Archive for January, 2014

The curious incident of the cats in the day-time*

This week was extremely relaxing. I worked from home four out of the five days. And the partner did too (which is good for him considering the amount of rest he’s been able to get to heal his broken ankle and fever and upset stomach). We had a storm warning Tuesday through Thursday afternoon, so we chose that as an excuse to stay home. No one wants to risk driving on icy roads, you see. And on Friday – well, what better reason than the fact that it’s Friday to sit back and unwind at home?

Most of the mornings and afternoons were spent working, obviously. I did take some time here and there to indulge in some reading, day dreaming, etc. but that’s no different than what I would’ve done had I actually gone to the office. What was different though was that almost all week long we’ve spent a lot of time comfortably lazing around on the couches, gorging on simple yet delicious food, looking out as it snowed, observing the white carpet on the ground melt slowly, listening to the birds chirp merrily, watching the flock of deer as they grazed and ran away through the backyard, and more. Little joys, that’s what it’s all about, right?

Evenings, now those were a little tricky given the partner’s penchant for the outdoors. Make him sit home for a few hours together and his restlessness becomes evident. So, to relieve him of his ennui we had to make sure we stepped out to get some fresh air. Since the weather and his health weren’t at their best, every evening we only made a quick trip to the grocery store (I know that doesn’t count as doing something outdoorsy, but that was best we could do to get some much needed fresh air). It was to get milk during one trip, to buy cereal during the other. We went out to shop for a kettle last evening. We found a really pretty one, but it held our delight only until we tried to boil some water in it and found it leaking, sigh.

The time after dusk, the time that melts into nights, were spent in front of the TV getting lost in the world of witchcraft and wizardry. The partner finished reading all the Harry Potter books earlier this month. And now we are on the magical journey of watching all the movies in the series. We are done with the first four, and we have four more to go. It’s been a fun ride, to say the least. The partner gets flabbergasted over the huge chunks of missing storyline. He often scrutinizes the movie maker’s choice to let an important part slip, cut out a character, tweak storyline, etc. “But this is not how it happens, really.” “Why is the story moving so fast?” “But they missed pointing this or that out” are some lines that can be heard over and over from the movie’s inception to completion. All Harry Potter fans can relate to this, can’t they? I sure can.

Now, let’s talk about the cats. We have at least three different cats that wander our yard throughout the day. One of the cats we know to be our neighbor’s. We’ve seen him around all this time that we’ve lived here. We named him Tiger** way back when and have been calling him that ever since. We don’t know who the other two cats belong to except that they find a home in our yard every single day.

So, all week this week we’ve observed that these cats come and sit right outside the glass door and peep into the living room. And we have been left wondering what all the cats find so intriguing near the glass door. No, we haven’t figured out yet. All the three make it a point to stop near the door and either scratch the door or squeal at it. They don’t come at the same time, but they definitely do the same action whenever they pop in for a visit. The partner had a brainwave and thought perhaps they were hungry. So we put out a bowl of milk. And two of the cats made sure to avoid the bowl at all costs. One though, the brave heart that he is, took a few sips before slipping away. So, apparently it’s not hunger that brings them there. I checked to see if there are any bugs (dead or alive) inside that they can spot from the outside, but that’s not the case either. The partner’s current theory is that perhaps it’s their own reflection that they find amusing as they sit in front of the door. Maybe; maybe not. He also mentioned, time and again, something about them being cold outside and maybe we should let them in. After vehemently denying his request a couple of times, I have chosen to practice selective hearing so I don’t have to break his heart. I am way too generous, aren’t I? That’s what I thought.

When will this curious incident of the cats in the day-time be explained? Will the mystery ever be solved? I don’t know. It’s been amusing, though.

**Back when we had just moved, we didn’t know about Tiger being our neighbor’s. We’d spotted him a couple of times in the first few days we lived here. One of those days when we went on a short stroll on a neighborhood trail we came across a “Missing Cat” poster. The partner called the phone number to let the woman on the other end know that we’d earlier seen a cat in our backyard that was similar to the one on the poster. The woman was thrilled and she came to our place as soon as she could. To her dismay, though,  it wasn’t her cat. Later we learned from someone else that it was our neighbor’s. How much fun we had laughing endlessly at our ignorant willingness to send Tiger away to a new home.

*Have you read The curious incident of the dog in the night-time? If not, please do. It’s a wonderful book.

Happy weekend, folks.

