No one would sleep that night, of course

No one would sleep that night.

Live & Learn

stars

“Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.”

Paul Hawken


Credits: Photograph – NatGeo first place Best Travel Picture Winner in 2011. Ben Canales sprawls in the snow under the starry sky above Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Quote: Thepoetoaster.com


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Goodbye, dear Twitterati 

Courtesy of Creative Commons at flickr.com
Courtesy of Creative Commons at flickr.com

So a few days ago, I quit Twitter. It’s quite possible that I give in to the temptation and drop in again, but for now, I’m off the grid.

I’m not a very social media-savvy kid. I’m not a kid either, but that’s beside the point. What I am is annoyingly particular when it comes to making the most mundane decisions. Woe betide the guy who stands behind me in the Starbucks line! So true to my nature, before quitting, I made a checklist of what I had expected before joining the site. Continue reading “Goodbye, dear Twitterati “

Happiness in a jar

Papaya Jam 1

My latest obsession is making jams. Luscious, lip smacking, fresh-as-the-fruit-it-came-from jam. A month ago Mum left a dozen gooseberries (amla) soaked in water on the kitchen counter, with explicit instructions to drink it every day. Them gooseberries sat pretty on the counter for a week till I remembered. By then, they were soft and mushy and I didn’t have the heart to throw them away, so into the kadhai they went.

That’s when I learnt something interesting: making a small batch of jam is one of the easiest things to do.

It definitely is easier than it looks, once the pectin and sugar have worked magic to transform into glistening jelly. The recipe is easy-peasy: take an equal proportion of fruit to sugar, cook the fruit (diced, mushed or pureed, it’s your call) in a bit of water. Since gooseberries are harder to blend than most fruits, soak it for a day or cook in water till a little tender, before removing the seeds and pulverising the fruit in the blender. Once it’s softened, add the sugar and lime juice (the juice from a lemon would do for a cup of fruit) and let it come to a rolling boil (on high heat). Don’t skimp on the sugar, as the reaction between pectin and sugar gives jam its jelly-like consistency. If the mixture looks watery even after boiling for several minutes, it probably needs more pectin: add a squeeze of lemon or orange.

The major ingredient in jam making is pectin, found naturally in citrus fruits. High-pectin fruits gel faster.  Over-ripe fruits have lesser amounts of pectin, so they don’t set as well. Lucky me, I started with amla, which any Indian mother will tell you is brimming with Vitamin C (as well as pectin).

Continue reading “Happiness in a jar”

All art is useless

In 1890, a fan wrote to Oscar Wilde asking him to explain a sentence in the preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray : “All art is quite useless”. How could a writer say something so callous? Did it not put to question his own existence? Wilde’s reply was both relevatory and magnificent in its brevity.

“A work of art is useless as a flower is useless,” he writes. Its purpose is not to educate or influence. A flower blossoms for its own joy. “Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental.”

Lippincott doriangray

Below is the transcript of the letter. The complete letter can be found on Letters of Note :

16, TITE STREET,
CHELSEA. S.W.

My dear Sir

Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.

A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.

Truly yours,

Oscar Wilde

We Talked to Our Kids About Souls

A wonderful post about nature and souls, and the joyous instincts of children.

Butterfly Mind

Swinging Bridge at Babcock State Park, West Virginia, autumn on andreabadgley.com Swinging Bridge at Babcock State Park, West Virginia

“Hey Mom, are trees living things or living beings?”

Our nine year old son looked into the forest then up at me as we hiked side by side along a gurgling brook. His dad and sister walked a few steps ahead of us. Upstream was the Glade Creek Grist Mill in West Virginia, a rustic wooden building with a pitched roof. Today its wet planks were framed by yellowing autumn trees.

“I guess that depends on what you mean by living being,” I said. “I think of a being as — ” I tried to think of words that would be familiar to him. I failed. “As a sentient being — something that has a soul.” The path was littered in gold, red, and toast brown leaves, and I kicked at a drift with my leather hiking shoe.

“Personally, I think of trees…

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Will this matter a year from now?

I collect minutes like stray pennies. I tuck them into my pockets, uncovering them every so often then tossing them away without a care. Because it’s just a penny, after all. One cent. One minute. Sixty little seconds. I forget they add up, slowly, when I’m not looking. I empty them into a jar without thinking, until one day I realize the jar is full. Not only with pennies. Sometimes there are nickels or dimes. Perhaps a quarter. If I really dig into the jar and spill the coins across my floor in a sea of forgotten moments that have piled up, a dollar bill might peek out at me. Like missing afternoons and lost weekends. Those months that fly by when I did nothing with them. I stack up my coins and imagine the places they could have taken me. With crossed legs and hopeful eyes, I consider them…

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What NOT to do in a departmental meeting

Hi everybody. This is Frank Sinatra, reporting live from a departmental meeting. This is what we (the small fry) do during these meetings: write pen and paper blogs at the back of our conference pads. The more talented ones draw caricatures of the big boss and pass the sheets around. At this moment, twenty five of us are seated in an air conditioned office discussing the best way to name standards. No, not what standards are to be followed. Not who should be responsible. What to NAME them. The polemics of this departmental meeting hark back to the time of Greek philosophers who spent fruitless hours arguing over how many angels sit on a pinhead. Such an erudite way to spend man hours!

In this context, I would like to present a few valuable lessons siphoned off from these ‘knowledge-gaining sessions’ (sic):

Lesson No. 1

Don’t occupy the front seats. Even if you work in a company where the senior managers claim not to mind (lucky you!); you are just drawing attention to yourself. The only palpable result will be that you will have to keep getting up to wipe the white board and (this is the worst) occasionally draw charts and pie diagrams to prove somebody else’s point. Or you might be asked to draw something and explain it yourself, and then what will you do??

Besides, there is the obvious lack of space. Eye rolling when the bosses speak nonsense and passing defamatory comments are only safe from the far far end of the room.

Lesson No. 2

Ask no questions. If you do, you will be turned into a case study and dissected till you wish you could disappear. Because the big fry never expect such impudence.

“Do you have any doubts? Please free feel to ask.” When your boss says such a things he is joking. Trust me. In fact he is merely listening to how his booming voice echoes off the round table. He is not, I repeat, he is not looking to clear your doubts. This is merely a primer for the upcoming line, which will be, hold your breath, “Since everybody is clear on this, we can move on to the next slide…”. Don’t fool yourself into raising a hand and cause his irascible temper and breath to flow down everyone’s noses.

Lesson No. 3

Keep a pen and paper handy so you can pretend to write notes and look attentive if someone happens to glance at you. Also useful for doodling and creating true-to-life caricatures. From personal experience I can vouch that the gentle drone of boss-speak is very conducive to poetry writing.

Lesson No. 4

This one is for the females: loosen your ponytail till it covers your ears, plug in those earphones and enjoy. Remember to keep the volume low enough to hear if the head honcho asks something to you. And if you’re caught, flash that disarming smile you keep handy for the traffic policemen who catch you taking triples down M.G. road.

(For the guys: Sorry. No long hair, no flashing smile, ergo no music.)

Lesson No. 5

Ask no questions. Didn’t we cover that already?

Yup, that’s about it. Keep these points handy and you are fully equipped to last through marathon team meetings!

And I always wondered why...