue two injured cats and even opened her home to a dog recovering from surgery. Mind you, she already takes care of five cats and an ailing relative. She truly has a big heart and is a blessing to all the animals she cares for.

When my parents returned from Sweden after visiting my brother, their house help quit due to ill-health. Luckily, my mom encountered this lady who used to work for my grandma and later for her before relocating to another state. She couldn’t afford the rent in Chennai and her step-son asked her to vacate under the pretext of renovation. Being a widow, she is entitled to the widows pension granted by the state government and visits Chennai every month to collect it. Now when word got out that she was not residing in Chennai anymore, the authorities refused to pay her. To make ends meet she decided to work for my mom. She found a temporary place to stay and was provided two meals a day. My mom packed breakfast for her in the morning and also gave her a cup of tea and snacks in the evening.

All was well until the landlady started acting up after a couple of months. She made it abundantly clear that she wanted our house help to leave. Poor lady had no where to go. My parents decided to let her stay with them. In her retirement years instead of living a quiet life with a roof over her head and enough dough to sustain her, here she was homeless and forced to earn her living.

Recently another lady who worked for us and is now unemployed showed up and my mom took her  in as well. She now cooks for my parents. They really don’t need two people to help out around the house but they couldn’t turn her away because she has to support her family.

I think everywhere everyone’s heart has opened just a little more. I was surprised when my mother-in-law offered to feed our kitten – the one we had to leave behind. We raised it as an outdoor cat although we fed it a few times a day. She knew how to hunt for lizards and mice so we resigned ourselves to the fact that she could survive without us. But the fact that we may never see her again after we left for the U.S. broke our hearts. Seeing how distraught the kids were, their grandma decided to do the least she could do to make the kitten stay.

Then there are some brave souls who are in a vortex of adversity and still look out for others. A friend of mine suffered a loss, was sick and had to fend for herself. She had endless paperwork that had to be followed up and submitted and had to deal with uncooperative staff. She still found time to call and check on me and give me hope during what was a very dark year for me. Her dad’s friend’s sister was in the hospital and she offered to cook and provide meals for them to the extent of neglecting her very own health.

So is there still hope for this world? I’d say YES! It may not be obvious and it may not be breaking news but in small ways, small people with big hearts are showing us that love and kindness are alive and well in the world.


9 Comments

My Big Secret – Part 2

I think I left you hanging long enough. So here is my second big secret. If you have been following my blog for the past year, you know of my big move to India and all the trials and travails that followed. It wasn’t as easy move after spending 13 years of my married life in the U.S. And my husband being unemployed did not help matters either. Add to that the education system which came as a complete shock to my kids and me. The fact that I did not have my own space or freedom made matters worse. So after much deliberation (mostly on my part) we decided to move back to the U.S.

In a week I will be moving with my family. You could say I am escaping, running away because I am too weak to face the challenges life has thrown at me. But I am just returning. Returning to a familiar place that I have come to call home. Where I have the freedom to be the person I want to be and not feel guilty about it or be ostracized for it. For those who think I am weak, let me tell you that I faced these challenges for a year using all my strength, faith and all the support I could garner. But at some point I had to admit to myself that things are not working out as planned and that I would never be truly happy here. And that somewhere along the way I ceased to belong to this place. Since this is my big reveal, I won’t go into the challenges I faced in Chennai in detail. That is material for a whole new post.

We have been moving every year since 2014 and this time I intend to put down roots, put my foot down and cement myself in North Carolina. For the next several years my kids need the stability of attending one school and growing up with friends they care about. As for me, I am tired of packing and giving away stuff and moving like a freaking nomad.

For the record, I lived in the same city for 23 years of my life, attended the same school from kindergarten to 12th grade. I attended college and university in the same city and had friends I knew from the cradle! I think my kids deserve a little bit of that too.