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Happiness is…

…learning that Mummy’s and Papa’s visas have been approved. They will be traveling in a few months and will spend a decent amount of time with us here. Saying that I am eagerly waiting for their trip would be an understatement. I am absolutely thrilled looking into the future and imagining our time together. I’ve only spent a few hectic weeks in their company so far and that has left me with a strong desire for more. I hope to spend endless hours talking listening to their stories. I hope to share hearty laughter sessions at all the silliest of silliness around. I hope to bring brimming smiles on their faces. I hope I can show them, with my actions, how much they mean to me, how blessed I feel to have discovered family in them, how grateful I am to have had them as a strong a pillar of strength and support to me over the past few years, for I fail to find words to express all this to them. I hope to make their trip a memorable one.

…planning a baby shower for a friend. And waiting to shower the little one with so much love.

…seeing the partner and Amma’s bond grow deeper and deeper. They share conversations, secrets, smiles, jokes (some at my cost, but oh well…), etc. She’s come a long way from being extremely cautious around him to being just as comfortable in his company as she is in mine. With every passing day she appreciates more and more the amazing person that he is. She dotes on him, and he cherishes and reciprocates that affection with all his heart. The smiles on their faces as they interact reveals to me a million happy stories even though I may not know the tale behind what brought it all on in the first place. It makes me greedy; I silently gravitate towards wishing for ____________ Wait, let me worry about that some other day, now’s not the time for that. At this moment I will bask in the bliss my content heart – nothing more, nothing less.

…having an old friend of the partner’s over for dinner and leisurely listening to stories from their past. I spent the evening in their company as they reminisced  and shared little anecdotes from the bygone days… Fun!

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Florida

Our trips, almost all of them, happen spontaneously. We took off to Florida one evening in the same way we usually do for all our trips – bags were packed last minute, no bookings were made except for that night so we could break the journey after an eight or nine hour drive, and off we went without any clear plans about what we were going to do in the next ten days. We had a vague idea about certain things we wanted to do, specific places we wanted to see, but that was about it.

Once in Florida, the partner and I decided to make the Keys our first destination. It wasn’t or first choice, what we had in mind did not take shape; we had to tweak things up a little and that’s how we settled on heading towards the Keys. We had it in our minds to find a campground, but to our dismay everything was booked and we couldn’t get ourselves a walk-in site. After a lot of driving around to see where we can find a place for the night, we finally found a friendly little place that suited our budget and needs. There went our first day of the trip. It was mostly spent driving and looking for accommodation for the next few days. Our primary wish while we were in the Keys was to go snorkeling. The partner has been snorkeling a few times before, but it would have been my first snorkeling experience had it materialized. Alas, it didn’t. Snorkeling is something that has been escaping my chase time and again. The weather is never on my side whenever we plan to go snorkeling. For the whole time that we were there it was windy, and all the snorkeling tours were pretty much canceled. Although that was a big disappointment, we pretty much kept ourselves busy all the time that we were there.

Our next destination was Everglades National Park. We headed straight to the park after we left the Keys. We found ourselves a camping site in one of the campgrounds near the park’s visitor center. And we spent the next few days discovering everything this area had to offer. We hiked, took a tour of a Native American Reservation, went on the Swamp Walk, saw alligator after alligator and drove around some really scenic roads stopping every now and then to take all the tranquil beauty in. It was all such a joyful experience on the whole. Time flew by and before we realized it, it was time for our next destination. And off we went to the Gulf Coast.

Beaches on the Gulf Coast were something that we wanted to be sure to explore during the trip. We had one particular place in mind, which came as a recommendation from a friend, but during our speedy research we found something else that caught our eyes – a state park on an island off the coast that was offering camping opportunity. We were excited by that idea and, this time around, made reservations a day or two prior both with the park and the ferry company that would be taking us to the island. We were all set. Since the island had no restaurants and we were going to be staying there for three nights we had to make prior arrangements for all the food and water we had to carry with us. Buying anything perishable was ruled out since it sure wasn’t going to stand the test of heat. So, while shopping a small grocery store in Everglades, we came across some ready to eat packs that we’d immediately picked up. With those, few loaves of bread and a couple bottles of jam, some pasta and sauce, and a lot of water bottles, we were all set to embark on the journey.

We drove to the place where we were to take the ferry from early in the morning. It was Christmas day, so we were spared of any traffic. We got there way before time. And within hours we were there in our destination island. White sandy shore and blue green waters – we promptly feel in love.

