Friendly Friday : Quiet Places

Amanda invites us to reflect on quiet places and share a picture or two. If I had to choose between living in the heart of a big city where tall buildings could make you twist your neck if you tried to look all the way up and where people never stopped roaming the streets and the music never ceased or, in the suburbs, away from all the hullabaloo where people probably went to bed at 8 and there were farmlands around, I would always choose the latter. Noisy places and a super-fast life do not make to my list of top 50 favorite things! When we moved to New Jersey, it took my husband a great deal of convincing and a whole year to go visit the Big Apple!

Back when we lived in Minneapolis, one of our favorite spots to just escape to at the end of a tiring day, of course during the summer months, was this spot overlooking the mighty Mississippi. We sometimes packed sandwiches, chips and some juice and it made for a lovely picnic too. Life was stressful as grad students at that point in time and this was a place that helped shut out all the commotion in our minds about deadlines and tests and the somehow ever dwindling bank balance.

One of my favorite places that I keep revisiting in my mind is Duluth, Minnesota. A couple of hours from Minneapolis, it is a pristine place where Lake Superior reigns supreme. The blue of the lake and its vastness sort of puts one under spell and it is so easy to just shut out all the humdrum and lose oneself in its beauty. Pretty hikes, picturesque cottages, beautiful shoreline and very few people would give you all the quiet that you seek. You can hear silence and feel at one with the gorgeous nature that wraps you in a warm and peaceful hug.

Many years ago I had visited the Hiroshima and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was like no place I had been to ever before. A hauntingly beautiful place that leaves one with emotions that are complex and sure to evoke thoughts that escape the banalities of our daily lives. The picture quality is not good at all here, but this is one of the few photos that survived my laptop -in- the -bathtub debacle.

During these days of COVID-19, when the world is hurting bad, quietness is easy to come by and often can be found in the strangest of places. A popular hiking trail, a park that usually is teeming with children during the spring and summer months are such places, where it has been eerily quiet these past few months. While a semblance of normalcy has returned now, at least where we live, the quickening steps at the sight of others passing by says a different story. Words are not exchanged and kids are yet to play freely with each other. With masks covering their innocent smiles, there is a strange sense of quiet that is not ideal and neither desirable, but at the moment, essential.

We often escape the sights and sounds of big cities for some peace and quiet and to listen. To listen to sounds that a gurgling brook makes or perhaps the chirping of birds that get canceled out by the blaring alarm of our mobile phones or car in our neighborhood; the sound of crickets chirping as the sun sets and the rustling of leaves as the squirrels gather food. Or just to listen to the sound of silence. Like when snow falls. Have you noticed that quietness?

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe. Stay kind.

Friendly Friday: Morning Rituals

Sandy invites us to yet another fun challenge this week and I so agree with her on the world being divided into two types of people- the ones who wake up and go and the ones who go there eventually. I am with Sandy in the latter category. Ironically however, my job had always required to wake up really early- back in India I used to teach at an undergraduate college and classes started at 6.45 am and a 30 min car ride to did not make it any easier. And then when I went to Japan to teach, I had to take the 7 am train to reach my school. Not a whole lot of fun for a person like me!! But the faces of the kids made it all worth the effort it took on my part to get ready in the morning.

This morning, from our balcony.

While reading Sandy’s post, I was thinking how our morning rituals perhaps keep evolving as we move through life. In Japan, it always involved grabbing a coffee from one of the vending machines and an o-nigiri (Japanese rice balls) or the extra delicious Cream Pan (Custard Cream filled buns), depending on my mood. And there was this bakery right where I came out of the station and that was always bustling with busy morning commuters because all of their bakery items were just perfect!! Or maybe I am partial because of my BIG sweet tooth 😉 Some weekends, me and my friends would also walk over to a nearby McDonald’s and get their breakfast and Sandy’s photo of that meal, brought back many a happy memories…thank you Sandy!

When I started life here, most of my classes at grad school were in the morning too and in case you didn’t know Minnesota winters are not very ideal for morning classes! Bundled up with steaming hot tumblers of tea or coffee in their hands, students and professors would be rushing to get into the buildings. My morning ritual mostly involved trying not to slip on the icy roads while running to get the bus!

Here in New Jersey, a decade later and no longer working at the moment, my mornings look a lot different. They usually involve cuddling with my kids before the day begins and then going about the chores of everyday life. I am a tea person (for my morning beverage) and a right cup sets the mood for the day. Now that school is virtual, my mornings are spent helping out my son as needed while he has fun figuring out the tools.

