Lessons From A Plant

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds”, is a well known quote by poet Dinos Christianopoulos. One of my lemon sprouts split at the seed today, making the most of a sunny day and reaching for the light. I had initially thought of sharing a photo blog for today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt, but decided to elaborate on the lessons we learn from plants. The lemon seeds were planted two weeks ago. They sprouted last week, and I was thrilled to see this eager little one getting acquainted with its surroundings this morning. Nature teaches us so much! While we navigate through this maze of life, all nature does is reach for the light. Plants don’t set limits for themselves; them breaking through soil and aiming for the sky teaches us to shatter obstacles in our way and make the most of what we have, where we are. My older saplings always turn towards the sun, causing me to keep turning the pot to prevent the stalks from bending. A lesson in optimism for us, always looking at the bright side of things. Plants move at their own pace, are happy with themselves, and are adaptable. I planted several seeds two weeks ago; some sprouted, some didn’t. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t, either experience should be valued and learned from. The seeds sprouted at different times, one seed cracked open in the morning, and another in the evening, revealing two tiny leaves within. Patience is truly a virtue. It is monsoon season here and we do not always have sunshine, but they have made the most of their environment. Whether rain, wind, fluctuating temperatures, light or shade, they are acutely aware of their surroundings. Their very struggle for existence is their strength, they don’t require each other’s validation to exist and grow, and thrive in simplicity and in the power of silence. While we see the stalks and leaves – and flowers and fruits of older plants – the foundational roots are beyond our sight, and in the case of tubers, the food itself. People have roots the same way. We don’t know everyone’s life story, where they have come from, where they plan on going, what their current state of mind is. It bodes well not to be judgmental of others based on what the surface shows us without having dug deeper. At the same time, remember your worth as a person. The largest of trees starts off as a tiny seed. Value your achievements, applaud your victories, take pride in who you are without being dependent on the opinions of others.

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“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

Move to Write, Write to Move

The pandemic has led to the creation of spaces in new ways to adapt. With outdoor movement limited to the essentials and emergencies, we find ourselves confined indoors like never before. Technology has been a tremendous aid in forging connections far and wide. Along side work and studies that have moved online, I find myself attending workshops, seminars, conferences in far off places and varying time zones, meeting new people, visiting places virtually, being exposed to new subjects, and learning much more than I was earlier.

One of my many lockdown forays was a well spent evening with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library today. A leading public library in America, situated in North Carolina and serving readers across twenty locations, the library works with a mission of strengthening communities and improving lives. Founded in 1903, the library serves as a provider of lifelong education, bringing together readers and learners and fostering personal growth through accessible resources. The library’s core values of openness, learning, respect, inclusion, and leadership were at the forefront this evening with Pamela Turner, the senior library assistant, leading us through an engaging session titled, “Move to Write, Write to Move”. A creativity workshop moderated by copywriter Surabhi Kaushik and therapeutic movement facilitator Jyotsna Srikant that emphasized movement enhancing creativity and writing igniting expression.

One of the courses I had undertaken at the start of the lockdown in March was called, “Healing with the Arts” from the University of Florida. It involved dance, writing, music, painting, photography – using the visual and physical arts as a means of healing mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically through a series of art projects. “Move to Write, Write to Move” follows a similar format of combining different art forms to express oneself – bringing ones core emotions to the foreground and the power of arts on oneself rather than creating something for others. The workshop took us through word and movement to express and create.

We began with freestyle motions, signs and gestures to warm up the body and mind, moving nowhere and to nothing in particular, but moving for the sake of moving. Introductions were followed by a writing prompt of making sense of and internalizing Rumi’s quote, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” My interpretation of these sentences was about being more than we believe ourselves to be. The spaces we fill, the lives we touch, the void our absence leaves – there is so much more to us than we let on to others, and even to ourselves. Proceeding with movement to instrumental music which was a prompt in itself, we wrote about the movement experience. The sensory awareness of this activity reminded me of flowing and floating. Without giving much thought to a specific choreography, where I was going or what I was doing, I let my body sway with the music, flowing like water, light like the clouds drifting across the sky. I remembered the smell of fresh air and the soothing sound of waves, from pre-lockdown times when we could move whenever and wherever we pleased. The pandemic has brought us to the moment. With the body confined and the mind all over the place, it has been an experience keeping the mind still and finding ways to exercise the body.

As a dancer, writer and enthusiast of art as a whole, I loved every part of this workshop. I dance, paint, draw, write, or dabble in craft as a means of personal expression, and the experience of combining multiple art forms is much cherished as they flow into each other, ignite creativity and enhance artistry. A wonderful start to the weekend by trying out something different and making new friends from around the globe.

