Daffodils

I first came across this flower on a winter night in Delhi. Its fragrance, warm and heady, heavy in the cold still air, drew me straight to the seller. I made a few enquires and found out it was called nargis. A few google searches, and I found its English name – daffodil.

...and then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils

…and then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils

This simple wild flower is often overlooked. In the United States, it blooms around the same time as the cherry blossoms. Everybody goes cherry blossom viewing, but no one goes daffodil watching in particular. Few pause to admire them as they toss their golden heads, and flutter and dance in the breeze.

This post is my tribute to this elegant harbinger of spring.

 

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Sakura Hanami

Of all the festivals, Holi was my favourite growing up. Holi celebrates celebrates the coming of spring with all its beautiful colours. When I was a not so little girl, we had a  tradition. Every year, my mother would take a picture of me before I washed off all the colours.

Branch Brook Park - Cherry Blossoms2Here in the United States, I have appropriated the Japanese tradition of welcoming spring by going “cherry blossom viewing”. If we can’t go anywhere, I make it a point to stand under a cherry tree and admire the pale pink clouds. Washington D.C. hosts a very popular cherry blossom festival, but I have always maintained it’s nicer to go locally. The D.C. festival is great and can be done once, but it feels like everyone in the country has descended on tidal basin.

Collages15This year, we went to the Branch Brook Park in Newark, a twenty minute drive from home. At first it seemed like the rapid weather changes in the past week had destroyed  all the blossoms. Walking around a bit, we saw other groups headed to the other side of the water. Crossing over, we found Spring had not been completed routed. It had fallen back and held it’s lines here.

Branch Brook Park - Cherry Blossoms1In Japanese culture the short life of the delicate sakura (cherry blossoms) is considered symbolic of the fleeting nature of life.The blossoms fall around two weeks after they peak. Hanami literally means “viewing blossoms” and the tradition can be traced back to the last millennium. During the Nara period (710–794), in a  more ancient form of the tradition, people admired the transient beauty of ume (plum blossoms). In was only during the  Heian period (794–1185) that  hanami became synonymous with sakura. Today, a thousand years later and an ocean away, people still enjoy picnicking under the trees.

Riding a Camel on the Sand Dunes of the Moroccan Sahara

April 2015

 The Sleeping Gypsy

The Sleeping Gypsy

I was at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) a few days ago and Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy filled me with a strange longing to experience a desert landscape. I imagine myself riding a camel through the shifting sand dunes of the Moroccan Sahara. The Sahara, meaning “The Great Desert,” in Arabic is the world’s largest hot desert and one of the harshest environments on the planet. I imagine the Sahara as a vast expanse of soft sand dunes, where dehydration and intense sunlight reflecting off the sand trick the eye into seeing things that don’t exist. The Sahara is much more. Most of the Sahara is characterized as rocky hamada, a type of desert landscape that has very little sand and is made up of primarily barren, hard, rocky plateaus.

Our first subscription box ever - the Marrakesh Box from try the World

Our first subscription box ever – the Marrakesh Box from Try the World

I see myself riding a camel on massive sand dunes of Erg Chicaga, with a guide to keep us from getting lost. Story has it that long long ago, a wealthy family refused hospitality to a poor woman and her son. God was so offended by this act that *He buried them under the mounds of sand today. In the modern world, these sand dunes are know as Erg Chebbi or Erg Chicaga.

Starting before dawn to beat the heat; admiring the colourful sunrise, we’ll march in silence. Slowly we’ll get accustomed to the awkward gait of the camel as it lurches forward, even learning to sit cross legged like Lawrence of Arabia.  When it gets too hot and the desert starts to shimmer in a thousand shades of burnished gold, we’ll set up our tents at an oasis and rest in the shade of a palm tree. They say if you know where to look, water is never more than 10 kilometers away. Could there be anything more ethereal than standing atop the picturesque dunes at sunset and watching as the harsh yellow glare magically transforms into soft glowing shades of orange, pink and purple? If the night is warm, we’ll sleep under the stars, or sing songs in the light of the radiant moon. On cold nights, we’ll warm ourselves by a crackling fire and listen to wondrous stories filled with lions and djinns!

Moroccan Goodies

Moroccan Goodies

The end of November, and January and February are the best times to visit Erg Chebbi/ Erg Chicaga. The weather is not as harsh as summer or peak winter and since it is off season, it is also the quietest time.

Was it worth it? Well, the subscription rate is definitely more than the aggregate cost of the goods, but it is curated and sweetly packed and overall not very expensive. For $30 -$40 every 2 months, I'll take it.