Over the years, however, I have sort of ‘formed’ a ritual that I try to follow from time to time in the mornings and that gives me some much needed ‘me time’ which clears my head and helps me relax. I quietly slip out of the house, while my kids and husband are sleeping,with the camera in hand with the aim of taking photos. It is mostly around the neighborhood and typically in spring and fall. That time of the day helps explore better without too many people around and I must say, I have loved doing this for some years now. Even when on vacation, I make it a point to get up early, if not to catch the sun rise (which also I try never to miss) but to just find out a bit more about the surroundings. I think I may have gotten this habit from my father who would always get up very early, while on vacations, and explore the area around our place of stay and before setting out for ‘sight seeing’ he would always take us out to to experience the local flavor, some ‘hidden gems’ as he would call them. When I look back, I find that many of those made for more memorable moments than the bigger tours.

Here are some photos that are the result of that ‘morning ritual’ I have made for myself.

Sunrise, Maryland

For some of us, these rituals keep changing, evolving as I mentioned earlier. But then there are so many of us for whom these are more like a routine. My father and many like him of his age back in Kolkata had a set routine for the mornings. Get up, have tea while reading the newspaper and then go out to the bajaar (the market) for daily supply of fresh fish and vegetables. Once back home, it would involve getting ready for work and leaving home, in case of my father, as the clock struck 8.45am. Across oceans, decades later as I pour my morning tea, I often wonder if my father misses his morning ritual now that he has retired from work . And I can’t help but think how has the pandemic affected millions of people all over the world as they adjust to different morning routines, carving out new rituals while letting go of older ones. It may be relaxing for some, while for some it may be making more sacrifices and working harder than before.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe. Stay kind.

Monday Motivation

Summer is almost gone and here in NJ, one can sense that Fall is not that far away. The brilliant blue sky and a cooler air greets you when you step outside while indoors late evenings and early mornings may want you to reach out for a light blanket and feel a little more cozy. Schools will be starting next week and while none of what is happening makes sense, I am hoping that brings back some sort of normalcy in the lives of the little ones.

The other day, I was talking to my son about the possibility of visiting family and may be spending a day or two with them, who have been indoors except for when venturing out for groceries, occasionally. He loves visiting them and hence obviously has been over the moon making plans, while also trying to not get excited in case we are unable to go as that has happened in the past. A couple of days ago while he was busy deciding what toys he should pack, he asked me if he could touch things in their house and more importantly, if he could hug them. I asked why such a question. He said he wanted to make sure if it was safe since the ‘bad germs’ were still there and he did not want anyone to fall sick. If hugging would make them sick then that would make him very sad and he would rather not hug at all. Kids, often wiser and kinder and more thoughtful that they are given credit for.

In our often trying-to-make-through-the-day-somehow life where the crazy and crazier compete with each other, continuing to be kind is probably something, that shines through. And if we think about it, being kind is not hard. It should come to us naturally…shouldn’t it? And yet, harsh words, it seems, are always looming around in the corner, ready to jump in at the slightest opportunity. Passing by a stranger who is struggling to pick up mail that has slipped and fallen on the road, shoveling the snow off my car while choosing to ignore the elderly person struggling with his, waiting on a chance to criticize someone and laugh at them because of the way they look- the list can go on-is downright unkind and shameful. What happened to kindness and empathy? How are these basic human characteristics eluding us? In a world that needs kind and understanding people more than ever before maybe, to make fun of or throw hurtful words at someone because they don’t ‘fit in’ cannot be a thing that gets normalized.

We are better than that. Our kids are better than that. Should we not rise above pettiness and strive towards what is right? We all have our own battles that we are fighting or have fought and to undermine someone else’s struggles, by our actions or words, because it looks different is simply wrong. We struggle with issues that vary by degree and in nature but because yours looks different from mine, does not make it alright on my part to belittle it.

As we keep traveling through the light and dark, let’s help out a fellow traveler who may be going through a rough patch. If you know someone, reach out. It is helpful in more ways than we often realize. A simple ‘ I am here’ can make a huge difference in someone’s life who feels lost. I have, I admit, in the past, held back from reaching out sometimes since I thought it was not my place to do so or what if the other person felt like I was patronizing them? And I could not have been more wrong. Reaching out can only make someone feel good. Life will never be perfect and that’s probably alright. But that should not give us an excuse to be unkind to others and even to our own selves. I hope we all look out for each another, speak up for each other and just be there for each other. Our kids are watching.

Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe. Stay kind.

A Photo A Week Challenge: Vacation Memories

Nancy invites us to take a trip down memory lane and visit a place to two from our vacations past. This year has been challenging, to say the least, and people are hurting not only from the devastating effects of the pandemic but from inequality and hatred that is unfathomable. But the work to make our society just, more compassionate and safe continues and there is hope in that. It is inspiring and powerful. It also makes us reinforce our belief that the sun may set but it also does rise after a dark night. Till then, the fight for equality and justice must go on.

Amidst all that is full of despair and darkness, we have moments from our pocketbook of memories that bring us slices of happiness and peace. This photo is one such slice, from a vacation back in 2013- a sunset in the Everglades.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe. Be Kind.