The Daylily

Daylily

You live in glory

for but a day, then leave us,

through courage or fear?

Daylilies bloom for just one day then curl up and die in their prime. They bypass the stage when petals shrivel and brown and linger until life’s end. Their short lifespan, and their exit while looking their best, reminds me of the saying “live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse” which actor James Dean has been known to quote. Dean’s life mirrored this sentiment, he loved fast cars and died at age twenty-four in an auto accident while speeding in his Porsche.

Daylilies got me to thinking about whether I would prefer to die in my prime or age gracefully. It would take courage for one to choose an early death, or abject fear of being old, or perhaps vanity can be a factor that wields such power in some. Since I am sixty-five, prime might have come and gone but I can still consider if I would prefer to continue living with a few more wrinkles and blemishes and aches and pains, or not.

For me this is a no-brainer. I am not afraid to embrace the changes that aging brings. I would take whatever old age offers and continue to live. I believe that I can still be of use on this Earth, and I know that I still have a lot to do and see and learn. I would gladly accept some discomfort and rolls and wrinkles to continue to enjoy the gifts of this world before I proceed to the next. The big pasture in the sky can wait if I have any say in it.

Chai Away the Cold

Chai

Unforgiving wind

chilling body, mind, and soul.

Aaahhh! Hot, spicy chai.

We know the feeling we get when we are out on a blisteringly cold winter’s day with a merciless wind blowing in our faces. It is the kind of cold that reaches down to your bones and lingers even when you enter the warmth of your home or office. Time for a cup of hot chai or ginger tea. (As an added note, the word chai means tea, so saying chai tea would be saying tea tea.)

The spices in chai are known to have thermogenic properties, meaning that they encourage your body to produce heat. Common chai spices are ginger, cardamom, black pepper, and cinnamon, all boiled together with black tea in a mixture of milk and water with sugar added. The recipe for chai is not fixed and the proportion of ingredients varies according to individual preference. Some may add other spices to enhance the flavor, such as clove (I like the flavor of clove in my chai), or anise. Many brands of tea now offer chai in teabag form so brewing is easier, but the taste might not be as rich or to your satisfaction as when you blend your own. You can also get bulk quantities of premixed chai ingredients which you can use to make chai the traditional way.

Thermogenic spices have been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries and science has confirmed the healing properties of several. On the other side of the world in Mexico and Central and South America, hot peppers such as jalapenos, habaneros, cayenne, and chili peppers are also thermogenic, so a chunk of pepper jack cheese could also help keep your insides warm and toasty on a frosty day.

The Crocus

To The Crocus

Words fail to capture

the essence of your spirit,

unsullied by fear.

Certain blooms, roses, tulips, and peonies come to mind, are celebrated for their beauty or scent, others like lavender are also valued for healing. History has it that the tulip was once a status symbol that gave rise to what was termed tulipmania in seventeenth-century Holland, and at one time tulip bulbs were worth as much as a mansion in Amsterdam. That is difficult to fathom.

Such flowers have been glorified in countless poems and paintings through the ages, and their singular looks warrant such accolades, but the flower that grabs my attention and admiration most is the crocus.

The spirit of the crocus is unmatched. I have watched these tender blooms burst out of the ground when snow still lingered. Their sheer hutzpah is inspiring to behold. They do not play the diva, they do not seek to be primed and pruned and pampered, they do not demand balmy days or cooling rain before they bestow us with their glory. Instead, the crocus is ready to add beauty to our world when it needs it most, after long wintry days without color. They are not intimidated by the cold. At times they are beaten down and appear defeated, but then amaze us with their resurrection.

How can one not be moved by the spunk, the heart, the moxie of this six-inch Amazon?

Pictures in my Window

My World

Each day a new scene

unfolds outside my window.

Inside, a new me.

My window frames a painting that changes every day. Sometimes the difference from one day to the next is subtle, especially the trees in winter. The only thing different might be one less straggler leaf on a branch, or the presence of a cardinal. There may be a different car in a spot where another was yesterday, or an empty space, The pattern of snow on the rooftops may vary ever so slightly.

Whatever the difference, whether subtle or glaring the picture changes every day. The scene does not remain static. Gradually the trees transform through the season, the snowfall varies, the icicles melt and grow, different people come and go.

So it is with us. I am not the same person upon awakening as was the me that went to bed. The difference here is practically undetectable but we did not acquire the body and mind we have today without the gradual change we call growing or ageing. We will keep on changing, that is not negotiable. What is in our control is how we see that change.

Starry Night

Starry Night

The stars wait until

sun and moon make their exit,

then they dazzle us.

The sun dominates the sky during the day, bathing us in light and warmth and fostering life. The moon at night reflects the sun’s light to brighten out paths and help us make our way in the dark. And when both sun and moon are absent, the stars come out to play, treating us to a sparkling sky that has bedazzled many a poet and artist and driven them to capture the beauty of a starlit sky with words and paint.