Was it worth it?
Well, the subscription rate is definitely more than the aggregate cost of the goods, but it is curated and sweetly packed and overall not very expensive. For $30 -$40 every 2 months, I’ll take it.

*He – I believe God is gender free. I refer to him as masculine purely for convenience and convention

P.S – The date is not a typo. This is from April 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland

I don’t say je t’aime and je t’adore as often as I should, not aloud atleast, but always remember that I am saying it, that I go to sleep thinking of you.

… the words are stolen, but the feelings are true.

February 6 and 7, 2016

Black water national refuge (2)This year, we decided to celebrate our anniversary with the national  animal and bird of America  – the bald eagle. Our original plan was to shack up in an adults only resort, but Valentine’s day and the President’s day long weekend put an arrow through that plan. Every single room with a Jacuzzi or heart shaped bed was booked out at astronomical rates. This gave us an opportunity  for some early celebrations at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. This wetland  is a popular destination for migratory water fowl and the only place on the east coast,  north of Florida where the bald eagle can be spotted. Much like the birds, we’ve flown a long way to build our nest so what better way could there be to mark this momentous day!

Collages13It was almost closing time when we got there, but we drove through the refuge before going to the charming  B&B we had booked. Keen to be a part of our celebrations, the sky slowly changed  from blue to warm rusty orange as the sun set. We could have watched forever.  Even though it is illegal to consume or carry alcohol into the refuge, we sorely regretted not have a bottle of bubbly and two flutes at hand.

Black water national refuge2We were staying at the Mill Street Inn Bed and Breakfast, a beautifully restored Victorian house in the heart of the Cambridge’s historic district. This house  was built  in 1894 and remained in the family until 2004.  In 2006 Skip and Jennie Rideout restored it as a B&B. We were absolutely charmed by  our room.  It wasn’t just the tasteful room decor, wine and chocolates, there were maps and brochures by the bedside and makeup removal wipes in the bathroom. Very thoughtful!  The house has 3 common fireplaces, a large wall to ceiling bookshelf, a piano, a chess table and more. Every corner has a small surprise. Did I mention the pineapple leitmotif? I found it a little out of place, but heck it’s cute!

Black water national refuge1Jennie and Skip are both great  hosts and their age belies their enthusiasm.We wanted to be at the refuge early, so Skip was  gracious enough to wake up before us and make coffee. He even gave us muffins to take with us. It was the kind of morning where you want to wrap your arms around yourself and  walk even if you have no place to go or be. Cool, quiet and peaceful. The beauty of the landscape was in its simplicity. There were no majestic mountains or vast expanse of sea. The trees didn’t tower tall and proud, nor were they gnarled and twisted into fantastic shapes as testimony to  the power of the wind. The refuge glowed softly in the first light of day. The water was still as a mirror. Brown rushes fringed its edges. Flocks of ducks and geese dotted the marsh. We saw snow geese with their black tipped wings, tundra swans who as their name suggests had flown in from the arctic tundra, stately great blue herons and the king of birds – the bald eagles. The bald eagle has a white head and a white tail and  is easy to identify even at a distance. With a wingspan of 5.9 – 7.5 feet, it is an impressive sight in flight. It’s beak, talons and eyes are a fierce yellow. When perched, the hard glint in its eyes and strong beak give it a striking appearance. You don’t want to get close enough to look into its eyes, but here’s a secret – the king is actually a coward. Bald eagles rarely hunt dangerous prey on their own. They target creatures much smaller than themselves. They obtain much of their food by scavenging carcasses or by stealing prey away from other predators. Not very kingly behavior, eh?

Another fun fact – Female bald eagles are usually a third larger than the males.

Collages14As the sun started to rise higher and the early morning mist faded, we made our way back to breakfast at Mill Street Inn. Jennie had quite a spread ready. She even accommodated my vegetarian diet.  At breakfast, we met the lovely couple staying in the other room. They had a local connection and advised us to try Old Salty’s on Hoopers island for lunch. Old Salty’s did not have anything vegetarian apart from a salad, so we drove on to their second suggestion. We went up and down the island twice but could not find it. As we gave up and were driving out of Hoppers, our new acquaintances called to inform us that the husband had left his wallet to Old Salty’s.

Lunch happened at a taqueria in the next town. The husband ordered shrimp diablo and boy was it HOT!!! On the way back, we stopped for ice creams at our old haunt – U-Dairy Creamery . As we drove home the sky turned into an unbelievable pink, like a tent of multi hued silk.  The world seemed determined to remind us that the celebrations were not over.