If you are reading this, please know that it isn’t as easy as it looks – hauling your family half way across the globe and then back in a year. We don’t have jobs waiting for us. We have to buy everything from furniture to vehicles and insurance. It is scary, but less scary than having to live in Chennai for another year without jobs. America isn’t called the land of opportunity for nothing! So I beseech you to keep us in your prayers as we make this move and settle down. Thank you and wishing you a lot of success if you are making big changes in your life. I will leave you with this quote I saw on Facebook yesterday that really resonated with me – If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree. (Jim Rohn)


2 Comments

Along Came Lucky

My daughter rushed into the room, “Amma! There is a kitten outside and it has been abandoned by its mother. It was hungry and we fed it some milk and Acha named it Lucky,” she said. It was 8 in the morning and I was still in bed contemplating another miserable day spent languishing on the couch. But my curiosity got the better of me and I got up and went downstairs. My daughter beamed proudly as she pointed to the kitten crouched behind some cardboard boxes. I hadn’t seen her this happy in a long time. I peered behind the box and two little grey eyes with a black and white face looked back at me and mewed pleadingly. Something melted deep inside of me and all my defenses came crumbling down. All my sadness stood meaningless in front of this poor helpless creature.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you. We’ll feed you. We love you,” I found myself saying these words. I was offering the very comfort I was seeking and in that moment my life changed. If I could have named the kitten I would have gone with Joy because in a trice it had pulled me out of my sorrow.

Lucky was very wary of us on the first day, darting quickly behind the boxes whenever we made any quick movements or loud noises. The kids were relentless in attending to its needs. They made sure that it felt safe and it was fed. Now feeding Lucky was a challenge because both my husband and I had only had dogs for pets. Its diet on the first day was milk, curd rice and biscuits. When I went to sleep I prayed that Lucky would be around the next morning. The kitten had opened up a part of my heart that only pets can – by being vulnerable and by loving us unconditionally despite our flaws.

The next day Lucky seemed to be more at ease with the kids and allowed them to come close and touch it. It didn’t eat as much as it did on the first day. We replaced its coconut shell bowls with a plastic tray, now that Lucky was a part of our household. As we were playing with Lucky after dinner, a cat jumped onto the compound wall. My husband beamed the flash light in its direction and it slunk away into the dark. Could it be the mother cat? Will she whisk Lucky away in the dead of the night? Fears of losing him clouded our minds as we retired for the night. I prayed that he would be waiting for us in the morning.

My son gave Lucky an old ball to play with. In two days the frightened, helpless kitten had transformed into a sprightly fly-chasing fur ball! It let us stroke it and rub its belly. It ran to my son when he called his name and enjoyed playing with the kids. It tried to follow us inside but we decided to let Lucky be an outdoor cat. I remember how the neighbor’s cats used to steal fish from my grandma’s kitchen and I didn’t want any of that.

The kids had wanted a dog for a long time but life gave us a cat. In a moment of deep understanding I uttered these sage words, “We didn’t choose Lucky, Lucky chose us.”

Today we figured out ‘it’ is a male kitten. He showed up when we most needed it and it turned my focus outward. He touched my maternal chord. Triggered the flow of selfless love. If he wasn’t already named Lucky I’d probably have named it Miracle.

 


4 Comments

I Thought I was Alone…

You can be surrounded by a room full of people and still feel alone…alone in your frustrating circumstances, grappling with seemingly inconsequential problems that no one really sees as problems. How you wish you had someone who would understand! How you wish you could draw strength from your loved ones and fall back on their support! And sometimes the very people who have supported you, fall on hard times. How can you turn to them when they can barely keep afloat? How can they save you from your pain? Ultimately no one can save you and you need to find your strength and pull yourself together. But as humans we also need to connect with others and seek solace in their company.

I was in a limbo, a week ago. Kids had finished a year of school. My contract with the company I was working for was ending. There was a lot of uncertainty in the air and I was feeling the weight of the long year full of challenges and not really looking forward to more of the same. I hadn’t blogged in a while and just couldn’t find any motivation. As I kept sinking into oblivion and praying for redemption at the same time, something magical happened. R sent me an inspiring video that nudged me out of my stupor. I wrote and published a post on my blog, the very same day.

The next day my friend S sent me a message asking how I was doing and sent me prayers and good vibes. Another friend from Florida called me and spoke to me for hours, praising me for sticking it out for a year and not giving up (I know how many times I did and then had to push myself to keep going!) Then several other friends sent me encouraging messages after reading my blog. All of them lifted me up and out of my pity party and I felt reassured in the midst of all their comforting support.

