What are the things you absolutely cannot live without? I’m asking things not people. Yes, air, water and food are obvious but those are not what I’m asking about. Nor do pictures of your loved ones count. Think about it. We love a lot of items but there some essentials that the very core of our being needs to sustain itself and be whole. There are probably many things that come to mind. List them. Now pare the list down to the three most important. Those three things probably define you. Am I right?
I asked myself this same question. The final three came down to flowering plants, classical music (specifically Bach’s compositions), books. Make your own analysis about moi. I’ve been having a blast analyzing myself.
The value of Bach’s music is easy to understand. No other composer moves me as he does. It is as though he knows the human condition intimately and calls upon us to reach for our higher selves. For me personally, Bach’s music is the highest, purest form of prayer. His music moves the planets. From such a reaction, I understand that I’m spiritual and something of a purist. Both true – I don’t like Shakespeare performed to suit modern times, operas dumbed down to attract ‘younger’ audiences, brownies a la mode ( keep the ice-cream and brownie separate!) or emailing in abbreviations. I readily embrace new concepts, I just don’t like the classical forms messed with. No doubt a psychologist will have much more to say from this.
Books – I cannot get enough of learning, imagining, being inspired and yes, escaping. The very sight of a pile of books makes me happy. Without books, I couldn’t nurture my own creativity. And without creativity, I’m lost. Okay, cranky and impossible to live with.
Flowering plants. That made me think. I have waxed eloquent on many occasions about the role nature plays in our lives, our psyche. So my absolute requirement for staying connected to nature is a no-brainer. But, I’ve refined it further to flowering plants. Mind you, I’m enchanted with foliage. The colors, the variety, the textures that abound in foliage are hugely impressive and very satisfying. If they were to be all that a garden was designed around, I’d be quite content in such a place. But, I discovered that I must have flowers as well. Why?
True, they are beautiful. They add shots of color that uplift the spirit. Many provide fragrance to suffuse our souls. But beyond the apparent, what exactly makes them get on my list? It is the anticipation of them that I find invaluable. Awaiting the flowers keeps me going. Like the caliph in Scheherazade’s stories in One Thousand And One Arabian Nights, I keep wanting to ‘see’ how the story unfold. As much as I love the flowers in bloom, waiting for them is a most exquisite pleasure. It is why I like planning and preparing for a party more than the event itself. Or why Fridays are better than the weekend. The last weeks of winter and first weeks of spring are sweeter than the rest of the growing season.
Flowers are how I get through the winters – amaryllis and paperwhites abound in the house all of November and December. Meanwhile, the refrigerator is occupied with bulbs needing a cooling period. They will be ‘forced’ in January/February. March is passed with forced forsythia and cherry blossoms. April takes over with blooms outdoors. Receiving cut flowers is always wonderful but having to watch and wait for the bulbs or plants to bloom is even more exciting.
But there are two other qualities bestowed by the expectancy. Patience and hope. I work on having the former and this promise of all good things come to those who wait is my regular instruction. A kind of gentle guide provided by nature herself. Expecting instant gratification is no way to go through life. Having a deep appreciation for the way things develop suits me better. As a born optimist, I’m good with the latter quality. Having to wait perforce simply reaffirms that I’m on the right path. Without hope, how could one go on? The much anticipated flowers have no idea of the big responsibilities they bear. They, as all of life, are ephemeral. I must therefore use my own time consciously and fully.
In the anticipation, I visualize the outcome over and over. I imagine perfect, happy endings. For , in the course of waiting, the world, in my mind, is unsullied. Still pure and in perfect balance. No violence, madness , inequality or corruption. I imagine the universe in the harmony that Bach invokes. I attempt to do my part in making that a reality.
In the final analysis, all three of my imperatives are also my muses. Without them, I could not create. And then, we’re back to being grumpy and loathsome.
So there you have it. The three things I cannot live without. They teach me who I am and how to live.
What three precious things are on your list?
On the subject of flower power, don’t forget! It is the season to write notes to friends and family – my botanical cards are available for just that purpose. The 8-card packs are also good for hostess and teacher gifts. Just saying. 15% percent of the sales goes to the Rocky Hills preservation efforts of the Garden Conservancy.
(c)2014 Shobha Vanchiswar