I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Was it true or was I dreaming? I couldn’t wrench my eyes off the scene. In fact, I couldn’t have enough of it.
I checked the clock to be sure. Yes, it was half past eleven. Almost midnight. But outside my window, the world was bright. Like day, yet not quite. It felt like I had stepped into a painting, another universe– a place I’d never been to before.
The blizzard had run out of steam, or taken a pause so it seemed. The air was still. The naked trees were sporting a shiny new coat of snow. The sky was white, so was the earth. There was no sound, nothing moved, yet everything throbbed with life. I was in awe.
It was too fantastic to be true. Yet true it was. I had the proof outside my window.
The Grand Canyon. Who hasn’t heard of it? Everyone has. But you need to go there for yourself to realize it’s awesomeness! Grand doesn’t come close to describing it. I’ve been there a few times–still I catch my breath each time I lay eyes on it. Over two billion years of earth layers were cut by the mighty Colorado river and it’s tributaries.
My last trip there a few years ago was my most memorable one. It was part of a school trip– with my daughter and some of her classmates. We stayed in the Grand Canyon village at the South rim for two days and even hiked down the South Kaibab trail— only part of the way (it’s extremely steep and strenous). We also saw a mule train, the once almost extinct California Condor which the largest flying bird in North America with a wingspan reaching 10 ft—brought back by a dedicated captive breeding program.
As I have mentioned before I am inspired by my travels and the places I visit. I try to bring them into my writings whenever I can. You will find some of my experiences of the Grand Canyon in my books– Inconvenient Relations and its sequel- Now and Forever. You can check them outhere.
It wasn’t just a grove. It was a magical, mystical jungle of living, breathing giants that left Shaan awe struck. Neither of them spoke as they ambled slowly on the well-worn dirt paths and listened to the trees, some almost two thousand years old, as they related tales of times gone by. Of emperors, and kings and queens, and of battles fought for love and for greed.
A sudden transformation came over Ruhi when they came upon a fallen tree. She leaned against the dead trunk; her frame dwarfed by its girth, then closed her eyes and whispered in a voice rife with melancholy. “Who am I but a speck of dust this poor soul can’t even see?”
Shaan couldn’t keep his emotions in check. He hauled her into his arms and they wept together as they grieved for their mutual loss.
A few summers ago, on a tour to the UK, I happened to be in Edinburgh, spending the evening in a hotel next to the well known zoo. So, in order to kill time, I decided to pay a visit and came across the enclosures with the usual occupants in various states of animation. I went inside the primate enclosure and saw this particular individual sitting in this state, and it made a great impression on me. It was as if I was seeing a human being, an old wise one, pondering on the sad state of life and it almost reduced me to tears. I wish I’d known what he was thinking. Was he contemplating on a happier past?I’m not sure if he was ever free or was born in captivity.
Now that we are in the midst of the most unusual situation of our lives — when people are rebelling, crying for freedom, even when we are living in our homes and have freedom of movement and the internet do we spare a thought for our fellow sentient beings? What have they done to deserve this awful treatment? That we go to gawk at them, even tease and instigate them. What right do we have to shut these beautiful creatures up in cages so small they can barely move. We jail them like criminals and sometimes even abuse them. I also speak of circus animals. And when they turn around on us we call them rogue– take for example the case of Tilikum, the killer whale, who was captured at the age of two and spent the rest of his life performing at SeaWorld. He was responsible for the death of three people allegedly as a result of psychological trauma he suffered. Please watch (if you haven’t already) the wonderful documentary Blackfish, available on Netflix to know more. It’s an eye opener.
Fortunately, nobody can enslave humans (at least by law), but slavery of animals continues unchecked and we lack the basic quality of humanity that defines us.
According to me one of the most spectacular scenes of nature is the play of the sun across the horizon. I’ve been lucky to watch the sunset often–over the Rockies and the ocean (whenever I visit the California coast) but not as often as the sunrise. The reason is quite obvious. I’m not an early riser, unfortunately.
Today, however I had to get up quite early to drive to the bus stop to pick up my husband (better than the 40 min haul to and from the airport). On the way back, I witnessed the most ordinary yet extraordinary phenomenon–the advent of dawn. First, the burgundy tint to the clouds in the east, followed by the gradual lightening of the skies and then the most spectacular of all– orange flames consuming the horizon. I was mesmerized. Who wouldn’t be? If you think about it there’s no other message more powerful than of a new day. It’s the message of hope, of change, of renewal, of revival. No wonder native people around the world worship the Sun and have done so for millenia including those from my country.
Surya namaskar (Salutations to the Sun)
In the Vedas (ancient Hindu scriptures) Surya also known as Aditya is the Sun God. He first appears in literature in the Rig Veda (the oldest among the Hindu texts composed between 1500 and 1000 BC). He travels across the sky in a massive chariot pulled by seven horses representing the seven colors of the rainbow. He is also the creator of the material universe or prakriti. Those familiar with the practice of Yoga are familiar with Surya Namaskar or Sun salutation; a sequence of twelve poses, performed in the early morning on an empty stomach facing the east. They provide an excellent whole body stretching routine and cardiovascular workout. The purpose of this most famous yoga sequence which is in practice for thousands of years is to express gratitude to the Sun, the giver of life and the source of energy. According to Hindu tradition, different parts of the body are governed by divine impulses. One of these, the solar plexus (also called the second brain) is located in the center of the body and is connected to the Sun. The regular practice of Surya Namaskar enhances it thereby increasing our creativity and intuition. The notion is very tempting. Enough (I hope) to nudge me awake every morning 🙂