Yesterday I went to see my friend’s grandma who was also my pediatrician for years. Frail of frame at the age of 94 and pushing herself with a walker, her eyes lit up when she saw me. I sat beside her, basking in her comforting presence. She held my hand the whole time squeezing it ever so gently every now and then and told me she would pray for me. Her prayers brought me back from the dead, so many years ago when I was born breached and wasn’t breathing. And as I sat there I realized that the same force that had brought her to my rescue had given me this chance to be in her healing presence. I looked up and on the wall in front of me was a picture of Jesus.

My friend’s Dad reminded me of what my friend had been through and how everything turned out ok in the end even though he had given up all hope. Good things happen when you least expect it, he said. We just need to keep going on and then suddenly the thing you were chasing will fall into your lap. I left their home which is named “Serene” by the way, feeling so at peace, like giant loving arms were embracing me tightly.

Maybe I am trying too hard to make things work when I have absolutely no control over any of this. None of us do and so many of us are hurting because we feel helpless. Personal challenges and the horrors of the world are being unleashed on us. We look around for the ones who always saved us and see them stumbling and falling. Fear can only live when we isolate ourselves and cut ourselves off from all the support available. And sometimes it is not easily available and we think our numerous pleadings have fallen on divine deaf ears. Help may come from the most unexpected of places but it does come if we are open and it nudges us towards greater happiness if we allow it.

Another magical meeting arranged by the universe also happened yesterday and I met an old friend from my days at the Women’s Christian College and Madras University. She too moved to Boston after she got married and we used to meet quite often. I hadn’t met her since 2007 when she left Boston for Chennai. As a writer, she keeps checking on my progress and she came just when I needed to brush off that dusty memoir and get cracking on the next chapter. A writers group that she is a part of is also something I need to get into to inject some discipline into my otherwise erratic writing habits.

When it rains it pours! And the floodgates are open so to speak. As I receive support, more seems to be coming in and I am thankful that I don’t have to go through this all alone. I am opening up to more magic, revelations and miracles in my life.

Hang in there if you feel like you are on a roller coaster and you are all alone. You are not! And help is just an arm’s stretch away…may you find the support, healing, peace, joy and abundance you are looking for. God Bless You!


6 Comments

Thankful for the Weirdest Things

This is not my regular Thanksgiving post, giving thanks for all my blessings, blah, blah, blah. The brainwave for this post came about when I was washing dishes – anyone who knows me knows how much I hate doing dishes. As I sunk my fingers into the dishwashing detergent (because the dish rag was dirty), my mind sped to the conversation I had with my friend earlier. She told me she was allergic to dishwashing soap and couldn’t wash dishes. The maid did not turn up and her kitchen was filled with dirty dishes.

My heart went out to my friend. I knew what that was like. My maid has not been coming since the beginning of the month. I have been doing most of the dishes and my mother-in-law has been helping. Every day I would secretly wish that the dish I was washing will be the last one to be soaped by my hands. So BAM! Right on Thanksgiving Day the Universe gave me a reason to be thankful for the very thing I hate.

I sighed and felt the detergent on my fingers as I slowly scrubbed the coffee mug. A wave of gratitude washed over me because I could wash dishes! How weird you say? Someone who hates doing the dishes is being grateful for the ability to do it. Life is weird that way. It teaches you lessons exactly when you need them.

I was telling my kids about this new found love for washing dishes and asked them what they were thankful for and my daughter said almost immediately – I am thankful that I don’t have peanut allergies or I couldn’t have peanut butter which is the most awesome thing in the world!

So what weird things are you grateful for. Share it with me and I will include it in my next blog or add it to this blog (depending on the response). Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


3 Comments

The Pull of Power Places – Trip to Arunachala

 

When I was a kid I recall reading about sacred places around the world where miraculous healing occurred and which drew multitudes of people to it. But it was in my early twenties that I actually visited one such power place with spiritual vibes so palpable that the air feels different. It wasn’t very far from my hometown Chennai and I practically stumbled upon this place quite unwittingly. In the small town of Tiruvannamalai stands this majestic hill called Arunachala. Legend has it that the hill is Shiva himself who appeared in the form of an effulgent pillar of light with no beginning or end. Brahma and Vishnu in their arrogance sought the two ends of the pillar, but no matter how deep they dug into the earth or how far into the cosmos they ventured, they could not find it. The two gods realized their folly, begged for forgiveness and prayed that the Lord may be present in a form that could be worshipped. Thousands flock to this ancient town from all corners of the world, to savor the peace that escapes us all in this maddening life.