The next three days were spent in glee (Oh well, except one thing that I did to almost ruin it all. What was that, you ask? Well, I cried buckets worth one evening when I spotted a cockroach close to me. Drama – that’s the word that would cross most people’s mind when I say this, but no, it wasn’t even a bit of drama. It was all real. I became a scared little girl at that moment, just as usual whenever I see a roach. They are disgusting, scary creatures. Enough said.) While here, day after day, we walked miles and miles of the shores, collected various seashells, lay on the beach and read for as long as the hearts desired, chased birds, caught a glimpse (more than once!) of dolphins that were dancing oh so gracefully, woke and slept with the sun. It was beautiful, everything about those days on the island.

And about the trip itself – well, what can I say… except that as soon as we returned home, I was immediately ready to plan our next getaway.

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Swamp Walk

The partner and I visited parts of Florida in December. While there, the partner was excited when he came across a guided Swamp Walk tour in one of the parks. And obviously he wanted to give it a try. His enthusiasm brims over for anything that even whispers the word adventure. I, on the other hand, am always overly cautious, extremely scared and anxious about venturing into anything new. This activity though didn’t seem so bad after I read the description. So, there I was, actually looking forward to it, albeit being a tiny bit apprehensive too.

The day arrived. We woke up, got ready and left the campground to get to our destination way before it was time for the walk to start. As soon as we reached the park the partner ran in, hoping and wishing as hard as he could that they would still let us register for the event. We couldn’t signup beforehand because we had no access to the Internet; neither of us owns a smartphone. We were at the mercy of the rangers at this point. And the good people that they are, they let us know that it won’t be an issue as long as they can find extra walking sticks for us. While they went around hunting walking sticks, we went around spotting alligators in the nearby stream. And we gathered near the parking lot alongside the others when it was time for the walk to start.

All of us were given a walking stick. We were told that we would tread in waist deep muddy water in most of our cases (it maybe deeper or less depending on our height). We won’t be able to see where we were stepping all through the two hours. We just needed to follow the ranger’s lead. We were asked to wear footwear that would hold firm to the feet, since there were many patches along the way where our feet could get stuck and our only chances to get our feet out with the shoe was if the shoe were to be tightly held. And that’s where the fun began for me.

I had no proper footwear. I had gone wearing my flats. And that is because I wasn’t expecting to do anything like this during the trip. I had taken with me my brand new pair of running/walking shoes in case we were to go hiking and for other instances I had carried my flats and my slippers. I didn’t want to wear my brand new pair of shoes for this given that I was told over and over that once used for this activity the shoe will pretty much be unusable after. So I was left with wearing my flats. Everyone in the group stared at me as the ranger pointed to my feet and skeptically queried if I would be able to manage. I have no other choice, I let them know. I got ready to bid my shoe goodbye as we began the walk for I may never see them again. The odds were against me… the most likely case was that I would lose them somewhere during the next two long hours.

Except, the two hours went by in a jiffy! We prodded along the muddy trail behind the ranger as she took her time to show and explain things here and there. I was petrified, from time to time. Not knowing where I am stepping, what I am stepping into was unnerving. For someone who is as frightened as I am, every bump on the way, every thick layer of mud that had the power to suck my feet deeper and deeper was daunting. And on top of that, I had to be doubly alert because of my footwear situation. The partner, oh yes, there he was behind me give me a push every now and then, letting me know that I didn’t have to be so conscious, that it wasn’t all that bad.  He taught me a trick to hold on to my shoes in case my feet got caught in tricky spots. I followed what he explained every time I did get stuck. Even with all that, I may have overdone the whole I-am-afraid act a bit to the partner’s bother. But, oh well, that’s always bound to happen with me around.

Long story short, we were back at the parking lot before we knew it. Time flew by when we were there. I was left wishing it went on for a little longer. We couldn’t / wouldn’t stop talking about it as we hosed ourselves off. The experience was remarkable. And yes, my flats. They came back with me, safe and sound. There were many surprised / shocked faces that turned to me as I emerged out of the swamp and onto the road. I triumphed in my effort to make sure I brought them back home. And now, here we are, living happily ever after.

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When time stood still

Cave. A place where every little sound echoes multifold. A place where the meaning of darkness really comes to life. A place where water has worked its marvel over a really long period of time… and still does, carving its way, marking its presence, with every passing second. There we were – in a cave.

We followed the park ranger, who was leading the group, carefully turning on the lights of the path ahead and switching off the artificial glow of the trail that has been crossed. He showed us fossils, explained all about the different ecological features – stalagmites, stalactites, columns, etc. – that we saw all around, he walked us through a little bit of the history, as all of us strolled behind him hundreds of feet into the ground.