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Blogging Anniversary

This blog-site completes a year today. Woohoo!! Those of you who have been following this site for a while, would be aware that Curious Cat was the outcome of an accident I had last year. For the uninitiated, I suffered from nerve damage and was bedridden for a couple of months – the entire right leg being paralyzed from hip to foot. Being a marathoner and dancer, staying put was more difficult than the actual injury. Books, movies, art and craft, online courses came to the rescue. I did a couple of random courses on Coursera, and began learning Russian on Duolingo. Along with painting, paper quilling and various other home-made crafts, I was aching to create something more. There was too much information input and not as much energy output. I decided to start a blog to write about things I was doing – thoughts on books I read, experiences on races I had run and dance shows I had performed at; just idle ramblings on whatever came to mind.

Curious Cat was named after my pet cats, who are always interested in what’s going on. And having spent much time with all my pets during the recovery period, I noticed how snoopy cats can be – in contrast to the indifference they are usually known for. This blog was not intended to be read by anyone; just a means of putting my thoughts into words. The settings were initially set to private because I didn’t think anyone would want to read any of it. Unlike a travel blog which would interest travellers, or a fitness site that would bring in exercise enthusiasts, or cookery or book blogs which cater to specific reader groups, I have varied interests. I love all of those things and write about all of them, and much more, and that was where the dilemma lay – in finding like-minded people who also share varied interests. About two months after I started Curious Cat, two friends found out about it from a casual conversation and wanted to read. So I had to change the private settings to public. Within a few days, a large number of “followers” cropped up. I had no idea what they were “following” because my “about” section clearly mentions my ramblings, without offering anything specific to follow.

The initial write-ups centered around book reviews and art work since I was reading a lot and crafting some thing or the other at the time. I’m not from a writing background professionally and didn’t know what to write on, besides the topics that randomly came to mind. When I turned the settings public, I also chanced upon The Daily Post and the word-of-the-day they offered bloggers to write on. November and December were spent diligently writing to every word – I didn’t miss a day! I learnt new words, and expanded and expressed on the ones I knew. It was a great initiative for newbie writers, offering them a base from where to grow. Sadly, The Daily Post discontinued this endeavor within a few months of me finding out about them. But I did connect with some like-minded people through the daily prompts, and realized there were many like me who benefited tremendously as non-writers turned somewhat writers, who wanted to continue writing daily. Stephanie from Curious Steph was instrumental in bringing us all together, and in June this year we formed the Ragtag Community – seven of us from around the globe, working in different time zones to fix a word each day for bloggers to write on. The team presently comprises Sgeoil, Margaret from Pyrenees to Pennines, Tracy from Reflections of an Untidy Mind, Mary from Cactus Haiku, Gizzylaw from Talkin’ to Myself, and of course, Steph and me. The ragtaggers recently completed three months and are growing by leaps and bounds with fellow bloggers dropping in daily to share stories, poems, photographs, or just about anything related to their interpretation of the daily prompts. Each of us has our day to fix the prompt, and Margaret has given us today’s word – energy. (For those who would like to participate.)

About two months ago, some reader friends mentioned they found it difficult to navigate Curious Cat for book reviews and literature related articles. So I started Tomes and Tales – a purely literary venture for fellow bookworms. I love reading and there’s always lots to say and share about books and authors. So at the moment, I manage three blog-sites.

At current count, Curious Cat has 211 followers. I still don’t know what everyone’s following since this was never intended to be a technical blog. But I’m glad to have you all here. The stats show I published 389 articles in the last one year, and the blogging community has played a huge role in inspiring me to write more and connect with fellow readers, athletes, musicians and a plethora of individuals with varying interests. It is rightly said, good things can come out of the bad too. The accident and its aftermath was a horrible time for someone accustomed to moving about, but if not for that forced sedentary lifestyle I might never have ventured into the blogging sphere and met so many lovely people out here. Even a year later with all my energy returned, and easing into races and dance shows step by step, I still try keep up with writing almost every day. It has been great connecting with you all. Keep reading and sharing. 🙂

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A New Day, A New Lesson

The beauty of the Ragtag Daily Prompt (RDP) is that it not only encourages you to think daily about something to write on and hone your writing skills, but also connects you with fellow bloggers from around the globe. With everyone submitting their own interpretation of the myriad ways a prompt can be elaborated on, there is so much sharing and learning within the community – always something new to look forward to. A few days ago I learnt about pantoum – a form of poetry from a submission by Kristian,  a regular participant on the RDP forum. I have never been much of a poetry person, and make a conscious effort to look up something new I come across.