I was in such a state when we travelled to Tiruvannamalai. Run down by life and its travails, with little or no hope in my heart. I wasn’t even sure the trip would materialize, like everything else before it. But the mere thought of Arunachala has a magnetic pull and draws one to it and everything fell into place miraculously. An outpouring of much needed grace came to our succor.

We packed our bags and our burdens and took off in our small car. Leaving the dusty city behind we drove past lush green paddy fields and sugarcanes swaying in the warm breeze. The open vastness of the blue skies greeted us in every direction. Starting before dawn we caught an unobstructed view of the sunrise over the villages. Along the way we passed the Gingee Fort with steep steps cut into the rocky face of a hill. We stopped for some hitch-hiking monkeys looking for food. They were far too comfortable in human company for their own good.

As we approached Tiruvannamalai, the lone hill of Arunachala stood in the distance, still and firm, above the din and busyness that marks life in a small town. My heart leapt with joy and I instantly felt light and free -like a yoke had been lifted off my neck. We drove to the ashram to get the keys to our room in the guesthouse. The guesthouse was named Achalam, meaning still. Simple, clean accommodations in a quiet, serene neighborhood with overhanging trees, added to the peace that had now replaced the gnawing anxiety that accompanies urban life. After resting for a bit and eating a bit of breakfast, we headed back to the ashram meditation hall, where I got my spiritual batteries charged. A sanctuary for humans and animals alike, the ashram is frequented by dogs, peacocks and monkeys. The Maharshi’s love for animals is honored even today by the caretakers of the ashram. After a delicious and simple South Indian lunch we decided to explore the hill. From the back of the ashram is a path that leads uphill. The kids were excited at the prospect of trekking, but it wasn’t the best time of the day to do it, given that the afternoon sun was beating down on us.

I was however determined to go for it, having missed the opportunity to do so in my last two visits. The path was rocky and before long we reached the summit. From a clearing we could see the temple town below. After resting on some rocks and taking in the view, we trekked uphill for nearly an hour before reaching Skandashram which was built by a devotee single-handedly over a period of ten years. A few rooms with pictures of the Maharshi and a neat garden set against the backdrop of a rocky cliff was all it was. On one side was a spring with water pooled around it and a horde of monkeys gamboling around it. The place had only a handful of visitors and was imbued with quiet and peace.

We then went downhill on a treacherous path to the Virupaksha cave. The walls of the cave were low and we bent down to get in there. It was dark except for the light of a steady oil lamp. The inside of the cave radiated heat and we sat there for a bit taking in the quiet and the stillness.

The thought of climbing back up the hill and then back to ashram seemed daunting. So we asked a little boy and some old ladies if we could continue downhill to reach the town. To our intense relief they said it was just a 10 minute walk downhill to the temple from where we could begin our 14 kilometer walk around the hill. A few minutes into our walk we passed another cave – the mango cave – which was well lit and attended by a priest. We crawled in and prayed, while he told us about the history of the cave. We then proceeded downhill and found our way to the temple. The ancient temple of Shiva, was full of secret places to explore. I was particularly interested in locating the patala linga which was underground. This is where the young Maharshi sat absorbed in a state of bliss while ants and rodents gnawed on him and naughty boys of his age pelted him with stones from the top of the stairs that led to the chamber.

It was time for our walk around the hill, we purchased a bottle of water and started asking for directions. A helpful lady materialized out of no where and showed us the way to the first temple along the route. We walked with the hill appearing and disappearing from our sight. We walked as the sun set and the moon rose. We walked in the dark, after a power cut. We walked with weary legs and rested at temples along the way. When we got back to the starting point it was nearly 9.30 p.m. An auto took us back to the ashram and then we drove to our guesthouse. We ate some curd rice and went to bed. We slept soundly and rose early in the morning to visit the Arunachala temple. We took the kids to see the happy temple elephant that gave pats on the head with its trunk in exchange for coins, and swayed as if dancing to music only audible to its ears.