The partner’s undying fascination the classical element that is water only grew as we paced around observing its breathtaking work. The way it had etched through the hardest of rocks all around was certain to make one wonder about and ponder over many a thing. The patterns on the walls and the ceilings, on every fallen rock, on every step the feet touched – nature’s creativity at its best, that’s what it was.

At one point, the park ranger had us all gather in one place. He requested that we not make any noise. And he turned off the lights. Darkness.  Everywhere. On every nook. On every corner. It’s not the kind that envelops the neighborhood at night. It’s not like what you experience when you close your eyes. It’s not the same as what happens when you turn off all the lights in your room. This was different. This was unlike everything else. It was happening in a place where natural light hardly has never reached because it’s located hundreds of feet below the surface.  Here, we experienced darkness… darkness of the purest kind. And to go with this was the eerie silence of the confines. It was mind-blowing, to say the least.

I held the partner’s hand. He pulled me close and I leaned in to rest on his shoulder. I could hear his heartbeat. Or was that mine? Or was it of the person standing next to me on the other side? Or perhaps it was of all of us… who knows?!? Just as I was musing over this, I heard the calming noise of droplets of water falling somewhere nearby. It wasn’t a flowing stream; it was merely drops of water, dripping one after another, mind you. But I could hear it, distinctly. And only seconds later, my mind was blank. It was clear of any thoughts. It had succumbed to the blackness of the surrounding. I wasn’t moving, my mind wasn’t racing, and my heart wasn’t beating any faster than necessary. Everything was still. And tranquil.

Had time stopped, the partner whispered later on. And with that, he had put into words what I’d felt and experienced. That darkness. That silence. That peacefulness. That’s definitely how I picture it would be if time were to stop.

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Moonbow

The temperature is below freezing. The time is a little over ten at night. The sky above shows no sign of getting rid of the dark clouds to let the Moon shine upon the river. There are instances when the Moon is unveiled, yes, but, for the most part, the gray clouds win, draping the gorgeous Moon from all angles. And it’s during one those few occasions when the bright Moon fiercely shone upon us for merely seconds that we catch a glimpse of something rather incredible – a Moonbow.

All this time, the waterfall sings a soothing hymn. There we stand, the partner and I, by the fall, listening to its melody and waiting patiently for the clouds to pass. It’s serene, everything about that specific moment in time. Mesmerized with what we’d just seen, the partner and I want another show of the spectacle. And we want it NOW! We wait and we wait and we wait longer.

Old clouds go on to cover a different part of the vast sky, but new clouds move in to where the Moon resides and they take up the job of shielding it from our eyes. After a while my mind and body start getting fidgety because of the cold. I am wearing layers, yes, yet I am not warm enough. My determination of braving the elements and keeping up the silent war I’d waged against the clouds slips. I could spend hours there if it weren’t for the wintry weather but, at this point, playing the game of hide and seek with the Moon doesn’t come out as a pleasing proposition. We discuss whether to wait till the dense clouds pass or to leave. I quickly vote for the latter option, considering my plight and, also, the never-ending waves of clouds that seem to be conquering the night sky. And the partner gives in.

We walk to the car and just as I settle in, the partner says he will take a look at the sky one last time to make sure we’ve read the situation correctly. For, you know, if we miss seeing it tonight, we weren’t sure when we’ll be able to return. It’s not every day that this phenomenon happens. After a short time of constantly starring at the blank sky, he jubilantly exclaims that it will be clear in a matter of minutes. Me? Well, I am still reluctant to step out, but I do it anyway – I drag myself out of the car and off we go.

We walk, hand in hand, towards the singing waterfall again.

Lo and behold, by the time we reach the clouds have hurriedly disappeared. And within seconds we see a magnificent Moonbow appearing out of the bed of fallen waters.  As the mist rises up every now and then a full bow in all its glory comes into sight. With every blink of an eye I grow greedier – I want more! And then some more! So, the two of us stand there for a long long time after, admiring and marveling all along.

***We chanced upon this when we were looking for something to do that evening/night and the partner randomly pulled out a brochure of this particular park because he was fascinated by the photo of the waterfall on its cover.***

***To the naked eye, a Moonbow looks all white. The partner shot a photo of it and, in that, we saw all the colors.***

***That morning we woke not knowing anything about Moonbows, and that night we went to bed with the image of Moonbow forever etched into our hearts and minds. How cool is that!?!***

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2014…

…Happy New Year!

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