We will not consider the scientific description of stars here. We will put aside the fact that they are unimaginably hot balls of fire, many more massive than our daytime star, the sun. We will only see them as they appear to the naked eye, the way humans have been observing them for ages.

There has been a mystique surrounding stars since ancient times. Arabs, observing the clear desert skies named many of the brightest stars, Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, Altair, Deneb and so on, to represent the image that came to mind. The Greeks saw heroes and figures from mythology in the constellations and named them accordingly, Orion, Gemini etc.

Sailors in ancient times looked to the stars to guide them as they navigated the seas, but it was the beauty of the stars that awed artists and inspired them to capture their beauty in verse and on canvas. That beauty, of sequins sparkling on dark velvet, is ours to behold when the sun and moon do not take center stage.

So it is with humans. Some of us are not blazing hot, we do not emit heat and light, some of us are not fashioned to brighten a dark night, but so many of us, as in the number of stars, can bring beauty to the world if given the chance to shine.

A Lifetime in a Day

The Sun

Eventide sun, as

arrestingly beautiful

as in its dawning.

Poets have written about the stunning beauty of both sunrises and sunsets, and photographs and paintings of the sun at these times of day give truth to the poets’ words.

The appearance of the sun at the beginning and end of its day reminds me of a lifetime, where both the youth of that life and the latter years are filled with beauty, different but equally arresting and interesting and worthy to behold.

Hidden Potential

Trees in Winter

The trees play dead now,

waiting to spring upon us,

a glorious surprise.

We are not fooled by the appearance of trees in winter. They may look bare and stark and dead, but we know that they are just waiting for the right conditions to display their glory. A little sunshine, a little rain, a little love, and their hidden potential will burst forth.

Could it be the same with humans? We are not fooled by how the trees look in winter, but are we likely to be fooled by the appearance of those who do not appear to be smart, or social, or beautiful, or kind? What would happen if they received the right conditions? A little care, a little nurture, a little love. Is it possible that given the right conditions that they would display their glory, that their hidden potential would burst forth?

Solitude versus Loneliness

Alone

On being alone –

loneliness drowns the spirit,

solitude uplifts.

I enjoy spending time with others and yet I treasure my time alone. Solitude frees me to be with just my thoughts, to let them unfold as they may without interruption from the world outside my mind. This quote by Paul Tillich best describes my conception of solitude versus loneliness: “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

Solitude is a state one chooses whether it is to be isolated from humanity like hermits, or to be in close quarters with others yet have your own space, like living alone in a house or apartment. It is a healthy state of mind. Loneliness is not a choice, and one does not need isolation to feel the weight of this state of mind, one can be lonely and feel despair in a crowd.

Many have found that they need solitude in order to be creative. The numerous retreats for writers and artists in the U.S. and around the world offer short-term, worry-free isolation for creatives to immerse themselves in their work without concern for preparing meals or doing household chores or fiddling with the internet. Nikola Tesla believed that “the mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude.”

I find that solitude helps me to know myself. My thoughts and actions are unfiltered when I am alone and free from the influences of others; they reveal the person that I truly am, whether good or bad or a bit of both.

First Snow

First Snow

Snow was but a dream

that I longed to touch one day.

And then that day came.

Growing up in Guyana, near the equator, the only snow I saw was in the movies, in picture books, or on Christmas cards.

My favorite snow scenes were on the Christmas cards. The snow was always pure and white with sparkles. Every scene was a happy one; children sledding, people skating, smiling families walking by decorated stores. Oh, how magical those scenes were. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to see snow, and feel snow, and make snow angels.

I had the chance to experience snow for the first time in January 1977, when I came to the United States. For those of you who remember that winter your memories may not all be pleasant, but for me the fulfilment of my dream to experience snow will always rise above any other memory of that magical whiteness.

My warmest piece of clothing up until then was a cardigan that a relative had sent from abroad, from a country where people needed cardigans. That is what I was wearing when I exited the PanAm jet. I thought I was set, ready for the cold that I had heard about. I must have been freezing, at least for a bit, given the weather statistics of that time, but that is a memory that did not survive; it was overshadowed by excitement and relief. Excitement at being in a new country and seeing and touching snow, and relief at experiencing the freedom of being in that new country. That was what kept me warm.

Icicles

Icicles

The sun in winter.

Growing season

for icicles.

It is an exercise in patience to watch icicles slowly melt in the tepid rays of a winter sun only to freeze again into a larger version before nightfall. There might be a lesson in there; that drastic change helps us grow. For icicles, the only way they can grow is by totally transforming themselves from one state of matter into another, from liquid to solid, then solid again.

In observing icicles I discovered that the way I see them depends on my mood, or the lighting, or the time of day. Sometimes I see pretty, sparkling decorations reminiscent of Christmas, at other times I’m reminded of EKG readings, and every now and then I am taken aback by the menacing teeth of a great shark or of some prehistoric monster. All the while, the icicles remain just icicles.