Back at the ashram we ate a simple breakfast and had some coffee with fresh cow’s milk. I would have loved to linger on and soak up the peace till I was immersed in it, but we had to head back home for Ayudha pooja.

In 24 hours I had undergone a complete transformation. My faith was renewed, hope rekindled, the heaviness was gone and so was the utter helplessness and despair. I knew that I would be taken care of and so would my family. It wasn’t up to me to take on the burden of the world.

Miracles awaited us as we returned to Chennai. Bigger upsets also swung by to torment us but that day spent in the shadow of something much larger than myself, gave me the strength to go through it, to have faith and to emerge out of it victorious.

Have you visited any power places? What has been your experience?


6 Comments

Lunch Dabba Debacle

No this is not yet another ode to Maggi noodles, so you can stop groaning. Maggi was in my black list for a while now after I heard about the wax coating on the noodles and that it is difficult to digest. Anyhow over the past several years I have been slowly weaning my family from processed foods, school lunches and fast food. But the backlash triggered by the whole Maggi episode removed an entire food group from my weekly menu – pasta. It cooks in 10 minutes and can be dressed in various sauces to make a quick lunch. With pasta gone and bread largely a breakfast item (in India!) my options kept dwindling. One day I packed some left-over chapattis from dinner with some scrambled eggs for my kids. In the evening the kids announced that the school had a strict vegetarian policy. No meat, poultry, fish or eggs. I mentally scratched out egg fried rice, parathas with eggs and egg salad sandwiches from my lunch dabba list.

Back in the U.S. I had to keep aromatic curries out of the lunch dabba, to spare the sensitive olfactory senses of kids of non-Indian origin. Occasionally, rajma (kidney beans) rice, lemon rice, semiya or idli made it to the lunch box. Naan pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches were easy to whip up in the morning. Sometimes dosa with jam or peanut butter was a quick option.

Now with limited options, I rolled back to my school days. The taste of fried rice, parathas, salad, lemon rice, tomato and cheese sandwiches flooded my brain. How my mom and grandma whipped up all those delicious lunches in such a short time is beyond me. I’m up by 5.30 a.m. and just about manage to pack lunch and get breakfast ready for the kids. It’s funny because I did almost the same thing in the U.S. and yet it never took me this long. Does time go by faster in India? I think so!

For now it is lemon rice, tomato rice, idli, semiya or chapatti with potatoes for the kids. They don’t seem to mind as long as they have something to eat. So I’m trying to stop obsessing about my lack of options. Hopefully, I’ll come up with more options as time goes by and I have a better understanding of how things roll in India.

A dear friend of mine in the U.S. said the other day – If you need anything from here let me know and I will send it across. I told her that we get everything here and that I don’t need anything. Maybe I should ask her to send me a year’s supply of pasta and peanut butter. That way the kids won’t miss out on their weekly Italian lunch and you know how peanut butter goes with everything!

Sometimes I fantasize about having a cook and completely escaping the kitchen which is hotter than hell in the summer. I love to cook, but the heat makes you want to take cool showers, laze around under the fan or eat ice cream and take siestas. I get to do all of those things occasionally (except for the showers which happen twice a day) so I shouldn’t be complaining. Wonder if cooks show up at 5 a.m. to pack lunch dabbas…maybe not.

Food-wise I never dreamed I would miss anything in India. There’s so much variety out here, that it could take a lifetime to explore the different cuisines. And yet I miss things like pasta, something I really never cared for in the U.S. because we had it almost every week. Or is it just human nature to always look for the one thing that is missing and crib about it despite myriad other options. I don’t know about human nature but that pretty much sums up me!

What do you pack for lunch for your kids or for yourself if you work and don’t have a cook? Do share…


Leave a comment

Walking Amidst the Giants

'Advice from a Redwood tree :)'Early one Thursday morning in the middle of February I rose early to pack up for our big road trip. It was still dark outside and probably cold, but the prospect of going to some place warm and sunny perked me up. I woke up the kids, gulped down some coffee, had a hot shower and loaded up the car with food to feed an army. Something about road trips, always made us hungry. Even after a hearty breakfast, kids would be clamoring for something to munch hardly a mile into our trip!