So, I’ve been reading up pantoum lately and found it really interesting and creative. Pantoum is a poetic form derived from pantun – a form of Malay verse, specifically the pantun berkait (a series of interwoven stanzas). The poem can be of any length, but needs to be composed of four-line stanzas. The poetry is characterized by repeating lines throughout the poem, with the second and fourth lines of each stanza repeated as the first and third lines of the following stanza. The first line of the poem is the last line of the final stanza, and the third line of the first stanza is the second line of the last stanza. The meaning of the lines shifts as they are repeated, although the words remain exactly the same – this can be done by shifting punctuation, recontextualizing, or punning (also known as “paronomasia” – another new word I learnt). I’m sharing a pantoum here by Anne Johnson titled “Desert Dawning” .

The desert awakes with a whispered sigh.

A jackrabbit scurries through the brush

while far above a raven cries.

Dawn breaks from a frozen hush.

 

A jackrabbit scurries through the brush

bent on finding food to eat.

Dawn breaks from a frozen hush,

The cold chill of the night retreats.

 

Bent on finding food to eat,

a roadrunner darts across the sand.

The cold chill of the night retreats,

as fiery warmth fills the land.

 

A roadrunner darts across the sand,

in the shadow of a towering sanguaro.

As fiery warmth fills the land

The cactus wren peers at a beetle below.

 

In the shadow of a towering sanguaro

a bevy of quail march by in a line.

The cactus wren peers at a beetle below.

On a sunny rock the lizard reclines.

 

A bevy of quail march by in a line

while far above a raven cries.

On a sunny rock the lizard reclines.

The desert awakes with a whispered sigh.

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Live A Full Life

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”

Today is Ernest Hemingway’s 119th birth anniversary. The American novelist, short story writer and journalist is a commanding presence in the literary world, and had a strong influence on 20th century literature. He produced most of his works between the 1920s and 1950s, and even won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction books. Three of his novels, four short story collections, and three non-fiction works were published posthumously.

His debut novel, The Sun Also Rises, was published in 1926. He based the 1940 novel For Whom The Bells Toll on his journalistic experiences during the Spanish Civil War. Soon after the publication of The Old Man And The Sea (1952), he went on safari to Africa, where he was nearly killed in two successive plane crashes that left him in ill health for a major part of the rest of his life. In 1961 he shot himself in the head in his house in Ketchum, Idaho.

Hemingway’s works are considered masterpieces of American literature. However, even the finest works of fiction pale in comparison to his endeavors in real life. Winner of both the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, Bronze Star recipient, war correspondent, sports fisherman, game hunter, bullfighting aficionado, boxer, War hero – the list of his many non-literary pursuits is endless.

Hemingway learned to handle a gun at a young age – his interest in hunting ranging from pheasant and duck shooting, to big game safaris in East Africa later on in life. He was an amateur boxer, and won several fishing tournaments – his love for sports reflected in many of his short stories. His lifelong zeal for the hunting life can be seen in his masterful works of fiction inspired by his own adventures. From his famous account of an African safari in The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber, to anecdotes about duck hunting in Across The River And Into The Trees – he considered hunting as a means to explore man’s relationship to nature.

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Duck hunting in Idaho
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With a blue marlin

“My writing is nothing, my boxing is everything.”

He used boxing analogies in interviews, had a boxing ring built in his backyard and sparred with guests, and even attempted to teach the poet Ezra Pound to box during his years in Paris.

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Amateur boxing

“He is without question one of the most courageous men I have ever known.  Fear was a stranger to him.”

~Colonel “Buck” Lanham, a close friend and later a Major General, when Hemingway was awarded the Bronze Star for Bravery as a war correspondent.

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War hero – He served with the Red Cross on the Italian front in WWI

“I suppose the most remarkable thing about Ernest is that he has found time to do the things most men only dream about.  He has had the courage, the initiative, the time, the enjoyment to travel, to digest it all, to write, to create it, in a sense.  There is in him a sort of quiet rotation of seasons, with each of them passing overland and then going underground and re-emerging in a kind of rhythm, refreshed and full of renewed vigor.”

~Marlene Dietrich (actress and close friend who commented on Hemingway’s life to a biographer)

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Hemingway’s life experiences contributed as resource material to many of his literary works, and much of his life is reflected in his fiction.

“In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dulled and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well oiled in the closet, but unused.”

~Preface to The First Forty-Nine Stories

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“We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.”

 

Sources:

A. E. Hotchner Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir

American Author’s Series Ernest Hemingway: Wrestling with Life

Ernest Hemingway, Sean Hemingway, Patrick Hemingway Hemingway On Hunting