We set the destination on our GPS for Salem, the capital of Oregon. As we hit the highway the sun was shining merrily without a single cloud to blot its radiance. We ate breakfast in the car as we sped south to the border of Oregon which was interestingly on a bridge. My daughter drew from her social studies lessons and told us how the Columbia River ran along the border of Washington and Oregon for miles together before it reached the Pacific Ocean. A couple of hours later we reached the historic city of Salem. We toured the Oregon State Capitol, a beautiful building with Grecian columns and murals of Lewis and Clark. Most of the building is made of marble with a gold statue of an Oregon pioneer at the top. The older capitol buildings were destroyed by fire but some of the columns were saved and can be seen on the grounds. The Capitol has some fine ceiling art, tall glass doors and wide stairways on either side, leading to the State Senate Chamber and the House of Representatives Chamber. Both chambers were deserted as they were not in session.

Lunch in the car was next, with egg and potato salad, broccoli and tofu stir fry and home-made cookies. Deepwood Estate was a short drive away from the Capitol. The 18th century Victorian home and gardens were open to the public. A silver-haired, pleasant lady greeted us and took us on a guided tour of the home. The home had stained glass windows, some furniture from that era and a solarium. Parts of the house had been renovated over the years, like the kitchen and the Porte Cochere or carriage port. Ornately carved door knobs and hinges and birds eye wood added a touch of style to the rooms upstairs. A player piano stood in the informal dining room and our tour guide played a merry song on it for us. Upstairs she wound up a rare music box called a euphonia, which sounded so melodious and could be heard all the way down in the living room.

Pictures of the families that lived in the house were sprinkled around the house. The guide showed us a copy of a book that was a favorite of two kids that lived in the house. One of them returned to the house years later and signed the book. The house had servants quarters, a dumb waiter, attic and basement. A door lead from the dining room to the outside, allowing guests to exit the house and board their carriages. A carriage house for the horses and a carriage port used to exist. The original owner had put many secret doors and openings all over the house but nobody knows where they are located. We strolled the gardens which held the promise of blossoms and beauty in the summer. The landscape artists for the gardens happened to be two ladies, something unusual in those days.

These days the Deepwood Estate hosts tea parties and outdoor weddings in its gorgeous gardens. It was time for us to see something more ancient that an old Victorian house. Southward we drove, towards Klamath, California. Along the way we watched in wonder as the shadows of the night revealed giant trees towering over us on either side of the road. We were in the land of ancient Redwoods. Some of these trees stood right here while dinosaurs roamed the earth. We craned our necks to see the top of the trees through the car windows but it was too dark. At 250 t0 300 feet, these trees are jaw-dropping amazing! We reached our hotel exhausted. But the kids planned to jump into the pool with their dad in tow. I decided to stay in the room, take a warm bath and heat up some dinner.

At the Prairie Creek State Park we took short hikes in the Redwood forests. We passed by trees whose trunks were so huge that when the four of us stood around the tree with our arms stretched out and barely touching, we couldn’t even cover half the trunk. We came across trickling streams, bridges and ferns. Some of the trees had fallen and lay on the forest floor. They were big enough to crush a car or truck. These trees loved to clump together and intertwine their roots like humans holding hands.

At one of the trail heads we found a hollowed out tree that was still standing upright. I named it “tree cave” and we all went inside and felt like we were being embraced by the tree. We stood in silent awe in front of “Big Tree” which was 1,500 years old, 68 feet in circumference and 304 feet tall. In another area of the park we drove through a tree. For some reason we could  not rent a mini-van for the trip and ended up getting a compact car. Guess what? If we had gotten the mini-van it wouldn’t have been able to go through the tree!

At the visitor center located further south the kids got their junior ranger badges and we were pleasantly surprised to see the beach right outside. The dancing waves beckoned to us. We rushed outside and walked on the sandy shore dotted with tree stumps. Rocks jutted out of the ocean and added to the drama of the waves. In the distance I could see a cloud of white basking on the beach. Harbor seals! My son and I trudged against the wind to get a closer look. We were disappointed to find a flock of sea gulls. But something else caught my eye and there right by the edge of a tide pool was a bunch of harbor seals huddling together. We kept our distance to avoid startling them. Some shimmied along and plunged into the water. One cute fella kept emerging from the water and playing peek-a-boo with us.

I really wanted to see elk, so we thought the elk meadow would be a good spot to see them in their natural habitat. On that day we found plenty of deer grazing in the meadow but not one elk. It was time to head back north to Crescent City to see the Battery Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse closed at dusk but the rocky beach and tide pool was the perfect setting for a gorgeous sunset. A narrow bridge made of pebbles connected the lighthouse on top of a hill to the beach. As the tide came in the bridge started slowly submerging. I was on the beach and my husband and kids were near the lighthouse. I waved frantically asking them to hurry lest they get stranded. We stood there in the cold windy beach, watching the waves crash on the rocks, push around them and between them, finding some way to go forward. The skies were a startling orange, with the pale pink mountains yonder and the lights flashing from the lighthouse intermittently. There is something about the salty air and rhythmic waves that washes away a year’s worth of fatigue from the soul. Soothing like the very womb of mother earth. Beautiful, mysterious and ever so temperamental. Full of wonder, all-engulfing and oh-so powerful.

In reverent silence we drove to Portland, Oregon, grateful that we had witnessed another grand spectacle of nature. As we neared the city, a thick fog enveloped us and remained well into the next day. It slowly lifted as we made our way to the Columbia River Gorge area. The very same place that Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea had traversed nearly 200 years ago to explore the west. Between the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River is the 2nd largest falls in the U.S. – the Multnomah Falls at a staggering height of 611 feet. It was a Saturday and Valentines Day, so the crowds were thick and the parking situation was grim. It was hard to capture the entire falls, consisting of the upper falls and the smaller falls that tumbled into the river, in one shot. A little bridge somewhere below the upper falls offered a breathtaking view of the falls. We hiked up to the bridge and felt the cool spray from the water fall on our skin. The trek to the top of the falls seemed long and arduous. Considering the long drive ahead of us, we opted out. We picked up some Chinese-take out and headed back home. I was reluctant to go back to the city bustling with activity, an uninviting urban jungle.

My son warned us – we are going to find the evergreen trees around our home really small. And he was right. We laughed at how tiny they were!


3 Comments

On the Brink of a Mid-life Crisis

Maybe it’s the dwindling hormones that announce the advent of menopause. Maybe it’s the overcast skies that are a regular feature of this part of the world. Maybe it’s my inability to get a decent job. Dang it! I blame all of the above for pushing me into this limbo.

Winter blues hit me bad when I was in Boston and now again in Seattle. It’s like a shroud that obliterates even the smallest bit of mirth. It’s hard to get motivated when it’s dark and cold for nearly 6 months of the year.

The kids are growing up fast and before I know it they’ll be out in the world fending for themselves, leaving me behind clueless. Heck, I don’t have a career to drown myself in. I can drown in the kitchen sink with all the dirty dishes! While my friends and my spouse climb the corporate ladder, I struggle to find my footing. I look in the mirror and only see a ghost of the girl I used to be. A girl full of dreams and ambitions and here I am almost middle-aged and drifting to God knows where.

Have I simply settled because after years of striving I haven’t arrived anywhere? Or is it because I was so focused on others that I did not realize that I was neglecting myself? The greying hairs on my head keep setting off alarms. Your time is so short. What have you done with your life? What have you achieved? Right now the false security of kids and chores keep you busy and lull you into a trance. But when you wake up one day it will be just you. The kids, the home, everything you put your heart and soul into – all gone. Then what do you do? Go back to college? Find a hobby? Travel the world? I have no idea.

Maybe I’ll shatter conventions and do something that will make the world look up an take notice. By now I have convinced myself that I am a late bloomer. How late will I bloom? Only time can tell. And it’s ok as long as I don’t go out with a whimper. Maybe I’ll start my own business, finally. Be my own boss, pick my hours and work with people I really like.

In Florida, I had the good fortune of knowing several women whose kids had grown up and moved out. Some worked full-time, others did part-time work from home and still others simply had an active social life. All of them seemed happy and content with their lives. Maybe it won’t be so bad after all. Life has a way of balancing things out. Changes happen and its hard at first but we ultimately adapt and find a new way of living. So while I may not have all the answers right now, I know when the time comes it will all fall in place. And I’ll be fine. Just as I am now with the crazy hormones, erratic job and gloomy weather.